August 13, 2012

Three stories: Carson's words inspired environmental activism

Second in an occasional series on Rachel Carson a half-century after the publication of 'Silent Spring.'

By North Cairn
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

click image to enlarge

Patty Bailey, a retired interpretive nature educator, created guided walks, inspired by some of Rachel Carson’s writings, at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport. Here, she studies the rocky shoreline while planning a walk designed to encourage children to appreciate the diverse life of the tidal zone at the edge of the sea.

Courtesy Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

click image to enlarge

Deborah Aldridge and her family were vacationing at Mopang Lake nearly 50 years ago when DDT sprayed over the forest to fight spruce budworm inadvertently killed untold numbers of small songbirds, including many chickadees and sparrows. The sight of the dead birds on the forest floor, combined with what Aldrich had read about pesticide use in “Silent Spring,” led her to become an organic farmer and environmental advocate. The bird populations around the lake did not recover fully, Aldrich says, until five years ago.

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines


Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport is offering nature programs daily at 2 p.m. through Labor Day, weather permitting.

The programs, some of which were inspired by Rachel Carson’s writings, include walks, talks and activities in the natural setting of the park and are free with park admission. No reservations are needed, except for large groups. Programs last about one hour and are suitable for children and adults. Almost all are wheelchair accessible.

Most programs start at the circle of benches at the end of the park’s second parking lot. For more information, call 865-4465.

This week:

Monday, Casco Bay Walk – Enjoy views of rocky shores, nesting ospreys and islands in the bay on this one-mile hike.

Tuesday, Osprey Watch

Wednesday, Stroll with the Ranger

Thursday, Drawing From Nature – Use drawing and art as a way to get up close and personal with the wildlife in the park. Drawing materials will be provided, visitors are invited to bring their own, if they prefer.

Friday, Stories in Stone – Get to know the story of Maine’s rockbound coast on this walk with talks and activities.

Saturday, Wild Relatives

Aug. 19, Osprey Walk

Aug. 20, Tree Hunt

Aug. 21, Osprey Watch

Aug. 22, Hike with the Ranger

Aug. 23, Who Lived Here Before Us?

Aug. 24, Small Wonders

Aug. 25, Osprey Watch

Aug. 26, Tide Pools - Visit this informal program on the rocky shore near Googins Island to discover the secrets of a tide pool.

Aug. 27, Secrets of the Shore – Discover the secrets of life in the salt marsh, mud flat, and rocky shore in this one-hour tour.

Aug. 28, Osprey Watch

Aug. 29, Casco Bay Walk

Aug. 30, Forest and Shore Tour – Get to know the things that live in the park’s forest and on its shores on this eye-opening tour.

Aug. 31, Drawing From Nature

But through Carson, she said, she came to understand more about what environmental advocacy meant, and during her tenure with The Nature Conservancy, that impact has become a very tangible reality.

Along with huge changes in the public's understanding of what it means to be a caretaker and steward of the environment, there is the matter of money: The continuing sales of Carson's books comprise an endowment of "royalties each year in the tens of thousands of dollars," said Vickery, who serves as the chief planner for conservation and oversees the use of the endowment funding for coastal and marine purposes.

For Vickery, Carson embodies the power of "perseverance versus stridency."

Because Carson tackled the pesticide issue at a time when it was unwelcome -- especially for a woman -- to raise such questions, "some people would assume that she was a strident battler," Vickery said.

"She was a battler absolutely," she conceded, "(but) a very gentle battler."

And a somewhat reluctant one at that.

The founding chairwoman of the Maine chapter of the conservancy, Carson felt "a personal struggle between her love of Maine" and the work she believed she was compelled to do for the world that lay beyond its borders, Vickery said. "There was always this issue that she struggled with -- of enjoying the world or saving it."

North Cairn can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

Correction: This story was revised at 10:30 a.m., Aug. 13, 2012, to state that the family of Deborah Aldridge was the Peaveys, longtime residents of the Mopang area.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Rachel Carson poses at her typewriter in her Washington, D.C., home in 1963. Her book “Silent Spring” inspired many readers to pursue environmental activism.

1963 Associated Press file photo


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)