From SANDRA STEINGRABER
Author, Living Downstream
DDT is now so universally used that in most minds the product takes on the harmless aspect of the familiar. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Harmless aspect of the familiar was the phrase that leapt into my mind when I watched a scantily clad woman—the day was hot and sunny—lie down in a green sward of grass in front of the Women’s Center on the campus of DePauw University in Indiana. Next to her waved a small yellow flag that warned passers-by to keep off the grass as it had just been sprayed with pesticides.
I guess the word irony might also have applied. On the other side of the flag, a card table was piled high with copies of my book, Living Downstream, which, among other topics, discusses the dangers of lawn chemicals. The books were for sale. I was positioned up on the porch, encouraged by my faculty host to chat with students, drink punch, and sign books as part of an informal reception before my all-campus Earth Day lecture.
Yes, I intervened. The reclining woman seemed bewildered by my concern for her, pointing out that the yellow flags are so ubiquitous that no one notices them. She reluctantly promised to shower and launder her clothes before attending the evening’s lecture.
No flags wave from the lawns in many parts of Canada. Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island—and many cities across the rest of the nation—have expressly outlawed the cosmetic use of pesticides. Within these provinces and municipalities, the use of synthetic pesticides to improve the appearance of lawns and, in some places, gardens is now illegal…