When we speak of land conservation, the farmer in each of us tends to think of caring for farm ground in the best possible way.
Reading the collected writings of Rachel Carson, I am now seeing conservation in a more complete way than I ever had grasped.
Rachel Carson is a literary legend for The Sea Around Us, published in 1951. It maintained its place as the New York Times best-seller for a record 86 weeks and was eventually translated into more than 40 languages.
When she died at age 56 in the spring of 1964, she had little realization of her impact on such issues as ecology and environmental change.
Led the way. Carson was an amazing person in her ability to grasp the importance of natural science and the human element in environmental issues long before anyone gave voice to the care of the earth.
Her writing was first class, as she was a perfectionist in form and structure. She spent endless hours in research, demanding accuracy from herself before sharing her thoughts with readers.
She spent 15 years as an aquatic biologist and editor while supporting her mother, her sister, two nieces and grand-nephew, who she adopted after his mother’s untimely death. Because of her overwhelming burden of family responsibility, she wrote in the evenings and on weekends.
At the time of her death, due to misdiagnosed, highly aggressive breast cancer, she had plans for at least four other major works.
Her wish. Carson’s hope was to see at least some stretch of seashore saved in its wild, natural form.
In private papers, edited by Linda Lear in the book Lost Woods, Carson notes, “To convert some of the remaining wild areas into State and National parks, however, is only part of the answer. Even public parks are not what nature created over the eons of time, working with wind and wave and sand.
“Somewhere we should know what was nature’s way; we should know what the earth would have been had not man interfered.”
Nature’s majesty. Carson was not against recreational parks, but mindful of the need to recognize that man’s way is not always the best way. There are times that nature should be left alone.
Carson wrote about birds and sea life, finding their inventive survival skills to be amazing. Man’s greed and need, she feared, would interfere with a long-established balance along our nation’s shores.
The land and the sea are connected in mystical, magical ways. The dance that the sea birds do with the tides serve as a huge reminder that they existed in harmony long before man ever arrived on this planet.
And Carson’s writings about conservation and preservation in many forms served as a tolling bell for alarm long before anyone was paying attention to any of this.
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