Albert Schweitzer and Rachel Carson: Two Courageous and inspiring People

Three years after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954, Albert Schweitzer addressed the world in his famous Declaration of Conscience. In a bid to stop the atmospheric testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs he sought to galvanize public opinion in order to influence Soviet, American and British governments.  Dr. Schweitzer’s radio speech was part of a successful grassroots effort to bring to the forefront the short and long-term dangers that radiation poses to the future of life on Earth. He spoke of our descendents living with radioactive fallout. Land, air and water were all being affected by atomic testing. “It must not happen that we do not pull ourselves together before it is too late.” he said.
To this day most glaciers can be found to have a radioactive layer from the testing of the 50’s and 60’s. Scientists, by drilling ice cores, now use this information to see how much ice has accumulated since the 60’s to gage the glaciers’ potential meltwater for the future sustainability of rivers. Climate change is already taking its toll on these same glaciers to provide enough water for Asia’s populations.

“To the man who is truly ethical all life is sacred, including that which from the human point of view seems lower on the scale. The morality we have lived by was fragmentary only.  We must abandon it in favor of the complete, all-embracing love expressed in “reverence for all life.”  That fragmentary morality of concern for human life alone was like a single tone floating in the air, incomplete because the base tone to produce the harmony was missing.  Reverence for life gives us the full chord, the harmony.” Albert Schweitzer
“To me, Dr. Schweitzer is the one truly great individual our modern times have produced. If we are to find our way through the problems that beset us, it will surely be in large part through a wider understanding and application of his principles.” Rachel Carson
Dr. Schweitzer’s ethic of Reverence for Life “is the ethic of love widened into universality.”  He felt that all of nature was sacred and worthy of reverence. He was a major influence in the animal welfare movement. See www.anncottrellfree.org/books.htm and scroll down to “Our Debt to Albert Schweitzer and Rachel Carson   Please see www.reverenceforlife.org to learn more about the role of music for humanity.  Dr. Schweitzer was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.
Albert Schweitzer sounded the alarm over humanity’s increasing lack of independent thinking, “Man today is exposed throughout his life to influences that try to rob him of all confidence in his own thinking… In spite of his great technological achievements and material possessions, he is an altogether stunted being, because he makes no use of his capacity for thinking.”
Born in 1875, Dr. Schweitzer witnessed the rise of corporate greed and its enormous lobbying power in government.  “Corporate bodies do not look for their strength in ideas and in the values of the people for whom they are responsible. They try to achieve the greatest possible power, offensive as well as defensive. “
Dr. Schweitzer became alarmed when insecticides started to cause great damage to bees and other wildlife. Rachel Carson dedicated “Silent Spring” to him. She wrote in her dedication, “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the Earth.” which was part of a letter that Albert Schweitzer wrote to a bee-keeper whose bees were destroyed by pesticides. Currently, many scientists are blaming modern insecticides for the global die-off of bees that has been experienced in the last several years.
It speaks volumes when the United States Senate was not able to pass a resolution in 2007 praising Rachel Carson, when the one hundredth anniversary of her birth was being celebrated around the world.  Chemical companies are still ranting against her 1962 publication of “Silent Spring” .Ms Carson is credited with exposing the huge damage to life that chemicals such as DDT had caused in North America and Europe. In fact, the ecological/sustainability movement in North America was founded by Rachel Carson as a result of her bravery in standing up to the chemical industry in the 1950’s and 60’s. As well, her book inspired the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
What is most striking about Ms Carson’s “Silent Spring” is its scientific accessibility for the general reader. Any person over the age of fifteen can read it and it should be read by everyone. Why? It is a clarion call. It is a call to every person to follow through on the work that Rachel Carson started in the 1950’s.  2009 needs to be a year where public opinion demands we’ve had enough of ongoing tragedies in our natural world from a few corporations and effete “leaders”. Let’s look closely at ourselves as well, and demand less from the Earth and more from ourselves. Thinking of us as conservers and not consumers will help. It is essential to ask what we have accomplished in stopping chemical toxicity throughout the world. The answer is very little. Scientists are now waving red flags with compelling research stating that evolution is at stake with the feminization of species throughout the world as a direct result of not banning many gender-bending pesticides.
Municipalities have the right to stop the use of pesticides as a result of the June 28, 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of a Hudson, Quebec .by-law aimed at reducing non-essential pesticide use within the community. It is becoming clearer everyday that the use of ‘essential’ pesticides can be challenged in court, and by our municipal governments under the Cities and Towns Act. The health and safety of municipal citizenry, let alone biodiversity is at stake with the use of many agricultural and forest pesticides. Public opinion must now widen the spectrum of ‘non-essential’ chemicals and include most of the ‘essential’ chemicals. “…we should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us.”-from “Silent Spring” Today we have entomologists such as E.O. Wilson to counter the “economic entomologists” that are just puppets in the hands of the chemical industry..
Albert and Rachel were right: let’s think for ourselves and end these scourges.

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