Remembering the legacy of Rachel Carson

A fresh garden salad, along with salsa, chips and organic apple juice attracted inquiring minds for an earthy celebration. Various booths providing information and visuals on current environmental issues in Alaska were spread around the Kincad Chalet on May 29.

The honorary commencement was held to celebrate the birthday of Rachel Carson, who was born May 27, 1907 and died of breast cancer April 14, 1964. Carson was a marine zoologist, biologist, the Editor-in-Chief for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife publication department, a novelist and a founder of the environmental movement.

Carson began research to expose the dangers of toxic chemicals used as pesticides. Her research unveiled the hazardous effects of toxic chemicals, such as DDT, on the human and natural environment.

DDT, banned in 1973 in the United States, is a highly toxic chemical that was commonly used as an insecticide. Carson increased awareness that pesticides such as DDT can harm plants, animals and cause cancer in humans. According to the Rachel Carson Council, DDT, along with other toxic chemicals, are associated with the poisoning of agriculture workers, gardeners, children, pets, birds and fish.

“She made aware the dangers of DDT and pesticides. She changed the view on the environmental effects of pesticides and how to do things more sustainable,” Pam Miller, director for Alaska Community Against Toxins, said.

Silent Spring, the most acclaimed and well known of Carson's novels was published in the final years of her struggle with breast cancer.

“It's been a couple years since I've read it, but the part of the book I remember is about using DDT for gypsy moths in New England. That is where I am from and a chemical film was left on all the cars from DDT,” Andre Camara, of the Alaska Center for the Environment, said.

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Carson wished to instill a sense of wonder and harmony of nature in both children and adults through her writing. She has written several other books about humans and the surrounding environment, including Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea.

“Not only are her books scientifically impeccable, but she is also poetic in her writing,” Miller said. Miller read excerpts from Carson's work to the people at the gathering in her memory.

Organizations that participated in the birthday salute were the Alaska Organic Association that contributed an assortment of plants held on display and information on how to get rid of slugs and bugs in any home garden. The Alaska Center for the Environment advocated Anchorage's “Living With Wildlife” plan that hopes to gain the support of the Municipality of Anchorage to manage urban wildlife. The Alaska Ocean Network had information and forms on current controversies across the waters. The Alaska Earth Institute, situated next to a worm farm, invited people to participate in upcoming ecological discussions and become familiar with pressing environmental issues.