Next week, April 22nd, is Earth Day. But what exactly is Earth Day? What are we meant to do on this day? Isn't Every Day Earth Day, as the slogan goes? I aim to live my live in concert with my planet, and so I wondered what I should do differently on this day, as opposed to any other day.
So, I did the usual. I stopped by the Tompkins County Public Library to troll the shelves for science books. A few weeks ago I wrote about Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. And now, again, I come back to Rachel.
In 2003 Amy Ehrlich published a book called Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson, illustrated by Wendell Minor. This vibrant picture book takes us through Rachel's life from her early nature explorations, to her biology studies at college, to her continued devotion to having science in her life by the Maine sea. The book is divided into chapters, a page each, with joyful illustrations capturing a moment in Rachel's life. It includes her writings, and her magnificent Silent Spring, but the focus is Rachel's life. It is simply written, and yet draws the reader in completely.
In 2012, Laurie Lawlor published a book called Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World, illustrated by Laura Beingessner. Oddly, this more recent book is a bit more wordy, but it too tells Rachel's story with color and clarity. There is more focus on Rachel's struggles supporting her family, and her place as one of few women working in the sciences. By the end, Lawlor is showing more overtly the challenges and triumphs of Silent Spring.
Both books present the essence of Rachel and her work with honesty, and both share the impact that she had on our world. Both also made me fall a little bit more in love with Rachel Carson. She was a woman of her times, yet she defied those times to pursue her passions- nature, science, writing. She did what she had to do to care for her family, to work her way through the publishing world, and to create work that she was proud of, and in the process she ended up changing the world.
Earth Day sprouted from the environmental movement that Rachel started. And perhaps it is to the new growths of spring that we should return. Earth Day is a day to plant spinach seeds, to walk in the woods with a child, to petition our government to use less energy, to stand up and defend our planet, defying our times if necessary. Whatever we do on Earth Day, let us look to the bugs, beech trees, rain clouds, and bird-song-filled spring sunshine surrounding us and be grateful for it all.
"It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility." Rachel Carson
It's STEM Friday! Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.