Dr. Post’s Remarks at Panel Honoring Rachel Carson in Glover Archbold National Park, Washington, DC, 9-27-16

What a privilege for me on this 27th day of September to be representing RCLA at Glover Archbold Park in the company of, Congresswoman Norton, Superintendent Morrison, hard-working National Park Service (NPS) staff members Keller, and Cain, and Howard Bray to dedicate a beautiful interpretive panel featuring Rachel Carson (as well as philanthropists Charles Glover and Anne Archbold).

Rachel Carson the renowned scientist: “… had an emotional response, to nature for which she did not apologize. The more she learned [about Nature] the greater grew what she termed ‘the sense of wonder.’ So she succeeded in making a book about death [Silent Spring] a celebration of life.” (Paul Brooks in Foreward to Silent Spring 1987 edition)

We are told that a person’s sense of wonder can be activated by looking through new eyes. For us today on this memorable occasion let us contemplate this forest through Rachel Carson’s eyes, 54 years to the day after Silent Spring’s publication.

A few words from Carson’s famous book, Silent Spring serve as reminders of the birds, insects and yes bacteria that even today need to have habitats kept free of hazardous chemical pesticides.

Carson wrote about forests: “Here, with a minimum of help and a maximum of noninterference from man, Nature can have her way, setting up all that wonderful and intricate system of checks and balances that protects the forest from undue damage by insects…” She also observed: “Birds, ants, forest spiders and soil bacteria are as much a part of the forest as the trees.” (Silent Spring p. 293)

Carson eloquently described birds whose numbers had dwindled in areas heavily sprayed with DDT and other insecticides as: “All of the treetop feeders, the birds that glean their insect food from the leaves…among them the woodland sprites the kinglets both ruby crowned and golden crowned, the tiny gnatcatchers, and many of the warblers, whose migrating hordes flow through the trees in spring in a multicolored tide of life.” (Silent Spring p. 111)

And from Silent Spring’s last chapter Carson referred to the wild bees that provide pollination and the beneficial insects (ladybugs, tiny wasps, lacewings) that act as biological control agents for pest insects and are part of the ecosystem services that we rely on: “All these small creatures are working – working in sun and rain, during the hours of darkness, even when winter’s grip has damped down the fires of life to mere embers. Then this vital force is merely smoldering, awaiting the time to flare again into activity when spring awakens the insect world.” (Silent Spring pp. 250-251)

The challenging times, we face now, require us to partner with Nature as Jared Diamond reminds us, “the environment (Nature) is not a luxury…it is a necessity.”(Diamond, J., Pennsylvania Gazette) We need to work with, not against, Nature to reach sustainable goals for our communities and our nation, as Rachel Carson would wish us to do and as we can do more effectively, by calling attention to the wonders of Nature all around us including here at Glover Archbold Park. Why?

Today scientists tell us that Nature experiences can lead us “…to act more generously and ethically, [and to] think more critically when encountering persuasive stimuli, like arguments or advertisements.” (Abrahamson, J., “The Science of Awe,” Sierra [Magazine], Nov/Dec, 2014).

The panel we dedicate today is focused on a woman of courage, and integrity who contemplated Nature from a scientific perspective and as a vital source of wonder and strength. This panel encourages visitors to walk on paths winding through stands of stately trees, to celebrate the presence of animals and plants similar to those observed by Rachel Carson here over a half century ago and to help make certain that the park remains whole, healthy and free of dangerous chemicals.

A shared sense of wonder for the forest by Mr Glover and Ms Archbold no doubt contributed to their generous donation of this land to the people of Washington. A sense of wonder by community members of all ages combined with courage, integrity and positive action can help to protect Glover Archbold Park from developmental and damaging change. The result can be a life-giving habitat for birds, and other forest creatures to depend on (and return to) for many years and a sanctuary for future generations of people to visit and benefit from.

As philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore wrote (about Carson’s sense of wonder): “Wonder may be the keystone virtue in our time of reckless destruction, a source of decency and hope and restraint.” (Moore, KD, in Rachel Carson—Legacy and Challenge. Sideris, Lisa and Moore, KD, Editors, 2008)

An activity that can help keep a sense of wonder, available to anyone is entering our Sense of Wonder/Sense of the Wild Contest. RCLA’s new brochure provides details of how Experiences of Nature’s Wonders shared by those of different generations can help unite people of different ages, and backgrounds in actions for the common good.

Diana Post


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