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50 Years Later: Rachel Carson’s Legacy


More work to be done in the fight against toxic chemicals

By Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director

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As a high school student, I had the opportunity to read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. To be
honest, before I read it, I rolled my eyes at what I assumed would be a dry and scientific book. It was, in many ways, a
hard book to work through for a teenager. But I was amazed by the bravery
Carson showed by shedding light on the harmful effects of pesticides.  I was shocked at the scrutiny that
female scientists like Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall faced during the 1960s. What
seemed like “just another assignment” turned out to lay the groundwork for my
future career.

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of
Carson’s Silent Spring and it is appropriate
that Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families pay tribute to the work that sparked the
movement against toxic chemicals. While we celebrate Carson’s achievements, let
it also inspire us to tackle the many obstacles ahead.

Déjà vu

After reading the New
York Times Magazine
piece on Carson, it struck me that while Carson’s
science was a game changer, many of the battles she fought we’re still
50 years later.

The chemical industry continues to spend millions of dollars
on lobbying
designed to block reform in Congress. They fight toxic chemical
regulation in state legislatures across the country, distort science, understate
the health effects of toxic chemicals and create front groups. So what can we
do to combat Big Chemical?

The powerful grassroots

Carson knew that environmental and public health groups,
combined with the power of grassroots, were key to fighting industry influence.
She called these groups “citizen brigades” which was an influence on our
successful “stroller

We have seen major progress in the last year, primarily due to a grassroots movement of moms, cancer survivors, teachers and health professionals asking Congress to take action on toxic chemicals. For the first
time in 36 years Congress voted to update our laws on toxic chemicals.
Despite industry opposition, the bill passed the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee, in large part due to your calls and letters to your Senators.

The Safe
Chemicals Act
will need to be re-introduced in the next Congress, and the
road ahead is long. But we’ve never had more momentum, enthusiasm and public
support than we do now.

While you may get dozens of action alerts from organizations
each week, will you prioritize emailing,
calling and engaging all your Congressional candidates this fall and ask them where they stand on toxic chemical

The only way things have ever drastically changed in this country
is when thousands of dedicated people have tirelessly beat down the doors of
Congress. Our coalition now has 450 organizations and
working for common sense limits on toxic chemicals. Our
membership represents millions. If we work together and commit to persistence,
we will win.

So, here’s the question: are
you in

Join me and millions of Americans in honoring Rachel
Carson’s legacy: Take
action today

Tell your friends to take action and encourage them to join our mailing list.

Follow Lindsay on Twitter: @Lindsay_SCHF

Photo credit: Livin’ Spoonfull