“By helping young children know and relate to the soul-making aspects of the natural world, we connect them to enduring sources of strength, wonder and joy”
Rachel Carson, 1956, “Help your child to wonder”
Our low level of concern and urgency is especially shocking when you consider the high level of potential to harm our most precious resource, our children. Decades after Carson wrote in Silent Spring that harm from chemical exposures begins in the womb, scientists learned she was right. We now know that early exposure to toxic chemicals can impact a child for his entire life, even if the effects take decades to manifest. Even though Carson’s key points have been widely affirmed by the scientific community, the pace of progress has been remarkably — unacceptably — slow, in large part because, as one expert tells Lynne Peeples, “things are far more complicated chemically than they were in Carson’s time.” And thus, harder to regulate.
Meanwhile, we are playing a dangerous game of catch-up. Just this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that any level of lead in a child’s bloodstream is dangerous and can cause brain damage, no matter how small the amount. Today, “more American school children die of cancer than from any other disease” — yet another quote from Carson that remains tragically true today.
For some, the signature image that shows how real the threat is to our environment is the disappearing snowcap atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. For me, it’s the image of millions of kids suffering from asthma caused by the explosion of toxins in our environment, kids who are afraid to go out and play without bringing along their inhalers. But instead of a hair-on-fire response, our approach has been more like wait-and-see.
By highlighting Carson’s work, Lynne Peeples reminds us that when it comes to the explosion of chemicals in our world, tomorrow is today. And what we do today will deeply affect our tomorrows — and the tomorrows of our children.