Thursday, September 27, 2012

50th Anniversary of Rachel Carson's game-changing book, Silent Spring

On this day in 1962 biologist Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was first published and started a groundswell that may have forever changed the way we look at humankind's interactions with the environment.

Nesting Osprey - Carmen Schlamb
Many other bloggers and organizations have spent today and the weeks leading up to this anniversary detailing Carson's phenomenal contribution to environmental awareness and her role in an eventual ban on the use of 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-di(4-chlorophenyl)ethane, or "DDT", in many countries. As many will recall, DDT has significant impacts on wildlife - other than the invertebrates it is meant to kill - including being lethal to many aquatic organisms and impacting the biological process responsible for egg shell formation in the females of many bird species. An informative essay by renowned biologist Paul Ehrlich and others is available here, which addresses the impacts of DDT on North American bird species such as Brown Pelican, Osprey, Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon
In the spirit of continuing Carson's efforts to promote environmental awareness - particularly that around birds, their populations trends and the threats they face -  I'd like to draw your attention to three reports Nature Canada staff authored or had a hand in co-authoring this year. They are:

The State of Canada's Birds 2012, available in English and French

Birds at Risk - The Importance of Canada's Boreal Wetlands and Waterways, available in English and French


The Underlying Threat: Addressing Subsurface Threats in Environment Canada's Protected Areas, currently only available in English.


Anonymous said...

Rachel Carson's Way?

Locating “a road less traveled by”.... a path Rachel Carson would likely have recommended to one and all. At least we have one example on the planet where “the superhighway” was at least momentarily abandoned. Does anyone know of other similarly organized communities with economic constraints and population caps?

Sustainable Okotoks - The Legacy

“Not far from my hometown of Calgary, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there is a beautiful little town called Okotoks. About 10 years ago, the folks there decided they were going to live within their local environmental means. Today Okotoks can fairly call itself the greenest community in Canada”.....Prime Minister Stephen Harper
In 1998, Okotoks made a decision about its future, becoming one of the first municipalities in the world to establish growth targets linked to infrastructure development and environmental carrying capacity when it adopted a Municipal Development Plan - ‘The Legacy Plan’. In 1998, the town faced an intersection in its evolution. Dependant on the Sheep River for its water and its ability to treat and dispose of effluent, Okotoks could choose to continually “grow without limits” and align with regional development and access to regional infrastructure, or take the “road less traveled” and intentionally choose to live within the carrying capacity of the local environment.
Informed by extensive public consultation, the high cost (a regional pipeline) of exceeding carrying capacity, and a preservation of a small town atmosphere value system expressed in a community survey, a community driven vision was created that chose to respond to rather than manipulate the environment to sustain our standard of living. A population cap at the licensed limits of the Sheep River aquifer (approx. 30,000) became a key feature of Okotoks’ development path. A build-out municipal boundary for 30,000 people was established. Sustainable Okotoks rests on four pillars that guide and shape a comprehensive and holistic approach to sustainable development:
1. Environmental Stewardship
2. Economic Opportunity
3. Social Conscience
4. Fiscal Responsibility
The pillars work together to nurture what Okotokians have expressed desire for - a town that is safe and secure, maintains small town atmosphere, preserves and protects a pristine river valley, provides housing choices, employment opportunities and quality schooling, and caters to all ages and cultures.
A comprehensive set of targets and initiatives were defined to ensure that our build-out population would be reached in an environmentally, economically, socially, and fiscally responsible way. Since 1998, more than 100 sustainability initiatives have been undertaken.
The road Okotoks chose to travel was pragmatic, unique, and daring – and about much more than just a population cap. Today, whether it’s a more balanced tax base, broader housing choice, a composting sewage treatment plant, a reduction in water use, or the Drake Landing Solar Community, we can all be proud of our collective accomplishment: becoming ‘better’ not just ‘bigger’. Along the way, be it through several awards, acknowledgment by the Prime Minister, or the featuring of our community on CBC National, the sustainability torch we have carried with ambition and purpose has become a guidepost for others to follow.