Writing and cooking in: Pittsburgh, PA
Rachel Carson is a hero for many. Nowhere have I seen this more prominently than at Chatham University, of which I am a recent alum. (I love that!) Rachel Carson is Chatham College for Women class of 1929 and our most famous alumna. She was born on May 27, 1907. She lived to be only 56. She succumbed to breast cancer in 1964.
Carson is best known for her book Silent Spring, which brought the consequences of synthetic chemical pesticides to the public eye. Her book was a turning point moment for the environmental movement, particularly in terms of health and the food chain.
One of the salient points of Silent Spring is the affect of DDT on our health. DDT is a powerful chemical with the ability to kill a wide variety of pests. In its wake, DDT can kill plants that are not pests and leaves residue on plants and animals in the area it is sprayed. When humans or other animals eat these plants or animals, DDT is ingested with the food. Eating one meal laced with DDT is not a big deal (but it’s not good either, avoid it if possible). Our bodies are equipped to flush out toxins. The bigger problem is the widespread use of the chemical to get rid of pests. When we continually eat foods contaminated by chemicals like DDT, the chemicals accumulate in our bodies and cause more and more problems over time.
DDT use was banned in the United States in 1972. Since then, the accumulation of DDT in the environment has decreased but we are still at risk from diseases from previous use of DDT and DDT use in other countries. Unfortunately, DDT is still used in other parts of the world and has the ability to travel long distances in the atmosphere. Most countries do not use DDT in the agricultural sector. The most common use of DDT today is to control the population of Malaria-carrying mosquitos in Africa.
Thanks, Rachel Carson! Without you, we might not be speaking as loudly about chemical-free, real food in the terms we are now. We might not have as many options for chemical free food, which, when you look at the chemicals that are currently embedded in our food chain, would make for a sad state of affairs. Think of all the diseases among us today that might have environmental causes: some cancers (including breast), Crohn’s disease, infertility, some birth defects, and others. What could we be facing without the regulations we have put in place since Silent Spring? There is much more work to be done, but we have Rachel Carson to thank for getting us started down the right path.
This is why I like to eat organic or chemical free foods when I can. It is good for the body. You won’t find farmers using DDT today (legally at least), but there are many other harmful chemicals out there. Many small farms don’t use them even if they aren’t Certified Organic farms (certification is expensive). Ask at the farmers market, read labels, etc. I’m not going to lecture anymore.
Tonight, I’m making potato salad with potatoes from Clarion River Organics to go with leftover capon raised locally without antibiotics.
Tomorrow, I am going to Chatham’s Eden Hall Farm to work in the garden, which operates on the principles of a clean environment with clean food and water that Rachel Carson advocated.
For further reading on DDT and/or Rachel Carson, try these links: