The Sentinel Lion An image
of courage and might, this lion stands guard. The sentinel or guardian
lion is a common symbol of protection, alone or in pairs, at an
entrance or gate, indoors at a staircase or fireplace.
Rachel Carson's Centennial Year (2007) is a golden opportunity to
introduce Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring (1962), to a new
generation of students, citizens, journalists, opinion leaders, and
A national awareness of Rachel Carson's life and legacy
can stimulate broader public engagement in efforts to stop the damage
caused by the unbridled chemical industry and to integrate and align
public policy with Rachel Carson's values.
1962, Silent Spring was a call for sanity, common sense, public
integrity, health security and human rights from a scientist who
catalyzed a wave of such political urgency that it generated a powerful
It was Rachel
Carson's reverence for life and sense of responsibility that motivated
her to write Silent Spring. Al Gore wrote in his introduction
to the 30th anniversary printing, "...without this book, the
environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have
developed at all..."
As a master
storyteller, Carson exposed the extensive harm caused by the reckless
use of modern chemicals and eloquently explained the intimate
connection between our health and the quality of our environment. To a
public dazzled by chemical industry marketing and government
complicity, Silent Spring detailed the assault on the essential
elements that sustain life: clean air, clean water, and safe food.
a few years of its publication, in spite of an orchestrated chemical
industry campaign to discredit her work, an enlightened public and
their elected leaders led to the creation of the US EPA, the ban on
DDT, and environment regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the
Clean Air Act, laws being systematically undermined today.
Silent Spring is as relevant today as in 1962. Rachel Carson Was Right: Prevention is the Imperative
all of Carson's books and other writings stand the test of time, Silent
Spring deserves special focus because it is a 'Call to Action.' As the
evidence of harm continues to grow, Rachel Carson tells a story that
gives 21st century citizens a clear rubric of values for evaluating
public policies and institutional practices in communities now
suffering from environmentally induced epidemics of asthma, autism,
cancer, and the long list of acute and chronic illnesses and
"What Would Rachel Say?" sets a standard for legislators, institutions, corporations, public agencies and citizens.
National Resource Defense Council calls Silent Spring one of the
landmark books of the 20th century and points out how Rachel Carson
faced overwhelming difficulties, illness and adversity, and in spite of
an orchestrated chemical industry campaign to discredit her work, "rose
like a gladiator...motivated by her unabashed love of nature and sense of
Like a "Sentinel Lion,"
Rachel Carson had the courage, the confidence, the reverence for life,
and the sense of responsibility to speak out during a period of
widespread pesticide abuse and environmental degradation. Silent Spring
still has the transformational power to be the touchstone for a new
wave of social consciousness and political urgency.
Carson inspires us to think of ourselves, not as whistle blowers,
troublemakers, or canaries in the mine, but as guardians, steadfast
sentries, and defenders of our community against the decisions that
allow pollution to contaminate our air, water and food.
can picture ourselves as the sentinel or guardian lion, the universal
symbol of protection, alone or in pairs, at the entrances of cities,
buildings, gates, bridges, museums -- guarding the treasures of our
community. We are the sentries, gladiators, the "guardian at the gate,"
the sentinel lions working to inform and engage citizens in the work of
aligning local practices with the Precautionary Principle and
The image of
the "Sentinel Lion" will help reframe (and reclaim) the goal of
environmental advocacy from simple consumer activities, often limited
to changing light bulbs, buying "green," and recycling, to greater
citizen engagement at all levels working for government and corporate
transparency and accountability.
The goal is to foster a
culture of Sentinel Lions who, like Rachel Carson, are motivated to
take responsibility for the health of their communities and to work for
sustained political and cultural change that prioritizes public health.
_____________  Confronting Consumption, Edited by Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, KenConca, MIT Press, 2002.
The world endures solely by virtue of the breath of school children. (Talmud)