Annals of DDT: Interior Dept compliments Rachel Carson’s research in Silent Spring

October 17, 2010

One of the most frequent hoax charges against Rachel Carson claims that she didn’t base Silent Spring on research.  Greater hoaxers claim that there is little or no evidence of harm to birds from DDT.

Rachel Carson's book stirs controversy, newspaper headlines

Rachel Carson's book stirred controversy, as shown in newspaper headlines

These critics forget history, or they try to cover it up so you won’t know any better.  Carson provided more than 50 pages of citations to peer-reviewed research and communications with leading scientists in ornithology and chemistry about DDT and the damage it does.

Carson’s deep research won acknowledgment from the U.S. Department of the Interior, in this 1962 speech before the Audubon Society meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas, by the Special Assistant Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife Robert M. Paul.

Paul told the birders that Interior was proud of the fact that so much of the research in the book relied on Interior’s research, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

In addition, we are proud that so much of ‘Silent Spring“ is based on Fish and Wildlife Service research. And, with no modesty at all, we like to point out that Miss Carson is nobly carrying on a tradition that employees of the Department of the Interior, beginning with Walt Whitman nearly a century ago, have written some of the Nation’s most important books.

That’s quite the compliment to Carson, being compared even distantly to Walt Whitman.  It’s also a helluva brag for USFWS.

It’s also a 30-second response to the false charge that Carson’s work was not research based, or that research did not show DDT damage to wildlife.

Paul spoke to the Audubon Society about work to set up and operate the Federal Pest Control Board.

A .pdf of the speech can be found at the website for Interior, in a compilation of information from Interior about DDT between 1945 and 1998.  Full text below the fold.

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Can’t fool the birds: Migratory birds in North America react to climatic warming

February 12, 2009

Generally it would be an insult to call someone a bird brain.  We may need to revise that thinking.  In contrast to climate change denialists, 177 species of migratory birds in North America have adjusted their migrations because of a warming climate.  The birds know something the denialists don’t.

The news comes from the National Audubon Society, after analysis of 40 years of bird count data.

Migrations has the story, along with the map that is appearing in U.S. newspapers this week.  Cornell University’s ornithology blog, Round Robin, provides history to the study and a couple more links to science reports.

How will denialists spin this?  It’s difficult for them to claim that the birds have been hornswoggled by inaccurate newspaper accounts, since these are not the birds whose cages are lined with newspapers.

Eastern Meadowlark, photo by FWS/John and Karen Hollingsworth

Eastern Meadowlark, photo by FWS/John and Karen Hollingsworth

We don’t have a canary in a mine warning us, this time.  It’s the meadowlark on the prairie. Will we listen, in time?

Eastern and Western Meadowlark: These popular robin-sized grassland birds form winter flocks and always feed on the ground. Neither species has been wintering farther north over the past 40 years, probably because the quality of northern grasslands is not sufficient to support these birds through the winter. The Eastern Meadowlark is one of Audubon’s Common Birds in Decline; its population has plummeted 72% in population over the last 40 years.

Also see this earlier post, “Plants refuse to listen to climate change skeptics.”


The $7 million dogwood blossom

April 29, 2008

Not perfect — there is a brown spot on it; but beautiful, surpassingly rare, a creature of the serendipity of nature, it is a natural dogwood blossom in Dallas County, Texas:

Dogwood blossom in Dogwood Canyon, Texas

What we came to see – the magical dogwood blossoms.

On April 5 Kathryn and I joined David Hurt and a jovial band of hikers for a trip into Dogwood Canyon in Cedar Hill, Texas. The physical formation of Cedar Hill upon which the city of the same name and several others stand, is one of the highest spots between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. It is an outcropping of chalk, a formation known as the Austin Chalk, that runs from Austin, north nearly to the Oklahoma border.

This rock formation creates a clear physical marker of the boundary between East and West. Dallas is east of the line, Fort Worth, Gateway to the Old West, is 30 miles farther west. On this outcropping is married the plains of the west with the oaks and forests of the east. Within a few miles of the line, the botanical landscape changes, cowboy prairie lands one way, forest lands the other.

On the chalk itself, the soil is thin and alkaline. The alkalinity is a function of the chemical composition of the chalk underneath it.

Dogwoods love the forests of East Texas with their acidic soils. Early spring produces fireworks-like bursts of white dogwood blossoms in the understory of East Texas forests. Dogwoods die out well east of Dallas as the soil changes acidity; driving from Dallas one can count on 30 to 60 miles before finding a dogwood.

Except in Dogwood Canyon. There, where entrepreneur David Hurt originally planned to build a family hideout and getaway, he found a stand of dogwoods defying botanists and the Department of Agriculture’s plant zone maps, blooming furiously in thin alkaline soil atop the Austin Chalk.

(continued below the fold)

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