Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest

For the Birds, and the Turtles, and the Deer

By Moira McGuinness

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife. To utilize them for present needs while insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program, based on the most extensive research.
—Rachel Carson*

 

 

I consider myself a city kid with a country heart.  I was born in Washington, DC, have lived nearly my whole life in the DC suburbs, but I spend every weekend I can in the Shenandoah Valley at a cabin my parents bought in 1966. The cabin and the pond, fields, and woods that surround it are more home to me than the neighborhood I was raised in. Spending time out there just wandering around renews and heals my spirit like nothing else does.

A deer at the farm. Image by the author.

A deer at the farm. Image by the author.

This summer I asked a forester to produce a management plan for the 100 acres of woods on the property.  His plan included short-term ways to make the forest healthier and make room for the undergrowth that deer thrive on, and recommendations for longer-term growth. I agree with Rachel Carson that conservation requires a balanced approach based on research. I am thankful to have the help of a trained scientist in deciding how best to care for the trees and the wildlife that depend on them.

I know having such a connection to nature is a gift as well as a responsibility.  That’s why I especially enjoyed helping to get the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Finalists page ready to go online. The photos, essays, songs, poems, and dances, have inspired me to invite friends out to my little mountain retreat more often and share with them my own sense of wonder at the gift nature is. I invite you to cast your ballot for your favorite entry in each of the categories. Send an email with your favorites to aging.info@epa.gov or mail your votes to:

Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest
C/O Kathy Sykes
U.S. EPA Mail Code 8101R
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 41284

Voting closes Friday September 27, 2013.

“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.” ―Rachel Carson

About the Author: Moira McGuinness manages EPA Research web content. When not working with the Science Communication Staff in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, she likes to photograph wildlife she sees near her cabin.

*Letter to the editor, Washington Post (1953); quoted in Lost Woods:The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999) edited by Linda Lear, p. 99

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Celebrating Rachel Carson’s Life and Legacy

 

By Kathy Sykes 

“…spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.”

—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Rachel Carson. Image courtesy of the Rachel Carson Council.

Rachel Carson. Image courtesy of the Rachel Carson Council.

Flapping wings of osprey and eagles wish Rachel Carson a happy 106th birthday. They have much to celebrate this May 27th.  Just 50 years ago, the bald eagle seemed headed for extinction. DDT, an organochlorine insecticide, broke the hearts of mother ospreys who unintentionally crushed the thinned eggshells of their unhatched chicks.  Eagles were also disappearing. “By 1963, only 417 pairs were still raising young in the lower 48 states.” [i]

Fortunately, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was released and described how DDT was poisoning birds and wildlife and endangering human health. Silent Spring planted the seeds of the environmental movement and captured the attention of President John F. Kennedy.

A decade later, two seminal events changed the course of history, saving birds and other wildlife from the brink of extinction. First, EPA banned DDT. Next, the Endangered Species Act was passed.  By 2006, the nation was home to nearly 10,000 successful breeding pairs of bald eagles. [ii]

Ospreys, a “close cousin” of eagles and other birds of prey, live close to waterways such as estuaries, reservoirs, rivers, salt marshes and ponds because their diet consists primarily of fish. A pair, Steve and Rachel, is nesting on Hog Island in Maine. You can become an indoor birder and watch for the chicks to hatch on a live web cam.

Appropriately named after Rachel Carson, Rachel will sit on three healthy eggs incubating them until they hatch.  I have become addicted and peek in daily. So far, I have seen brown-and-white-speckled eggs and both parents-in-waiting. I can see the wind fluff Rachel’s feathers and feel her comfort on rainy days as raindrops are repelled, sliding off or balling up on her back of oily feathers. Longing to hear her call, I found recordings on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site. (I love the internet!)

Mother osprey and chick. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service image

Mother osprey and chick. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service image

The National Audubon Society’s 10 tips show what we can all do to help the billions of birds migrating north. I plan to join the Hummingbirds at Home project and become a citizen scientist, pledge to curb my cats, drink coffee made from shade-grown beans, and forgo pesticides.

If Emily Dickinson were alive today, she surely would be a citizen scientist. I’d like to think she would have entered a poem and picture of feathers into the 7th Annual Rachel Carson contest.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.  —Emily Dickinson

Your intergenerational team has until June 10, 2013 to jointly submit an original song, poem, essay, photo, or dance. Happy bird-day, Rachel. We thank you for your dedicated work, your creativity, and leaving with us a “sense of wonder.”

About the Author: Kathy Sykes has been working for the EPA since 1998 where she focuses on older adults and the built environment and healthy communities.  In 2012, she joined the Office of Research and Development and serves as Senior Advisor for Aging and Sustainability.

 


[i] Science 22 June 2007: Vol. 316 no. 5832 pp. 1689-1690 DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5832.1689 Can the Bald Eagle Still Soar After It Is Delisted? Erik Stokstad

[ii] http://www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/population/chtofprs.html  Retrieved on May 20, 2013

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Rachel Carson Contest 2013

By Kathy Sykes

 

“The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.” —Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

Seven years ago, the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest began with the hope that it would inspire all generations—young, old, and middle aged—to join creative forces and in their own words describe a corner of the natural world that embodies a sense of wonder.

This creative expression contest has grown in its reach and breadth by popular demand. Entries have come from across the globe and in an array of shapes and media.

A few years ago, it seemed natural to add movement and dance to the contest. So, this year we invite songwriters to join the chorus and capture the sounds of wonder with their melodies of meadows, streams, and breezes.

When I was in second grade, my father took me and my brother out of school for a half day to watch The Sound of Music. I am sure he had a number of lessons in mind he wanted us to learn by taking us to the movie theater. A history lesson on World War II was the most immediate.  But I believe he also wanted to foster an appreciation for the arts and the environment.

Hiking in the Alps.

The cinematography was amazing. The surrounding photography of the Alps from the movie left an indelible memory for me. Many years later I climbed the Austrian Alps with an exchange student from a small town in Austria and his father—something I will never forget. And yes, we sang hiking songs, too.

My parents succeeded in giving my brother, sister and me a well-rounded education engendering a sense of wonder for nature’s beauty as well as for the arts.

I invite you to share that same sense of wonder and enter the Rachel Carson Contest. Please see more information about the contest at:

http://epa.gov/research/aging/carson/index.htm.

As Rachel Carson wrote in her book The Sense of Wonder:

You can listen to the wind, whether it blows with majestic
voice through a forest or sings a many-voiced chorus…

The deadline for entries is June 10, 2013.

About the Author: Kathy Sykes has been working for the EPA since 1998 where she focuses on older adults and the built environment and healthy communities.  In 2012, she joined the Office of Research and Development and serves as Senior Advisor for Aging and Sustainability.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.