I was reminded of Rachel Carson when I picked up the July/
August issue of the Reader's Digest and read "Is Your Backyard
Toxic?" Every time I think of her I am grateful for being
reminded of her wisdom and concern re our environment- though
sadly we really managed not to heed her warnings in this
It was some years ago that CBS Sunday Morning profiled her
life, and I was mesmerized by it. Truly a role model for me.
I really don't need to look up her life on the internet
because I believe I nailed the salient points of it. That
one day she noticed that the birds were dying in her environs
and she wondered why. It wasn't long before she realized
that harmful pesticides were killing them off.
When she wrote her papers on the subject after studying
about pesticides in general, her male colleagues berated
her findings and ignored them. Of course, she was right
and wrote her eye-opening book "Silent Spring." Sadly,
though hailed as a book of great insight, we never learned
its profound lessons from it, and today pesticides are used
not only on lawns but perhaps on 90 per cent or more of our
crops. Lucky the people who can afford to buy organic.
NEED A MANICURED GREEN LAWN? At one time I admired a
beautifully manicured lawn. But not after learning about what
she had to say about the pesticides. Though I am not proud of
my weed-infested lawn, I prefer it to the pesticide-laden ones.
My immigrant parents had us on our knees digging up dandelions,
but we had a basically lovely lawn without using any harmful
chemicals on it.
I believe I read that applications of vinegar might do the
job or a combination of it and soap suds. Well, I tried the
vinegar, but really didn't keep up with the application
wherever they sprouted and didn't notice positive effects.
I thought of going to a hardware and asking if there was
a non-pesticide weed killer. Well, today, I believe that
the Reader's Digest mentioned above has provided me with that
answer. It said to use an all-natural herbicide like CORN
GLUTEN MEAL to keep weeds at bay. However, this has to be
done in early Spring to prevent annual weeds from reseeding.
I will definitely make it a point to hunt down corn gluten
meal and hope that some store carries it.
LANDSCAPERS BEWARE. The article also carried the sad account
of Paul Tukey who had been a successful professional landscaper
in the early 1990's. Using the harsh chemicals to kill weeds, he
began to experience some a larming symptoms: eye twitches, bad
headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, and diarrhea. His doctor asked
him to list the chemicals he used in landscaping and discovered
that all his symptoms were known side effects of the products he
was using on the lawns.
Tom Kelly, also a former lawn professional, switched careers like
Tukey when he started feeling sick. He warns us to be aware of
companies that purport to be organic since they probably use the
same chemicals as other traditional companies do. His advice to
us: "You have a right to request labels for products they use on
I remember years ago that people using chemically-treated lawns
also noticed that their dogs were getting sick as a result. I
believe that some of them died. Another reason I was glad that
I never wanted to use chemicals on my grass.
SHINY BLACK DRIVEWAY. This article also mentions that coal tar
driveways may contain carcinogenic chemicals called polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons. Studies suggest that these PAH concentrations
in these sealants are hundreds of times higher than those in other
sources such as exhaust smoke.
Isn't it frightening that so many of us are unaware of statistics
like this? Somehow I think the world would be a much better place
if there were many more Rachel Carsons looking out for us.