The grass is green, the cherry blossoms are blooming, and the robins are calling from the hickory and walnut trees on college green. Athens flourishes during spring and we honor the resources and sheer magnificence of nature on Earth Day and on Athens Beautification day, this Sunday. To that end, we should take time to honor the female environmentalists who strove to remind us that we must not be antagonists to the earth that provides for us. Rachel Carson was a writer, scientist and ecologist most famous for her 1962 book, Silent Spring. Silent Spring questions the practices of agricultural scientists and the government’s use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II. Fifty-three years later, these issues have become
even more alarming. Rachel Carson is important to the feminist community and the Appalachian community alike. She grew up in Pennsylvania, now a central hub for resource extraction. Sixty-four percent of Pennsylvania gas wells are to be drilled in forested land, including state forests and natural areas. I have to wonder how Carson would respond to resource extraction, and my intuition tell me she would be on the front-lines of the anti-fracking movement.
Wangari Maathai is another female environmentalist that we should keep in our minds this week. Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a mission developed to form cooperation among women in growing seedlings and planting trees to bind soil, storing rainwater, and providing food and firewood (Greenbeltmovement.org).
Maathai developed the Green Belt Movement in response to rural Kenyan women reporting that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they “had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing.” The women in the Green Belt Movement have planted 51 million trees since 1977.
It is important to do small environmental practices like recycling, using less water, turning the lights off, planting trees, picking up garbage, avoiding plastic water bottles, and eating local, but it is even more important to fight against poor environmental practices by huge corporations and even the U.S. government. We have to ask questions about why the streams are drying up, why the water supplies are polluted, and why the forest is being deforested–especially living in Appalachia. Carson said that humankind is a part of nature and a war against nature is a war against ourselves. This Sunday, recognize the beauty of Athens County and make a promise to defend it from harm.
Hope to work with you at Athens Beautification Day!
Madeleine Toerne, Women’s Center Staff