I’m invited to speak with a group of nature writers on Monday, about the way I use nature writing in my novels (The Old Professor is happy to talk on something he knows very little about…). You old Texans will know the three nature writers I’ll feature -- Tom Lea, J. Frank Dobie and Roy Bedichek. And there is a nice blog named “The Nature Writers of Texas” (Texasnature.blogspot.com).
Yes, Texans do enjoy nature writing – but -- the most influential nature writer of our time? Has to be Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring.”
A marine biologist, she’d already won her spurs with her book “The Sea around Us.” We were spraying DDT like mad, especially in the South, and it was killing off songbirds. With “Silent Spring,” Carson made an impassioned plea to stop using DDT. After considerable hand-wringing, DDT was banned.
“Silent Spring” brought the term “ecology” out of obscurity and into the common lexicon. At the time, I was employed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a little group of ecologists. Physicists and Engineers at the Lab didn’t know what ecology was, and they were pretty sure we weren’t any good at it. After “Silent Spring” they understood what ecology was all about.
Soon after, I ran head-on into the war on science. Teaching ecology to entomologists was a personal challenge for me. Entomologists praised DDT and insisted that, without it, we wouldn’t have any food. And I heard over and over, the objections we’ve become so familiar with – “needs more study.” Entomologists were at war with ecology.
We’ve moved on. No more DDT. Cigarette smoking (the original “needs more study”) is way down. Our dependence on our natural environment is pretty well understood by everybody.
And yet, the war on science goes on. The old cant still echoes through our halls of government. “Needs more study.”
June 25, 2016. Happy birthday, Lance R.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson.