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'Everything Is Connected'
When I first read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in high school, her message struck a chord. Little did I realize then, I would be carrying on her work 20 years later as a Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Contaminants (EC) Specialist.
Carson's prophetic warning that contaminants are "the most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment" continues to resonate with me as I see the effects of contaminants on migratory birds. One of my starkest memories of these effects comes from my second year as an EC Specialist. I was stunned after dissecting an American avocet egg for a selenium study. The misshapen head, missing toes and wings and crossed bill gave the bird embryo a grotesque, almost alien appearance. Were it not for our investigation, the embryo's deformed body would go undocumented and unwitnessed, joining the countless animals poisoned by contaminants that die in the shadows. Rachel Carson and others in the Service pioneered the work on contaminants' effects on fish and wildlife over half a century ago. Today, I feel privileged to carry on her work with my peers.
Since becoming a father, my work has taken on a more personal significance. Last summer, during a family camping trip, I watched my kids using fishing line and bait to catch crawfish. They were soon joined by other kids who also tried their luck. Crawfish unlucky enough to be caught were placed in a small bucket and duly scrutinized by the gawking children only to be tossed back into the lake and caught again. This simple drama of innocent wonder and joy illustrates what it's all about and why we do what we do.
Silent Spring emphasized the interconnectedness of all living things and working in the EC program has reinforced this as my overarching approach to my career and life. Everything is connected. Thanks to the work of Rachel Carson and those that followed, the wild creatures that capture my children's curiosity have not been silenced. Although we have made a good deal of progress in conservation, we still have a lot to do. I believe we must heed Rachel Carson's advice for those that follow: "The road we have been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one 'less traveled by'— offers our last only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth."
Author: Pedro 'Pete' Ramirez, Jr., Environmental Contaminants, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Article reprinted from Fish & Wildlife News. Special Rachel Carson Centennial Anniversary Issue, Spring 2007 (4 MB pdf)