A Lesson in Wonder
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Drawing by Daniel Mróz. From the Przekrój archives, no. 383/1958
Nature

A Lesson in Wonder

The Life of Rachel Carson
Julia Fiedorczuk
Reading
time 14 minutes

She was accused of excessive emotionality, reproached for her spinsterhood. Some even suggested she was a Soviet spy. That was the price she paid for writing about the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. Her name was Rachel Carson.

1962, in the midst of the Cold War. The US imposes an embargo on Cuba; the nuclear arms race and the space race are on. Lou Reed is 20 years old; Bob Dylan is 21 and has just released his first album. 19-year-old Janis Joplin begins her studies at the University of Texas at Austin, which she never finishes. On 5th August, Marilyn Monroe dies – the circumstances are unclear, and her death is referred to as a “probable suicide”. On 28th August 1962 at 4pm, President John F. Kennedy hosts a press conference during which he is asked whether he is considering engaging the Department of Agriculture or the Public Health Service to investigate the impact of DDT and other popular pesticides on human health. Kennedy responds without hesitation that the investigation is already underway, thanks to “Miss Carson’s” book.

The book Kennedy was referring to was Silent Spring, widely regarded as a crucial work for the development of ecological awareness in the US. Combining top-tier literature with scientific deduction, author Rachel Carson, a zoologist by education, argued that the mass use of insecticides, mainly DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), could have a detrimental effect on the environment and human health. Carson’s accessible, evocative style made readers realize that the range of impacts of the synthetic agents being introduced into the environment could never be limited to a single niche, since all elements of the ecosystem are interrelated. The poisons with which plants are doused get into the soil, reaching lakes and rivers through the groundwater, where they poison the fish. Birds are affected too, because DDT leads to a reduction

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What Can Greta Do?
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Greta Thunberg in the European Parliament in March 2020. Photo by European Parliament/flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Experiences

What Can Greta Do?

The Urgent Ascent of a Climate Activist
Paulina Wilk

“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly,” says the Swedish schoolgirl, brave enough to tell the adults that they are bringing doom upon their children.

She’s small for her age. When she meets journalists from the most prominent media, they always seem surprised by this fact – how come such a tiny, unsmiling teenager is making such poignant, uncompromising statements? She calls the world leaders out on their indifference and hauls them over the coals.

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