Wade In and Cast Your Vote for the 2012 Winners of the Rachel Carson Sense of Water Contest

By Kathy Sykes

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” Rachel Carson from “The Sea Around Us”

For the past six years, I have had the privilege of overseeing the Rachel Carson Sense of  Wonder contest. The purpose is to create artistic expressions through photography, poetry, essays and dance that capture the sense and appreciation of the environment. This year’s contest focused on water in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Teams of young persons and older have expressed appreciation for water through extraordinary and precious expressions of art. From raindrops on a blade of grass, to a gentle rain in a forest, to waves in the ocean as far as the eye can see, we see, taste and feel water.

I have been heartened to receive messages from grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children, teachers and students, and nature lovers of all ages, who appreciate the teaching of Rachel Carson.

Andre Gide, a French Nobel laureate for literature wrote, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Many of our teams did just that, discovering and exploring water and nature with a new sense of wonder. And just as the pleasing as Handel’s water music was for King George, I too have been thrilled by the notes from participants:

  • “thanks for giving this opportunity to kids to rethink about environment and nature”
  • “we had a great time completing this contest.”
  • “such a wonderful project!!!”
  • “when will EPA announce the 2013 contest and what will the theme be?”

Our judges were also impressed by the imaginative entries from teams that worked across generations to discover and enjoy the beauty of water. It was a quite a challenge for them to select finalists from so many lovely works. Now it is your chance to help us select the 2012 winners of the Rachel Carson Sense of Water Contest here.

About the Author: Kathy Sykes is a Senior Advisor for Aging and Sustainability in the Office or Research and Development at the U.S. EPA.  She grew up in Madison, WI and has been working at the U.S. EPA since 1998. She believes the arts can serve as an environmental educational tool and foster appreciation and protection for the natural world.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Never Too Old to Play

By Kathy Sykes

The older I get, the more I like to play. Did you know that May is Older Americans Month and that this year’s theme is “Never Too Old to Play.” The theme encourages Older Americans to stay engaged, active and involved in their communities.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of a book, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, that changed the lives for many people who love nature and the out-of-doors.

I hadn’t read Silent Spring until I was an adult. As a child, I remember running down nearby railroad tracks where trains passed by daily around noon transporting large logs heading to the paper mills and lumber yards. My little sister and I used to pick bouquets of flowers that bloomed in abundance near the tracks, white and purple violets, daisies, lilies- of- the-valley for my mother to place on the dining room table.

But those tracks were also sprayed with DDT. We were just kids and had no idea how dangerous it was as we ran down the tracks through the cloud of chemicals. We assumed if the cloud of chemicals was bad for mosquitoes it must be good for us. But I have learned now that the metabolites of DDT are one of those persistent toxicants that are forever a part of me.

Fifty years later we are still thinking about Rachel Carson’s message about the dangers of chemicals and pesticides in our world. The train tracks have been converted into a bike path and trails that weave through the back yards of my childhood neighborhood. DDT is no longer sprayed and the wild flowers are still there. My mom has been active in caring for community gardens and volunteering at the local botanical gardens. She has encouraged all my nieces and nephews to garden and appreciate the out of doors. Mother’s day is around the corner and I am planning to play in a garden and maybe submit an entry with my mom for the Rachel Carson contest.

About the author: Kathy Sykes is a Senior Advisor for Aging and Sustainability in the Office or Research and Development at the U.S. EPA.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Tell us why Water Is Worth It

By Travis Loop

As someone responsible for communications on water issues at EPA, I’m always working to explain how the agency’s actions matter to the American people. This year provides a unique opportunity to spark a national conversation about something that is vital to every single person – clean water.

2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. This year we will certainly talk about the tremendous progress in reducing pollution since 1972, the many milestones along the way, the ways that the job is far from over and the tough challenges we face today and in the future.

But we don’t want to have a one-way conversation. We want to hear from you. Tell us why Water Is Worth It.

We’ve set up a variety of ways that people can participate in the conversation about clean water. Our webpage will be the central location for information, activities, news and networking.

I imagine many of you are active in social media so I encourage you to follow our accounts. You can find us on Facebook . You can follow us on Twitter @EPAwater. We want to have a nationwide digital dialogue so use the hashtag #cleanwater.

Keep watching the Greenversations blog for entries by EPA officials and staff on water issues. Provide your thoughts in the comments section and share the blog entry with others.

Throughout 2012, EPA’s Watershed Academy will be offering free webinars on aspects of the Clean Water Act, including an introduction, State Revolving Funds, the National Estuary Program and more. If you can’t join these webinars live, they are all archived for future access.

