It was mid-April in Pennsylvania, USA, and spring was in full swing. Birds sang and daffodils celebrated in rampant profusion outside the front door of the white clapboard farmhouse. I looked out from the childhood bedroom window of the late Rachel Carson, the mother of the modern environmental movement, who died this week 50 years ago.
In 1962 Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring shone a spotlight on the effects of spraying the countryside with chemicals, part of agriculture’s new industrialised approach.
Across the Atlantic, her voice was to be joined by the likes of Ruth Harrison, who wrote Animal Machines, and Peter Roberts, founder of Compassion in World Farming, both of whom focused on how this new way of farming was affecting the animals themselves.
As I gazed across the Allegheny valley where Carson grew up, I pictured the young girl inspired by the natural world around her: picking fruit from apple orchards, wandering nearby woods and hillsides, making countless discoveries as she went. I could see two enormous chimney stacks belching smoke into the blue sky. Carson grew up in a world where industry and countryside existed side by side. But during her lifetime lines became blurred and industrial methods found their way into farming, with devastating consequences.
I was on the last leg of my Farmageddon journey to see the reality behind the marketing gloss of ‘cheap’ meat. Half a century on, I wanted to find out what had changed; how much we heeded her warning bell.
Over the coming week, I will be commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Carson’s untimely passing.
Tomorrow, it will be a privilege to share with you a guest article by Conor Mark Jameson, a conservationist working for the RSPB, and author of ‘Silent Spring Revisited’. Conor makes the excellent suggestion that 14th April each year should be marked, Rachel Carson Day.
On Rachel Carson Day itself – 14th April – I’ll reveal exclusive footage from her childhood homestead, reflecting on her outstanding legacy.
Over the course of the following week, I’ll share more film material from my Rachel Carson trail, from where she grew up in Pennsylvania to the banks of the world-renowned Chesapeake Bay.
Look forward to travelling with you.
To get your copy of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, click here