Green’ church honours early environmentalist

Published December 19, 2007

Gabriella Amisano releases a ladybug in a garden named for environmentalist Rachel Carson at Grace Episcopal Church in Everett, Mass.

Everett, Mass.

Twelve years after some committed “green thumbs” at Grace Episcopal Church here began to transform a weedy patch of ground left by builders from the construction of the new parish hall, parishioners dedicated their churchyard garden to Rachel Carson.

Children of Grace Church released 100 ladybugs in tribute, one for each year since the pioneering environmentalist’s birth in 1907, as part of the ceremony of blessing.

“To our knowledge, this is the first church in the country to honor Ms. Carson in this way,” said Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran, priest-in-residence.

An American marine biologist and nature writer who died in 1964, Ms. Carson’s books are often credited with launching the global environmental movement.

When Ms. Smith-Moran preached a sermon in the spring about prophets, using Ms. Carson as an example from recent times, parishioners who had contributed plants and effort over the years decided to call their labour of love “Rachel’s Garden,” now a serene spot inviting meditation.

“We all were inspired and felt blessed that the garden was still in bloom and beautiful at the dedication,” commented Peggy Faison, speaking for parishioners who have helped with the project.

Grace Church thus became part of a year of commemoration, honouring Ms. Carson’s critical importance as the scientist who opened the eyes of the public to the dangers of widespread insecticide use.

Ms. Carson’s book Silent Spring, published in 1962, disclosed the toxicity of DDT, an insecticide developed during the Second World War for mosquito control. Ms. Carson warned of the impact of DDT through both its destruction of key links in food chains and its persistence as a toxin in the environment long after its initial use. The control of predatory and disease-bearing insects is very important, but it requires a more intelligent and subtle strategy, she argued.

As happens to many prophets, Ms. Carson was heaped with scorn by those who disagreed with her. She died of cancer in 1964 before witnessing the impact of her work, which led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and a nationwide ban on DDT.

“But surely she danced in some heavenly garden like this one,” said Ms. Smith-Moran, “surrounded by saints and snails, rocks and roses, birds and butterflies, angels and ant-lions – all blessed creatures of our loving God.”


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