To tell the visual story of water, we’ve gathered photos of water submitted in 1972 and 2012. We encourage you to add to this gallery. It would be especially interesting to see new photos taken in the same location as 1972 to see how the water and surroundings have changed.

We also invite you to participate in the Rachel Carson contest. There are four categories: photography, essay, poetry and dance. Submissions are encouraged to focus on the properties of water – how it tastes, what it sounds like, how it feels – and what water means you.

We’re looking forward to hearing you tell us why Water Is Worth It.

About the author: Travis Loop is the communications director for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Rachel Carson Sense of Water Contest 2012

By Kathy Sykes

The 2012 Rachel Carson contest will focus on water, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The scientist and author, Rachel Carson, is the inspiration of the EPA’s Rachel Carson intergenerational contest. She wrote that for a child to keep alive an inborn sense of wonder, the companionship of at least one adult is needed to share and rediscover the joy, excitement and mystery of the world.

My friend’s daughter asked her brother what percent of the earth’s water was potable, or drinkable. He correctly guessed 1 percent. But then he said 1% is a lot of water bottles. She then asked me “Where water came from? I referred her to a kid’s site prepared by our Regional office in Kansas City.

Many of my favorite memories as a child were spent near water. It’s hard to decide where I have had the most fun and with whom I should team up and enter this contest.

One memory involves a family trip to Sanibel Island with my brother’s eldest children, Steven and Jessie. Steven was 3 at the time and Jessie was 4. They danced along the shore, playing ring around the rosie as the waves tickled their tiny toes and giggling constantly as they fell into the soft sand. That happy moment was captured by my mother and is my favorite photo. I can still taste the salty air and hear the gentle, lapping waves.

I think you get the idea. Find a partner or two, discover a place, somewhere you want to explore, or recall some place you’ve been. Share a story, a photo, a dance or poem, and enter the Sense of Water contest. It’s good for the heart— and soul. But don’t take my word for it—jump in and make a splash.

About the author: Kathy Sykes is working on sustainability, across the lifespan, in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She is also representing EPA on the National Prevention Strategy. She launched the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest 6 years ago with sponsoring organizations including Generations United, the Rachel Carson Council Inc, the Dance Exchange, and the National Center for Creative Aging.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Rachel Carson “Sense of Wonder” Contest

By Alex Gorsky

Being an environmental guy, I had heard of Rachel Carson. I saw a video about her in a science classes and I read her book, Silent Spring. It wasn’t until I started to intern at the EPA that I learned that there was a contest under her name. When I began to work this summer, I learned that I would be helping collect the entries and judge the contest. Not wanting to go into the judging blind, I went to the Rachel Carson Contest website to do research on past contestants. Each winner clearly showed how important the environment was for them. I couldn’t wait till I started getting submissions for this year’s contest.

I didn’t have to wait long. In my first week I was already working on the contest to get the entries ready for judging. By looking at the entries I could see the love that each team had for nature and the environment. Some teams were from the city and had not viewed nature other than in passing while other teams were brought up and brought up their children and grandchildren deeply immersed in the environment. Despite the variety of entries and the locations they were from, I could see that each team had the “Sense of Wonder” that Rachel Carson hoped for us all to have.
As the end of my internship approached, we began to judge the contest. Thankfully, we only had to pick out the top contenders from each category. Every entry was so well done that it was hard to determine which we had to cut out; not every entry could be a finalist. Through much deliberation we were able to make our choices and decide on the finalists for the contest. Each finalist received a certificate from the EPA as well as a letter of congratulations.

As Rachel Carson wrote, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” Voting for the contest has begun and will be open until September 30th.

About the author: Alex Gorsky is an intern in the Office of Public Engagement at the EPA. He is a senior at Beloit College majoring in Environmental Studies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Discover It, Share It and Pass It On: Nature – A Sense of Wonder

By Kathy Sykes

My own guiding purpose was to portray the subject of my sea profile with fidelity and understanding. All else was secondary. I did not stop to consider whether I was doing it scientifically or poetically; I was writing as the subject demanded.

These were the words stated by Rachel Carson during her acceptance speech for the National Book Award she received in March 1952, for her work The Sea Around Us. Carson was a pioneer of the environmental movement and an inspiration to generations of women and men who have grown to appreciate the natural world.

Rachel Carson was an inspiration to my mother, Marguerite, a chemist who was one of a few women who worked at USDA’s Forest Products Research Laboratory in Wisconsin. Prominent on mom’s bookshelf were a series of books by Carson: The Sea Around Us, Sense of Wonder, and Silent Spring.

