Welcome to the first of my series of blog posts about champions of the environment each day in September. During this month, many churches worldwide make a focus in their worship and prayer on the natural world, the environment, the gift of the earth and life. In this season often called Creation Time, Christians are encouraged by their churches to give thanks for these God-given gifts and to marvel at the awe and beauty of creation. Importantly, we are encouraged also to be re-equipped and re-energised to act; to sustain and renew the environment, and to seek a better future for all people.
In these blog posts, I’ll be presenting people who have changed and increased our understanding of the earth and life, and those who have led the way in action to protect the environment and who have worked for a just and equitable sharing of the earth’s gifts for all its inhabitants.
Not everyone featured will be persons of professed Christian or any faith, and some may even have disavowed a personal belief in any of the historic expressions of spirituality. All will be those who have made a vital addition to our ability and our capacity to care for and renew the earth and its life.
I begin with Rachel Carson, American biologist and writer, 1907 -1964. Many consider her to be the originator of the contemporary environmental movement. Her most famous and influential book is Silent Spring published in 1962, which demonstrated the destructive impact pesticides, particularly DDT, were having on ecosystems. The book’s title referred to the loss of the dawn chorus in agricultural areas through the decimation of bird populations. Her book showed that rather than DDT being dissipated in the environment and losing effect as many assumed, ecological processes meant that it was increasingly concentrated in organisms, and also entering the food chains of many species including humans. Whilst Carson faced opposition from vested interests at first, the scientific evidence was clear and pesticides like DDT were eventually banned.
I read Silent Spring in the 1970’s as part of my geographical studies. It made an immediate impact on me, and is the first memory I have of my own realisation that human society was having a deleterious impact on the natural world in a systematic way, and that action needs to be taken to prevent such damage.
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson