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Spring is no longer silent

By Yang Xina (People's Daily Online)    17:50, May 08, 2019

 The birds, for example--where had they gone?

 Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

                                                                                                --Silent Spring Rachel Carson

This is the horrifying scene depicted in the first chapter of Rachel Carson's world-renowned book Silent Spring, where the whole community was shrouded by the cloak of death in which creatures were dying, leaving a world without the beautiful chirping and chattering of birds.

Rachel Carson, once a marine biologist who achieved great success in marine protection and writing, put pen to paper to fight against the U.S. chemical industry in the 1960s after receiving heart-breaking news from one of her friends that birds were dying out in Massachusetts due to the use of the oxidant pesticide DDT.

Carson was first published in the New Yorker in 1962, and her series came out as a book in 1964, igniting great controversy in America. Some prestigious chemical conglomerates, senior scientists and politicians stood opposite her, calling her a romantic "spinster" who was simply overwrought about genetics, a woman "out of control".

However, she didn't back down. Along with some close partners and friends from scientific and government fields, she fought back and awakened in the American people the strong desire to know the truth, rousing a nationwide grassroots movement in environmental protection.

Under her influence, the U.S. government banned the use of DDT in 1972, and the first human environment meeting was convened in the Swedish capital Stockholm, with 113 nations and 1,300 delegates taking part. All this was owed to the "little woman" who detonated the environmental protection bomb a decade before, igniting an unprecedented flame in the heart of the people to protect the planet in a concerted way for the first time.

Though the WHO resumed the use of DDT in 2002 in some areas to deal with some specific diseases, the possible correlation between the use of DDT and cancer, and the awareness raised to respect our nature are the precious legacy left by Rachel Carson.

Carson once wrote that we were intoxicated with a sense of our own power and mankind seemed to be going farther and farther towards the destruction of himself and his world. The book she left more than five decades ago still rings true today, reminding us to keep a low-profile in our biological system and be modest to our mother nature.

In the year 1972, when the environmental meeting convened in Stockholm, the Chinese mainland was still in the midst of a political storm which had turned the whole country upside down, and the regular production of the country had been greatly affected. Few people knew or cared about the concept of environmental protection and the nation held on to the idea that we were sure to conquer nature. However, due to some serious pollution incidents which had happened during that period and the support of the then-premier Zhou Enlai, the central government started to take the issue seriously and sent a delegation to attend the meeting.

In August 1973, China held its first environmental meeting with more than 300 people from different fields. Then in 1983 and 1989, the second and third meeting were held consecutively, with environmental protection established as a basic national policy and specific management systems brought up.

From that point, there were many other milestone moments in the history of China's environmental protection, such as the passing of the Law of Environmental Protection in 1979, the revision of the Law in 1989, and a series of specific laws and standards in pollution prevention and management, constituting a relatively full framework of law and regulations.

In 1992, the UN held the Conference of Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and after the conference, China issued a document and put forward its first sustainable development strategy concept. Then, in 1995, while formulating the Ninth Five-Year Plan, a sustainable development plan was made a national strategy; meanwhile, an action plan and measures were put in place for China's sustainability.

For a decade from 2002 to 2012, the 16th and 17th CPC National Congress put forward the thought to build a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and made it a main thought to continuously strengthen sustainable development and first raised the strategic task of constructing ecological civilization.

From 2012 until today, the 18th CPC National Congress report put ecological civilization construction in a prominent position and raised the idea that green mountains and clear waters are as beneficial as mountains of gold and silver. China started to pursue high-quality over quantity, achieving remarkable results in the construction of an ecological civilization.

China has seen great achievement in environmental protection in the last few years.

According to a paper published by Boston University researchers in 2019, after studying remote sensing data collected by NASA satellites from the year 2000 to 2017, the world is a greener place than it was 20 years ago, with green coverage rising by 5 percent, of which China contributed about a quarter, dominating the greening of the planet alongside India.

China, along with other countries, is trying to make up for the time we have lost and correct mistakes we have made in previous decades. However, are we as optimistic as we should be about our future?

In the 2019 Chinese blockbuster Wandering Earth, we see our earth buried in snow and ice, and most lives have been wiped out due to the arrival of the Ice Age as a result of global warming caused by humans.

In the movie, it's believed that environmental protection is too complicated an issue and we have to abandon the earth to explore new options. However, are we as brave today as Rachel Carson was then, to speak up and save the whole world from disaster? Are we making enough effort?

Although we have signed a series of treaties and pacts and set up several international organizations to save our planet, we still seem to be frustrated by the problems we have created.

How should we deal with the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic garbage we have created in the past five decades? How should we balance the need for economic growth and environmental protection? How should we stop the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet?

We panic in the face of these problems. However, we - individuals and governments both - have to come up with ways more creative, daring and pioneering, some of which we may have never tried before, to make sure spring remains unsilent, just as Robert Frost, the famous American poet, wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

                                           --The Road Not Taken 1916 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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