Dennis Anderson: Remarkable biography conveys important lessons

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 9, 2012 - 1:32 AM

Traditional conservationists can benefit from Rachel Carson's vision.

hide

Activist and author Rachel Carson, whose book "Silent Spring" led to a study of pesticides, testifying before Congress in 1963.

Fifty years ago, when Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring,'' the world changed forever.

But in many ways the human disposition remains as it ever was: indifferent to the health of the natural landscape surrounding us.

As chronicled in Twin Cities writer William Souder's remarkable biography of Carson published last week, Carson's exposé of the adverse effects of DDT on a smorgasbord of non-targeted fish and wildlife -- not least, eagles -- ushered in what we refer to now as the environmental movement.

Previously, "conservation'' was equated with stewardship of natural resources, an undertaking often spearheaded by hunters and anglers.

Environmentalism, by contrast, as Souder reminds us in "On a Farther Shore, the Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson" (Crown, $30), recognizes that man is not apart from nature but rather a part of it -- destined, in degrees, to share the fate of the world's other life forms.

Carson's story, and the scathing attacks she suffered from the chemical industry after publication of "Silent Spring," are similar in important ways to the reception many climate scientists have received when warning about melting glaciers, long-term droughts and other calamities; issues that should be important to everyone, especially hunters and anglers, who historically have claimed a special franchise on similar concerns.

Though some still dispute that climate change is occurring, argue about who or what is responsible and/or what if anything can be done in response, it nonetheless seems indisputable that in years to come entire populations of people worldwide must work in unison to mitigate pressing environmental problems.

By comparison, the struggle by U.S. hunters and anglers for more than a century to ensure they have sufficient game and fish populations to shoot and catch will seem like a walk in the park.

Souder's book doesn't specifically address these last issues. But he's a hunter and fisherman and a longtime friend and will indulge me, I hope, if I use his Carson biography (previous to which his memorable biography of John James Audubon was a Pulitzer finalist) as a springboard to propose discussion of this question in hunting camps this fall:

As competition for natural resources intensifies, and threats to them also, will the hunters and anglers who historically have paid the conservation bill in Minnesota and across the U.S. -- and largely defined its agenda -- remain in the stewardship vanguard?

Or will they instead reveal themselves to have been more concerned all along with sustaining their recreational distractions -- rather than properly shepherding the broad-based health of land, air and water?

Choosing the former will require of sportsmen and women sacrifices far greater than coughing up $50 once a year at a Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever or Trout Unlimited banquet (important though attending these is). And rewards for this increased commitment will be nowhere near as thrilling as catching a fish or shooting a duck or pheasant.

Put another way: Is the time well past when a hunter or angler can only be a "conservationist,'' concerned with fish and game exclusively -- and not also an environmentalist?

After all, the health and abundance of fish and wildlife depend on the health and abundance of clean air and water, the fertility of soil and continued relative climatic stability. Advocating for the former while remaining mute on the latter seems a fool's errand.

Souder's book inspires here, because in the decade after publication of "Silent Spring,'' DDT was banned, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals were regulated -- and the world became a better, and safer, place.

But required for this extraordinary transition was the spark of an extraordinary woman, Carson.

A scientist and renowned writer who had won the National Book Award previous to writing "Silent Spring," she was smart, educated, insightful, entirely focused and fearless, i.e. the perfect environmental advocate to expose DDT for the broad spectrum killer it was.

Writes Souder: "In the spring the robins returned, ate the toxic worms, and succumbed to the poison used in the previous year's spray program. Tests on worm tissues indicated as few as 11 earthworms could provide a lethal dose of DDT to a robin -- about as many as the bird consumes every minute it is feeding.''

An exceptional and important book, Souder's "On a Farther Shore'' points up that mankind's worst enemy -- and greatest hope -- is mankind itself.

Something to think about around a campfire this fall, or in a deer shack or duck camp.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • "On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson" by William Souder.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close