Water makes its way, through fields, hills, and mountains
Water makes its way, it has its ups and downs
Water makes its way, it ends up in the oceans
Water makes its way, it really gets around.

I must make my way, no matter what life throws me
I must make my way, must do the best I can
I must make my way, my faith and hope they guide me
I must make my way, together we all must stand.

We must make our way, together up the mountain
We must make our way, rememb’ring those before
We must make our way, rememb’ring those still coming
We must make our way, draw strength at the ocean’s shore.

Rachel Carson lived and worked for Earth and people.
Rachel Carson loved the sea and all that lives.
We must learn from her and never lose our loving,
Loving Mother Earth with all that we can give.

Water makes its way, through fields, hills, and mountains
Water makes its way, it has its ups and downs
Water makes its way, it ends up in the oceans
Water makes its way, it really gets around.

I was inspired to begin writing this song while hiking through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in early February, but it took reading about Rachel Carson in the book Courage for the Earth, edited by Peter Matthiessen, to gain the inspiration to finish it.

I don’t know how long I’ve known about Rachel Carson, but it has only been over the last year that I have read first her highest-impact book, Silent Spring, and then about her in Courage for the Earth. The latter book, in particular, helped me to come to appreciate how important she was, her critical role in generating the political momentum that led to the emergence of massive environmental activism in the 1960s and ’70s, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the spread of “green” consciousness and activism ever since. There is no doubt in my mind that if she were alive today she would be a leader in the climate movement.

There were special qualities about Rachel Carson that we can all learn and draw strength from.

It’s not just that she was a gifted writer; she was a person who did serious research to understand the topic — in the case of Silent Spring, the widespread, dangerous use of pesticides — about which she was writing.

She was a woman scientist and writer during a time when it was very much “a man’s world,” with no women’s movement to provide support.

She had the courage to face the reality of things and speak truth to power regardless of the consequences, and she was attacked viciously by corporate interests: “Monsanto, Velsicol, American Cyanamid — indeed, the whole chemical industry, duly supported by the Department of Agriculture as well as the domesticated ostriches in the media,” in Peter Matthiessen’s words.

She had her ear to the ground; referring to why she decided to write Silent Spring, she began her acknowledgements at the beginning of the book with a reference to a letter written to her in January, 1958. The letter was from Olga Owens Huckins, a member of the Committee Against Mass Poisoning, that “brought my attention sharply back to a problem with which I had long been concerned. I then realized I must write this book.”

She loved the oceans and wrote a trilogy of books about them — Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea — before writing Silent Spring. In Under the Sea-Wind she wrote of the ocean’s attraction and significance:

To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shorebirds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be. These things were before humankind ever stood on the shore of the ocean and looked out upon it with wonder; they continue year in, year out, throughout the centuries and ages, while man’s kingdoms rise and fall.

Carson fully appreciated the deep importance of human connection to nature, and I am certain that it was this connection in her life that enabled her to do all that she did. In the words of John Hay in one of the essays in Courage For The Earth, in a speech toward the end of her life at a small women’s college in Claremont, Calif.:

… she addressed the larger problems of changing human attitudes toward nature, and she challenged her listeners to do what they could to curb the rapacious human appetite for control. Conquest, be it of insects, space, disease, or nations, was an attitude based on arrogance. With humility and wonder instead, Carson hoped humankind might yet discover itself as part of nature. “We still have not become mature enough to see ourselves as a very tiny part of a vast and incredible universe, a universe that is distinguished above all else by a mysterious and wonderful unity that we flout at our peril.”

Spring is about to officially arrive, although in much of the U.S., spring- and even summer-like temperatures have already made their unsettling appearance. Because of Rachel Carson’s and many other people’s work, it will not be a “silent spring,” devoid of the singing of birds because of mass poisoning. But it must not be a silent spring in another way. Those of us who appreciate the urgency of the climate crisis and oppose the fossil fuel industry’s destructive practices, including its power over Congress, must raise our voices as loudly as we can during the spring, summer, and fall of this national political year.

There are some ways to do so this spring, among them:

  • 350.org’s day of action to “Connect the Dots” between extreme weather events and climate change via distributed actions on May 5;
Those running for president and for other elected offices need to keep seeing and hearing about people taking action and speaking up loudly in opposition to all of the destructive and dirty forms of energy extraction and for renewable energy, in support of serious action on the climate crisis. These and other actions need to keep unfolding in a continuing stream. We must learn from Rachel Carson and never lose our active loving of Mother Earth with all that we can give.