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Blue Hill
Originally published in Compass, September 13, 2012
MERI lecture to honor legacy of Rachel Carson

The September lecture at the Marine Environmental Research Institute will feature noted Deer Isle writer, journalist and wildlife advocate Cherie Mason and MERI Director and senior scientist Dr. Susan Shaw, who will honor the legacy of pioneer biologist Rachel Carson, the scientist and author credited with giving birth to America’s environmental movement. Fifty years ago Carson brought the world’s attention to the toxic and persistent effects of pesticides like DDT on wildlife through her seminal book, Silent Spring.

The lecture is on Thursday, September 20, at the MERI Center, 55 Main St., Blue Hill, and begins at 6:45 p.m. following a 6 p.m. reception for the speakers.

According to Cherie Mason, Silent Spring represented an enormous accomplishment for Carson, written while she was very ill from cancer treatment, struggling with a difficult writing challenge and battling the government, the chemical industry and the press.

“She simply felt compelled, driven, to produce a book that was difficult to write but which responded to the toxic catastrophe she observed all around her,” Mason said in a press release.

Her presentation will feature the riveting 1963 CBS TV interview with Rachel Carson that followed the controversial publication of Silent Spring. Mason will describe the circumstances that drove Carson to write the groundbreaking book.

For the past two decades marine toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw has continued Carson’s crusade against the poisonous effects of toxic chemicals on the environment and on human health. Her research on persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs and flame-retardants in the ocean environment has supported legislative change in Maine and nationwide. Her lecture, “In the Footsteps of Rachel Carson: Can Our Oceans Survive?” will look at where we are today in the wake of Carson’s work and the new reality of rising toxicity in the world’s oceans.

“We may not see birds falling out of the sky as Carson did but our ongoing research continues to reveal substantial levels of DDT (banned in the U.S. in 1972) in Harbor seal tissue. Even more alarming is that northwestern Atlantic Harbor seals and fish are contaminated with the dozens of toxic chemicals that have come on the market in the past fifty years.”