Nicholas Cole 17′ and Michael Tomao 17′
“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings … Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change … There was a strange stillness … The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”
The writer and scientist Rachel Carson is an uplifting leader who inspires generations through her unique introverted character and countless achievements. Concerned about the increasing use of pesticides like DDT, Rachel Carson sought to warn America about the horrific dangers of using chemical pesticides in the era following WWII. In addition to battling breast cancer for many years, Carson was a key figure the field of natural science and she left a powerful legacy in the areas of conservation and ecology. Ultimately, Rachel Carson became the “Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement” through her book, Silent Spring, by pushing for environmental policies that would protect human health and the environment.
1) She wrote many influential books such as Silent Spring, Under the Sea Wind, The Edge of the Sea, and The Sea Around Us. These works influenced concern over environmental protection and conservation and human health. These books warned against the usage of chemical pesticides such as DDT in an effort to push for a cleaner Earth. Silent Spring led to a presidential commission under Kennedy that supported her research and helped increase American awareness of environmental issues. Silent Spring is also credited as saving the eagle and peregrine falcon from extinction and improved human health as well. It also led to the creation of the EPA in 1970.
2) She received many awards for her groundbreaking books, such as the National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal. Specifically, Under the Sea Wind and The Sea Around Us were bestsellers and The Sea Around Us remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for 86 weeks. Under the Sea Wind is recognized today as one of the “definitive works of American nature writing,” and is in print as one of the Penguin Nature Classics.
3) She testified to the Ribicoff Committee with warnings of the danger of chemical pesticides and their negative effects on the environment and human health. She also had many famous interviews with Eric Sevareid for CBS news in which she further explains the dangers of chemical pesticides. http://www.itnsource.com/shotlist/BHC_FoxMovietone/1963/06/05/X05066302/
4) In 1963, Carson received numerous honors and awards, including an award from the Izaak Walton League of America, the Audubon Medal, and the Cullen Medal of the American Geographical Society. That same year, she was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was posthumously awarded the presidential medal of freedom, which is considered the highest civilian honor in the United States. She was also the second lady to be elected to the National Institute Of Arts and Letters.
Rachel Carson was an introverted leader who helped launch a global environmental movement though Silent Spring
still inspires readers today and there are numerous lessons we can learn from her uplifting leadership. First, we see that individual citizens can truly ignite change in the world through their own simple acts of writing, teaching, guiding, and so on. Also, Rachel Carson shows a humble ordinary scientist can capture an entire nation’s attention as well as the world’s attention through raising awareness of a major overlooked issue, such as the environment, that plays such a pivotal role in human life. Second, Rachel Carson teaches us that persistence is essential to success in that she battled breast cancer and she cared for her young grandnephew and elderly sick mother while writing Silent Spring
. Third, we see that diligent research and careful observation are both vital in leadership because these skills provide a leader with authority and confidence while giving the leader a clear understanding of the situation at hand. Ultimately, Rachel Carson’s greatest legacy in leadership is that she shows us that leadership can come in different shapes and sizes such as in a quiet, calm style.
After Silent Spring was written, the chemical companies attacked Rachel Carson personally and labeled her a “radical” and a “fanatic.” Since Silent Spring was written during the Cold War, one chemical company even accused Rachel Carson of holding dark Communist motives by claiming that she wanted to restrict the use of pesticides in America so that American food supplies would be reduced to the poor food production in Eastern Europe. Critics even claimed that Rachel Carson was an amateur and a sentimental nature lover who distorted science and didn’t fully understand the subject of pesticides like a professional scientist. Magazines, like Time and Life, and the general media inoffensively portrayed Rachel Carson in a sexist way implying that she looked like more of a teacher or stay-at-home mother and they failed to capture her successful career as a scientist and writer. The media, chemical companies, and agricultural industry all criticized Rachel Carson as being hysterical and irrational since they believed her arguments were all “one-sided and unfair.” Much criticism and controversy over Silent Spring continues to this day as more scientists argue over the validity of Rachel Carson’s research and some critics argue that Rachel Carson was wrong and Silent Spring is tainted with lies and exaggeration.
