By Dan Shapley
Rachel Carson, the grandmother of the environmental movement whose "Silent Spring" woke up the world to the dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, would have turned 100 this weekend. News Editor Dan Shapley asked E.O. Wilson, who is perhaps the only biologist with a rock-star following, to discuss her legacy via e-mail. Wilson authored an essay on the impact of "Silent Spring" in the recently published "Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, And Activists Celebrate the Life of Rachel Carson (Houghton Mifflin). This is the first part of a two-part interview. For the second part, click here. The Daily Green:
In "Courage for the Earth" you said Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" delivered "a galvanic volt to public consciousness." In An Inconvenient Truth do we have a Silent Spring moment for climate change? E.O. Wilson:
An Inconvenient Truth is certainly worthy of Silent Spring ranking. It remains to be seen whether it will prove as seismic, but we are all hoping-and, of course, it is global and not just national. TDG:
You wrote that if Rachel Carson could look back, if she were alive today, she would give us mixed reviews on the past 45 years of work on pesticides. Many scientists say we have perhaps as few as 10 years to act in order to stave off the worst consequences of climate change. Are you optimistic that we'll be able to think well of ourselves looking back a half century from now? EOW:
That's the Big Question. I believe we will have a mixed record. But on the other hand, the world (and even the U.S.!) appears to be approaching a green tipping point, so anything is possible. TDG:
You are an influential scientist and a prolific author, who bridges that often-large gulf between scientific rigor and the somewhat messier practice of advocacy. What has that experience taught you about spurring change in society, when it comes to environmental issues? EOW:
Scientists should first establish themselves as scientists, with a solid record of peer-reviewed achievement, then speak out in their area of expertise-loudly, if necessary.