The class discussion via zoom emphasized the importance of citizen passion in bringing the environmental movement to fruition. Considering there is consensus amongst the class in terms of respecting Rachel Carson’s impact on the environmental movement, it is important to note aspects of her legacy particularly applicable to today’s era. Back in the 1970s, Carson used the public’s fear about the genetic effects of radiation to communicate the danger of a new, invisible chemical threat of pesticides. She showed environmentalists can compare the global climate change problem to another abstract issue people are able to understand. Alongside with it, the non-abstract scope of damage caused by clearly visible natural disasters is evidence of global climate change impacting households and can be used to instigate action. I agree with Professor Morgan’s comment on Casey’s post saying catastrophic events during the environmental movement made issues personal and drove people to get involved.
Furthermore, the way Carson defined progress was a crucial factor giving rise to the environmental movement and needs to be remembered in our current times. Carson held strong to the principle humans should not seek to dominate nature through chemistry. Further, she reminded people technological innovation could easily and irrevocably disrupt the natural system. With that being said, I imagine Carson would have seen both the benefits and negatives of social media. A large sum of the data and case studies that Carson drew from were not cutting-edge, new material to the scientific community. Carson was just a pioneer in consolidating, simplifying and broadcasting them for the general public. Other types of news outlets were a part of her ability to ignite action. The leader would have appreciated the world wide web as a way to spread information because her work was jumpstarting a revolution to encourage people to be a citizen-scientist. She would value the internet as a means for people to voice concern and build citizen brigades. However, students in the discussion considered social media can disrupt facts and does not necessarily birth action. I am curious whether Carson still would have been able to achieve her milestones if social media was prevalent while she was in the spotlight.
Another key component of the environmental movement was the political support Carson generated which in turn brought her the establishment of a presidential committee to investigate pesticides. Considering the president acts as the face of America, even with the scientific data already derived and published, it can be useful to conduct new research projects backed by powerful groups to investigate current conditions. Further, in her testimony, Carson didn’t only identify problems. She presented the policy recommendations as well. She focused her proposals on citizen awareness about how pesticides were being used on their private property instead of solely focusing on a call for federal regulation. It was a phenomenal strategy to generate collective power.
Comment by Jenny Murphy:
It really is important to make a point relatable in order to create buy in. Rachel Carson was really innovative in her time to recognize that and utilize it to make her point. And make a point she did. I can also see both sides of technology being both a blessing and a curse. I remember in high school writing research papers where we had to go to the library, look up the Dewey Decimal system, find the article, then use and cite it. or go through the whole process over again if it didn’t quite fit. Now our world is so different. A friend who is a bit on the side of conspiracy theorist posted about 5g being harmful to people, animals etc. I have not researched it yet, but am curious about the evidence behind that. While technology in other areas have improved emissions, has led to better science etc.
I agree it is becoming increasingly important to make global climate change personal to people in order to instigate action. Heightening environmental issues on the political agenda at the individual and household levels is going to push for more attention in media. While events were a crucial element to starting the movement, a study published in the Social Science QuarterlyLinks to an external site. conveys the energy and environment sector cannot rely on events to propel progress (Uscinski 2009). I agree, particularly considering the urgency associated with global climate change. The human race does not have time to sit back and wait for only events to set the agenda. I also thought it was interesting the author did not consider the environment to be a field normally comprised of singular events (Uscinski 2009). Perhaps, the article being written back in 2009 impacts the claim. Still, the author claimed in issues not normally comprised of singular events, such as energy and environment, public issue concerns appear to drive issue coverage in the news. Perhaps, the problem is not necessarily a lack of environmental events. The challenge is the public needs to show interest in environmental issues for the media to respond to a demand (Uscinski 2009). The author brings up land management as a sector that does not attract widespread public spectacle. On the contrary, it may seem there are more singular events happening in regards to America’s military defense because the media has observed the public cares about the issue and tends to write about it as a result. So, the media does not only influence the public. Rather, the people influence the media. Rachel Carson showed the massive power a citizen has to influence the media and elevate environmental issues on the government agenda. There has definitely been gigantic strides in development of technology overtime. I remember using the Dewey Decimal system in high school, too! As technology grows in being a significant part of the human race’s existence, I appreciate how the article brings hope in considering the American people can bring environmental issues towards the center of the media’s agenda.
