To the Earth Island Journal
I appreciated Mark Palmer’s piece “Remembering Maxine McCloskey”, which a friend forwarded to me here in Jerusalem. However, the Whale Bus started as a project of Project Jonah, then was under the auspices of General Whale, and finally found its true home at the Whale Center.
Barbara Belding, former “Whale Lady”
You said it! Sexism is common in the environmental community. I see it in books, conferences, and magazines all the time. I was just leafing though Audubon in a waiting room and the issue’s articles were all written by men. Imagine if they were all written by women.
We have to keep complaining, otherwise men will continue to get an unfair share of the goodies while women fail to get deserved credit for their work and talents. I try to make it a habit to regularly write letters and send e-mails to organizations and publications that favor men and limit the role of women.
We love Rachel
First, I admit I have a problem with your writing. I feel I need a translation of your editorials that appear in each issue, so it may be that I misinterpret your article. But is seems to me that you are denigrating Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring, 1962, to wit: “How could America’s most famous wildlife biologist, she who launched generations of wingnut pesticide diatribes with a single book…?” Yet several articles in the same issue support Carson’s writing:
In Around the World, “DDT returns” to Uganda, which plans to use this
terrible insecticide – Russel Train, chairman emeritus of the World
Wildlife Fund says: “The banning of DDT was one of the most important
legal victories ever won for wildlife.”
In “Twenty years after” – A March report estimated 4,000 cancer deaths from the Chernobyl accident in addition to deaths from acute Radiation Syndrome.
In “Soil no silver bullet” – “Soils of non-managed ecosystems appear to have a limited and diminished capacity to clean up excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” And, “Future carbon storage by land ecosystems may be smaller than previously thought, and therefore less of a solution to global warming.” Carson warned repeatedly about the damage to the structure of the soil from spraying with insecticides and herbicides.
Carson warned us about global warming in the 1960s in Lost Woods: The Discovered Writings of Rachel Carson, edited by Linda Lear, 1998.
If Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had been adopted in 1962 as a policy Bible by all the world’s leaders, our world would be a far better place today.
I feel that you have diverged from the philosophy of founder David Brower, who wanted a hospitable planet for the flora, fauna, and scenic wonders he was able to protect.
Karl I. Hennum
Chris Clarke responds: Here is the full passage to which Mr. Hennum objected, part of a criticism of Roderick Nash’s Wilderness and The American Mind on the grounds that it gave short shrift to environmentalist women:
Carson is mentioned, of course. How could America’s most famous
wildlife biologist, she who launched generations of wingnut pesticide
diatribes with a single book, be left out of the first modern American
wilderness studies text? She gets part of one page out of 288.”
The phrase “wingnut pesticide diatribes” is perhaps a little opaque. I intended to convey the sad reality that Rachel Carson has been the target of diatribes by reactionary, pro-pesticide zealots: “wingnuts.”
I had hoped the context of the article – encouraging readers to give credit to the pioneering efforts of women environmentalists, who are unfairly omitted from history – would indicate clearly that my intent was not to slam Ms. Carson, whose legacy is more important than ever. And I heartily second Mr. Hennum’s recommendation of both Silent Spring and Lost Woods to those EIJ readers who have not yet read them. (Under the Sea Wind is good as well.)