The Next Rachel Carson: Channeling Silent Spring
"Never get lost in the science of it all. Get lost in that moment, in the motive of the good; the greater good that fights for the majority and not the selected few."
Today my boss engaged me in that big question of life: What is it that you want to do with your degree? Obviously graduate school is next. And I stammered through proposal ideas like monitoring corporate manufacturing or residential run-off into ecological systems and how we can use this information to curb their dirty (and cheap) manufacturing practices through protection of local plant and animal species affected by toxic seepage.
And then I paused, "But I want to move away from ecology. I want to do things that will make a difference and initiate the change of human practice. Just not through ecology--I don't want to study one thing forever."
Uh oh. Move away from ecology? My desires are not a secret. I'm a conservationist at heart; an environmental protectionist, or shepherd, as you will. I've been fighting for the environment since before I can remember. And somehow, there has developed this divide between the scientist and the man.
Five minutes pass and I go back to my chemical inventory on what we have on hand in the lab. I don't want to be seen as the enemy, or the rebel. I just want to make living easier for everyone and everything. And then...
"You want to work for National Geographic, don't you?"
"Yeah! How'd you know?"
(Oh to be an explorer. Travel all around the world going on expeditions no one has done before. Risking my life for a thrilling adventure--how selfish.)
"I just saw the book you are reading. Ecology... you're going to have to start there if you want to get funding. With your field experience and your work in this lab you'll have a good chance of doing anything you want."
There are many hardcore ecologists in South Florida and sometimes the only way to get funding for your work is to push your conservationist prerogatives to the wayside and be a scientist. Sure, I can focus my research on sharks and sea turtles as an umbrella species in hopes of curbing improper shrimp trawling and shark fining practices in order to save a species or the inhabitants of shared habitats. I can freeze and dry out blood samples and run them through the mass spec for the presence of oxygen, carbon, or nitrogen isotopic signatures to observe biotic changes in the environment. Meaning, I can see if [short or long term] events have changed the organic makeup of an organism in its natural environment. I sound like a scientist, don't I? What if I want to save human culture, too and build sustainable cities and get the local governments enthralled on such an idea as to cultivate their city for a greener and healthier living? One that does not anchor its fate on dominate corporate agenda. Goddamn it, don't we deserve that?
I spent two hours in the library today trying to find conservationists books that could bring my political and environmental mind into proper balance (Life in the Balance, Niles Eldredge); a better way for me to properly express my knowledge (Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals, Susan K. Jacobson), and an effective outreach to the public that is conducive to the values that seem to matter most (Conservationist Education and Outreach Techniques, Susan K. Jacobson, et al.) But I didn't check out any of these.
Besides "Pink Boots," here is what I checked out, instead:
My favorite being Since Silent Spring by Frank Graham, Jr. (though we all know I need a better approach at communicating my passions without being such an antagonist). Frank Graham, Jr. is an exquisite writer, much like Rachel Carson who wrote the infamous Silent Spring. This book isn't precisely a tribute to her, as Graham, Jr. puts it, but a foundation for "a great number of questions yet unanswered about the environment we all live in."--Dr. Virginia Apgar.
Perhaps this will lead me over the cusp of my ambitions and down the path; one step closer to finality.
"A soul can be known by its satisfactions."--Rachel Carson