Interest in Rachel Carson
We picked Rachel Carson for our presentation because we feel she is an incredible leader who has left a remarkable legacy on
both the United States and world; moreover, she has yet to achieve all of the recognition she deserves. It is unbelievable that one person could create such an intense controversy over the environment and launch a worldwide movement that continues today just by simply writing one powerful book. Indeed, Rachel Carson shows us that we can all pursue our dreams and change others’ minds through our own hard work and determination. Furthermore, Rachel Carson is an uplifting leader whose calm soft spoken leadership contrasts the charismatic leadership of leaders like J.F.K. and Martin Luther King Jr. and we feel her unique leadership should be studied along with the aggressive, bold leadership styles of extroverted leaders. Also, Rachel Carson’s battle against breast cancer is a powerful example of how one can succeed against severe illness by persisting in one’s goals.
Relevance to Course Themes
1. Social Justice
Like John Lewis, Gloria Steinem, and Harvey Milk, Rachel Carson was a key advocate for social justice in America during the 1960s. However, she didn’t champion for LGBT rights, Feminism, or the Civil Rights Movement; instead, she worked to improve awareness of the environment by pushing for a cleaner planet. Writing was Rachel Carson’s greatest skill and Silent Spring was her most important contribution to the world since it launched the global environmental movement today. Carson worked to purge the United States of deadly pesticides like DDT that were used everywhere across the U.S. in agriculture and elsewhere. These harmful pesticides used by the chemical companies affected all members of the food chain starting with birds and working its way up to humans; thus, Carson worked to protect both human health as well as wildlife and the environment itself. Indeed, Rachel Carson is a major advocate for both the environment and human rights in that her scientific career was centered on improving the quality of life for all inhabitants of the earth.
Truly, Rachel Carson is a significant figure of diversity because she was a successful scientist and writer in the 1960s at a time when women were treated in unfair sexist ways. Of course, Rachel faced sexist criticism and was attacked personally by both the media and chemical companies; however, she managed to persevere and leave behind a powerful legacy that inspires both men and women today. The media often described Carson in an inoffensive way portraying her in common 1960s stereotypical way as a cross between a teacher and stay-at-home housewife despite the fact that she was unmarried. In fact, Life magazine even made a note that although Rachel is not married, she is not a feminist—which best parallels with the common sexist attitude of the time. Moreover, both the media and chemical companies claimed that Rachel was just “hysterical” and “irrational” since women were unfortunately considered to act this way in the 1960s. Clearly, Rachel Carson is a role model of diversity in that she was a pioneer for women in the field of science since there were few women scientists during her time and their work was often widely ignored. Furthermore, Rachel Carson inspires us all in that she succeeded in overcoming all of the sexist obstacles she faced during her career and she best exhibits a sense of diversity in that she advocated for a revolutionary, unique issue that the majority of America ignored.
Under the Sea Wind Significance
Under the Sea Wind was Rachel Carson’s first book published in 1941 and it was followed by a sequel The Sea Around Us. It is a great book about nature writing that focuses on the lives of birds and sea creatures living in the Northeast seas and it is considered one of the Penguin Nature Classics. The book was intended for both an audience of children and adults as the book is filled with illustrations. Carson teaches readers that man is not adapted to life in the ocean and man needs to understand the complexity of ocean ecosystems. Most importantly, Carson shows us that man interferes with the ocean ecosystems by over-harvesting its productivity and changing ecosystem processes. Like Silent Spring, Carson seeks to raise our awareness of the vulnerability of the environment andUnder the Sea Wind is also rooted in hard facts research and observation which best characterizes Rachel’s diligent scientific research ethic.
1963 Senate Testimony Analysis
In June 1963, Rachel Carson spoke in front of a Senate subcommittee studying the effects of pesticide spraying following the publication of her book, Silent Spring. Carson spoke before the committee twice, once before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee of Government Operations and then later before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce. Carson argued for the creation of an agency to protect people and nature from the dangers of pesticides, especially DDT. The following is an excerpt of Rachel’s testimony:
“…The most disturbing of all such reports however concerns the finding of DDT in the oil of fish that live far out at sea… Oil from some of these marine fish contains DDT in concentrations exceeding 300 parts per million… All this gives us reason to think deeply and seriously about the means by which these residues reach the places where we are now discovering them… No one can answer this question with complete assurance…Upper atmosphere may be carrying chemical particles and the pesticide contamination of such remote places may be the result of a new kind of fallout…. If we are ever to solve problem of contamination we must begin to count the many hidden costs of what we are doing…A strong and unremitting effort must be made to eliminate pesticides that leave residues…No other way to control rapidly spreading contamination…” (Doyle, “Power in the Pen, Silent Spring: 1962”)
Despite battling breast cancer, Rachel spoke in a calm, collected manner contrasting her critics’ claims that she was “hysterical and irrational.” Basically, Carson explains the horrific dangers chemical pesticides have on wildlife in the environment. She challenges us to think of new methods to stop contamination of the environment in order to protect our health and ecosystem.
