Rachel Carson Visits Los Alamos for a Chautauqua on April 18

By Terry Foxx

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson will make a special visit to Los Alamos at 7 p.m. Wednesday April 18 at the Betty Ehart Senior Center. 

This surprise appearance is in fact by Ann Beyke, who will be taking on Carson’s persona in a performance known as a Chautauqua. 

What’s so special about Carson’s view of the world?

Anyone who enjoyed a recent magical snowstorm that quickly dissolved into spring weather knows the charm of hearing the birds sing as new life emerges from fallow flowerbeds.

Can you image a spring without singing birds? Rachel Carson could. Carson’s cautionary tale, Silent Spring, warned of the effects of unchecked and unchallenged use of pesticides. Published in 1962, her book was applauded by some and considered pseudoscience by others. But regardless of what anyone thinks about the merits of her book, it awakened the American public to problems of the overuse of pesticides and other pollutants. Silent Spring helped millions of Americans develop an environmental consciousness.

Controversy still swirls around Carson’s book. DDT was banned because of its effect on birds. But DDT was also one of the most effective killers of the mosquitoes that cause malaria and the illness and death of millions. The push and pull of economics and human health are still at the forefront and always will be.

However, Carson’s contribution was more than an awaking of an environmental movement. It was an awakening to the realization that we are part of the fabric of the earth and have a responsibility to become educated about issues that affect it. And, althoughSilent Spring brought controversy, many of her books and articles were designed to teach people about the wonder and beauty of the living world. It is through encouraging people to have this sense that they can better make their own decisions about issues affecting that world, whether pesticides, fire, or global warming.  

“Wonder” is a watercolor painting created by Terry Foxx of her 10-month-old granddaughter’s first day at the Oregon beach and her curiosity about the cool wet sand on her feet. This piece can be seen in the art show at the Betty Ehart Senior Center – It fits with Rachel Carson’s book “Sense of Wonder” and the art show.

In her posthumouslypublished book, A Sense of Wonder, Carson reminds us that a child needs at least one adult with whom to share the wonder of nature. In one of her essays she describes taking her 20-month-old nephew to the beach. “Together we laughed for pure joy – he a baby meeting for the first time the wild tumult of Oceanus, I with the salt of half a lifetime of sea love in me.”

Carson urges us to explore nature with feelings and emotions, to use our senses. Before her death she wrote, “I want very much to do the Wonder book.” She cared passionately about instilling in each of us the ability to see and experience the wonder of nature.

The Maine shoreline that Rachel Carson saw each day. Courtesy Photo

Six years after Carson’s death from cancer, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Again this year, Pajarito Environmental Education Center will hold a community-wide Earth Day celebration. Ann Beyke’s Rachel Carson presentation, sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council, is a part of that celebration.

As Rachel Carson, Beyke will give those of us who lived at the time of the publishing of Silent Spring a reminder of one who influenced our view of the world. And those who have never heard of her will get a glimpse of one of the most influential writers of the last 100 years. The 7 p.m. performance will be preceded by a reception at 6:30, giving attenders an opportunity to view artwork from various artists expressing their sense of wonder. The reception and performance are free and open to the public.




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