Since reading Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring," I have never looked at industries or government regulations the same way. The book revealed a side of insecticide DDT unknown to the public. Carson weaved together isolated cases to paint the full picture of how chemicals were affecting wildlife and our own lives.
While recently reading "Water: A Natural History" (Outwater, 1996), the same feeling of distrust dawned on me. The final chapters reinforced the notion that humans have tunnel vision when dealing with innovations and thinking about an innovation itself, but often overlook its consequences and ramifications.
Besides that, greed and convenience-as-priority obfuscate what really matters. Maximizing profit at any cost and throwaway products become the norm, downplaying the complex work that nature carries out to keep everything in balance.
Laws and various acts started to be put in place in the 1970s. As Outwater noted in her book, “rarely in history had the cry of the wilderness been heard so keenly, felt so deeply, and acted on so decisively by so many. The waterways, clearly, were saved.”
However, governments can change directions with different leaderships. Regulations to protect nature and our health have been chipped away and now are considered overregulation and a burden on various industries. Regulations are abolished to please polluters. Limits and thresholds are manipulated to fit more convenient levels, with safety as an afterthought.
That made me pause. When has life become such a devalued commodity? Where do we go from here?
As 2020 folds and another year begins, the time is right to ponder our values and how to move forward. What do we see in the path ahead? What do we want our future to be like?
At times like these, when seeking inspiration, I turn to the words of Jane Goodall. In her book "Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey," she shares some thoughts that I felt would be the perfect closing for this article:
“Most of us don't realize the difference we could make. We love to shrug off our own responsibilities, to point fingers at others. ‘Surely,’ we say, ‘the pollution, waste, and other ills are not our fault. They are the fault of the industry, business, science. They are the fault of the politicians.’ This leads to a destructive and potentially deadly apathy.
“We have a responsibility toward the other life-forms of our planet whose continued existence is threatened by the thoughtless behavior of our own human species.
“Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for living things around us, especially each other.
“We still have a long way to go. But we are moving in the right direction. If only we can overcome cruelty — to humans and animals — with love and compassion, we shall stand at the threshold of a new era in human moral and spiritual evolution — and realize, at last, our most unique quality: humanity.”
After reading those words, I look ahead, with hope in my heart for the new year. I hope you do, too.