Uscinski, Joseph. 2009. “When Does the Public’s Issue Agenda Affect the Media’s Issue Agenda (and Vice-Versa)? Developing a Framework for Media-Public Influence”. Social Science Quarterly. 90 (4). 796-815
Original Post by Andrea Glaros:
I unfortunately was not able to attend the zoom meeting live, but I was able to watch the recording and listen to the diverse conversation about the environmental movement. One of my initial thoughts on what gave rise to this movement was that the civil rights movement was happening as well as the U.S. was still involved in Vietnam. At this time in the 70’s (as Professor Morgan and others noted) the American public really had a strong voice and was pushing for change in several areas of legislation and policy. Rachel Carson’s publication for ‘Silent Spring’ was also very eye opening to the American people on the side effects of pesticides and that it not only affects us, but the entire ecosystem. It was also discussed how the work of bipartisanship was strong at this time. Both sides of the aisle were able to work together and enact laws which helped many people. However, many of these laws have not been updated to reflect what the standards and expectations possible should be for this current time.
During this part of the discussion I also thought about how the media could have played a role as well in this push for environmental protection and regulation. I would argue that in the 70’s there were more news outlets with the ability to write and publish stories that could be shared nationally and inform people across America of what issues were taking place. One example I can think of is Love Canal in New York. Although this disaster happened in the late 70’s, the news about what was happening to the people in this area spread and caused a national awareness to the issue which would later lead the CERCLA being enacted in 1980. As discussed during the meeting, I would agree that the rise of BLM and the fight against racial injustice in America is the beginning of another strong change of the American people and for legislation in the United States. I think what we are experiencing right now will be the beginning of change in not social and racial equality but also in areas like environmental policy where issues like climate change are of concern as well.
I agree the civil rights movement and Love Canal both gave rise to the environmental movement. I also see the future involving citizens fighting for racial justice and environment justice being hand in hand as a human rights issue. I found a study exploring Links to an external site.the environmental justice leadership of Black womenLinks to an external site. who live in communities where toxic facilities are in their backyards in Atlanta, Georgia. Similar to the Love Canal, the health of communities is increasingly affected by environmental hazards (Gomez et al. 2011). Further, they are specifically addressing a short-coming of CERCLA by speaking up with regard to environmental laws in the books not being enforced by regulatory agencies. The black women are leading grassroots environmental groups to oppose siting of the locally unwanted land uses (Gomez et al. 2011). The article goes on to analyze the motivation of black women involved with the movement. Many of the women joined the movement as mothers concerned about the health of a child (Gomez et al. 2011). Other women said they were brought awareness about environmental issues through their churches (Gomez et al. 2011). The authors note it is interesting because black churches helped to solidify the civil rights movement and other social justice movements. One of the interviewees expanded the definition of activism leadership we can often overlook while admiring people in the spotlight such as Rachel Carson and Greta Thunberg. She commented her style of leadership is to remain in the background where she can make needed observations and clear recommendations (Gomez et al. 2011). It definitely made me value all the background work carried out to pass a variety of human rights laws.
Gomez, Antoinette, Fatemeh Shafiei and Glenn S. Johnson. 2011. “Black Women’s Involvement in the Environmental Justice Movement: An Analysis of Three Communities in Atlanta Georgia”. Journal of Race, Gender and Class. 18 (1/2): 189-214.
Response by Andrea Glaros:
Hi Mary, Laurel, and Jess,
One item I noted from our posts is the conversation and questions we are asking about bipartisanship and the political with its impact to environmental policy. I do believe bipartisanship can be achieved again but it is something that will take time. I think politics in America have become a game of dividing the parties and the voters so much that discussing politics and policy is uncomfortable now and that is not how it should be. I would also argue that bipartisanship can also only happen when both parties see how beneficial changes and implemented environmental policy can be. Republican groups tend to have the view point of deregulation and create a fear of clean energy however, we have to accept that at some point we will run out of oil to supply with world for not only vehicles but also its use in making other consumer goods. Developing clean energy procedures with a slow transition could help create a new job market of trade skill which our country still needs to stay thriving and competitive. On the other side some Democratic groups spread the idea that we have to move to a greener society almost immediately. This has its own implications as well such as too quick of change can be harmful to Americans who depend on industries like coal to feed their families and provide for themselves and other groups such as those who live in poverty who don’t have the means to switch to a solar powered home. I know there are moderate representatives with in our senate and congress but I would argue that we need more of them to help our country move forward in a positive direction.