Nicholas Cole Leadership Lessons
My name is Nicholas Cole and I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I moved to Staten Island when I was eight and graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School in the National Honors Society. During my time at Monsignor Farrell, I was engaged in several leadership activities. Among them was my participation in the State Textbook Team. This group was organized and is run by one of my role models of leadership, Sister Grazyna. This group is tasked with distributing all of the school textbooks to every student in the school and collecting them at the end of each semester. We would also meet twice weekly in the gymnasium throughout the year just in case someone needed to exchange a book or lost one. However, this job was not all that simple. Every book contains a code and that code must be the same when the book is returned. For instance, if someone were to lose a book and borrow one from someone else or simply to steal a book, we would catch it and that person would have to pay for a new book. No one got off easy and no one got exceptions. This was a complex system and could get hectic near midterms and finals with everyone rushing to bring back their textbooks to be cleared so they could finally enjoy their summer vacation (or during midterms, a reluctant return to school). For this student organized system to run effectively, we needed a guiding role model in charge, such was Sister Grazyna. However, we also needed all the cogs in the system to work together effectively and efficiently at all times. Sometimes if someone was not living up to their expectations they would have to be let go. This would be a hard thing to do at times, but it taught the students how things run in the real world and that if you do not work to succeed you will be asked to leave. This experience taught me many crucial attributes in being a leader and a team player. It taught me to always work to full potential even if no one is watching, because, eventually, someone will notice your hard work. However, i also learned that the hard work was not just about the rewards, but about the feeling of satisfaction that came from helping my fellow students even if they didn’t always appreciate it. this experience and bond with my fellow students encouraged me to move on to other community based projects, such as volunteering at Richmond University Medical Center for a summer, participating in blood drives, snow shoveling for seniors, distributing food baskets, attending MDA meetings, becoming a third degree member of the Knights of Columbus, and my latest endeavor, joining Wagner Cares.
Mike Tomao Leadership Experiences
During my senior year of high school, I became a tutor for my school National Honor Society and I had to tutor underclassmen in subjects where they struggled such as Religion, English, and Italian. Tutoring helped me to become a leader in that I developed a sense of understanding and it helped to improve my communication skills. Also, I wrote for my school newspaper for two years as a sophomore and junior. Writing helped to improve my knowledge of current events and interviewing others taught me about the importance of working with others. Moreover, interviewing taught me about the importance of doing thorough research and writing about hard facts which best mirrors Rachel Carson’s strong skill of diligent observation and research in her writing career.
Nancy F. Koehn, “From Calm Leadership, Lasting Change,” The New York Times, October 27, 2012,http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/business/rachel-carsons-lessons-50-years-after-silent-spring.html?pagewanted=all
Bropoke, Allen. On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson. The Hudson Review.,2013
White, Fred D. “Rachel Carson: Encounters with the Primal Mother.” North Dakota Quarterly 59, no. 2 (Spring1991 1991): 184-197. America: History & Life, EBSCOhost (accessed October 22, 2013).
H.Patricia, Hynes. “Ellen Swallow, Lois Gibbs and Rachel Carson: Catalysts of the American environmental movement.” Women’s Studies International Forum (n.d.): 291-298. ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost (accessed October 22, 2013).
Mart, Michelle. “Rhetoric and Response: The Cultural Impact of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.” Left History 14, no. 2 (Summer2010 2010): 31-57. America: History & Life, EBSCOhost (accessed October 22, 2013).
Carson, Rachel L. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1962.
Carson, Rachel L. The Sea Around Us. New York City: Oxford University Press, 1951
Bratton, Susan. “Thinking Like a Mackerel: Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind as a Source for a Trans-Ecotonal Sea Ethic.”Ethics & the Environment9.1 (2004): 1.
Doyle, Jack. “Power in the Pen, Silent Spring: 1962,”PopHistoryDig.com, February 21, 2012.