Carson wrote eloquent, beautiful prose. What mom read, she wanted to share with her children and later her grandchildren. Growing up in Madison was fun filled with long walks to parks and lakes including the Arboretum, the duck pond, Cherokee Marsh, and Picnic Point.

Our summer vacations were spent hiking nature paths with waterfalls, fishing for trout, and skipping flat water- smoothed stones along the shores of Lake Superior or some other smaller northern Wisconsin lake. During these hikes, mom taught us to recognize the first flowers of spring–hepaticas, spring beauties and marsh marigolds. We could distinguish among the songs of the red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, bluejays and the whip-o-wills.

Rachel Carson’s last work A Sense of Wonder is the inspiration of the EPA’s Rachel Carson intergenerational contest. She wrote “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

Our contest is to continue in Rachel’s footsteps–to discover and rediscover with someone older or younger the joy and excitement of the world we live in and have nature serve as an inspiration for a creative work, a poem, an essay, a photo or even a dance.

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative and launched the Rachel Carson Contest in 2007.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Environmentalist Role Models

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

On a brisk fall morning, I attended an event at my youngest daughter’s Montessori school. The Harvest Parade is a yearly event in which all the children at the school participate in a ceremony dressed in costumes representing countries or historic figures. The parade serves as an opportunity not only to teach the children about different cultures and individuals who have contributed to mankind, but to hone their skills in research and public speaking.

It was heartwarming to see these children walk to the stage and talk about presidents, kings, queens, scientists, artists, and athletes. The older children had to deliver 3- 5-minute long speeches about these historic figures and explain why they found them inspirational. What struck me this year was that fact that several children had selected famous environmentalists as the historical figures they wanted to portray: the founder of the modern environmentalist movement Rachel Carlson, the founder of The Wilderness Society Aldo Leopold, the leader of the soil conservation movement Hugh Hammond Bennett, and even President Theodore Roosevelt for his conservation efforts, to name a few.  I was proud to see these children identify these environmentalists as their role models.

There are many unsung heroes here at EPA and in our communities who make environmental protection part of their daily lives. They are role models for us all. We should encourage our children at home and in the community to conserve water, recycle, and protect our environment.

I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to Montessori education. The philosophy of Maria Montessori gives free rein to the child’s innate imagination. It also instills in students at an early age underlying values such as respect for oneself, all humanity, and the environment. I think the world would be a better place if we shared those views.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Ambientalistas que nos inspiran

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

En una fresca mañana otoñal, asistí a una actividad de mi hija menor en su escuela Montessori. El Desfile de la Cosecha es un evento anual en el cual participan todos los estudiantes representando diversos países o figuras históricas. Este desfile brinda una oportunidad para enseñar no tan sólo a los niños acerca de diferentes culturas e individuos que han contribuido a la humanidad sino también para que mejoren sus destrezas en realizar investigaciones y hablar ante el público.

Era enternecedor ver a estos niños subir a la tribuna y personificando a presidentes, reyes, reinas, científicos, artistas y atletas. Los niños mayores tenían que pronunciar discursos de tres a cinco minutos sobre personajes históricos y explicar el por qué estas personas les inspiraban. Lo que me sorprendió fue el hecho de que varios niños habían seleccionado a famosos ambientalistas como las figuras históricas que ellos querían proyectar: la fundadora del movimiento ambientalista moderno Rachel Carlson, el fundador de la Sociedad de la Vida Silvestre Aldo Leopold, el líder del movimiento de la conservación de los terrenos Hugh Hammond Bennett, y hasta el presidente Teodoro Roosevelt por sus esfuerzos de conservación. Realmente me enorgulleció el hecho de que ellos identificaran a estos conocidos ambientalistas como personas ejemplares a las que había que emular.

Hay muchos héroes desconocidos aquí en la EPA y en nuestras comunidades que se dedican diariamente a la protección ambiental en su vida cotidiana. Ellos son modelos ejemplares para todos nosotros. Debemos alentar a nuestros hijos en la casa y en la comunidad a conservar agua, a reciclar y a proteger nuestro medio ambiente.

Creo que esa fue una de los factores que más me atrajo de la enseñanza Montessori. La filosofía de María Montessori brinda rienda suelta a la imaginación innata del niño. También inculca en los estudiantes a temprana edad los valores de respeto a sí mismo, a la humanidad y al medio ambiente.  Creo que el mundo sería un lugar mejor si todos compartiéramos esa visión.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.