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What Rachel Carson Can Teach Us About 2018

What Rachel Carson Can Teach Us About 2018

Robert Hines and Rachel Carson
Robert W. Hines and Rachel Carson on the Atlantic Coast.
U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
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What Rachel Carson Can Teach Us About 2018

In a move criticized by many environmentalists, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt controversially placed limits earlier this week on the kind of scientific data that can be used to make public policy. Pruitt wants the EPA to only use studies that rely on data that is publicly available, which environmentalists say could limit their ability to access health studies where patient data is often confidential.

Ironically, the EPA chief made his announcement in a room named after Rachel Carson, whose book "Silent Spring," about the harmful effects pesticides have on public health, led to the creation of that agency decades ago.

Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn said it was a fitting reminder of the lessons Carson and her work can have for the current political moment.

"She is a person really right for our times," Koehn said.

Koehn said "Silent Spring" should be a model for activists and environmentalists today. Carson's tome was thoroughly researched, but written in a way that was easily accessible for a general audience, and provided clear, common-sense solutions the public could rally around.

"[Carson] is about the power of ... moral seriousness married to a diligent curiosity and a willingness to implement and act on that curiosity — and then faith in her fellow man and women that, if you give people the knowledge, they will rise to the challenge of trying to change the world for the better," Koehn said.

Koehn pointed to some of the rollbacks of environmental protections under the Trump Administration and Carson would have called on the public to protect the planet for future generations.

"What would [Carson] do with this?" Koehn said. "She would say, 'Wait a minute, have we lost all our sense of proportion ... Don't we owe a lot to the next generation?'"

Click the audio player above to listen to Nancy Koehn's entire interview with Boston Public Radio.

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