Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rachel Carson, 50 years, Tule Lake

A feature by Molly Bennet for In These Times (@inthesetimesmag) notes the 50-year anniversary of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and mentions many things that haven't changed.

A few things have changed for the better. Six or seven years ago, not so long after the polarizing Klamath Basin water dispute, I listened as an elderly, conservative Tulelake potato farmer, a man who had farmed with heavy pesticides and Klamath Project irrigation for much of his long life, admitted that after all Rachel Carson was right about the chemicals. A lot of people admit, now, that she was right.

But this year brought news reports of another drought-driven bird dieoff on the Klamath Wildlife Refuge. Avian cholera this time. Silent Spring mentioned an earlier dieoff, in 1960, in that case attributed to concentrations of pesticides in Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Lake. In both cases, and in others, the trouble broadly has had to do with irrigation hydraulics in the Klamath Project. Not enough clean water to go around in the high desert.

You can still see a lot of beautiful birds at Tule Lake: not only ducks but white pelicans, wild ibis, even peregrines.

You can't see the sky go black with ducks there, not any more. Some living people remember seeing that. Some of us, younger, never will.

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