EPA regional official praises Carson's vision

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It's federal "Pollution Prevention Week" along with the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," and Shawn Garvin, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was in Springdale Borough Thursday to celebrate both.

Mr. Garvin journeyed to Carson's childhood home along the Allegheny River and later visited Chatham University, her alma mater, to call attention to the philosophical links between the pollution prevention program and her writings.

He said Carson was a visionary and a scientist who raised public awareness of the environmental and health risks of chemical pollution and the need for scientific research, emissions reductions and controls.

Calling "Silent Spring" the "eye-opener that the American people needed," Mr. Garvin said it communicated to average citizens how their choices could have unintended consequences and harm the environment, birds and animals, and themselves. "But more importantly, they grasped that they had the ability to make or demand choices leading to a healthier environment," he said. "Carson demonstrated effectively that by communicating science we are able to create change through the choices we make, thereby benefiting both our environment and our society."

Just as Carson used science and communication to drive change, Mr. Garvin said the EPA pollution prevention program has followed a similar path. An outgrowth of the 1990 federal Pollution Prevention Act, it has taken a lead role in communicating scientific and technological advances that spurred production strategies and resulted in reductions in hazardous waste and toxic chemical releases.

He said use of "green chemistry," which aims to reduce or eliminate pollution from chemical production, is rising, as is recycling, which he called "pollution prevention at its most basic level." Recently, EPA has focused on electronics recycling in addition to glass, paper and plastics.

Over the last 30 years, the municipal waste recycling rate has more than tripled, and Mr. Garvin said the EPA is helping industry and institutions to move toward sustainable materials management -- of glass, paper, plastics and, most recently, electronics.

"Rachel Carson celebrated the diversity of species," said Patricia DeMarco, director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham, which hosted Mr. Garvin's talk there. "And the preservation of the Earth and preventing pollution is one of the ways to do that."

Mr. Garvin attended a pollution prevention assembly for 150 ninth- and 10th-grade science students at Springdale Jr./Sr. High School, a few blocks from the Carson Homestead.

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Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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