Welcome back to the CEO Book Club! Ajay Patel, CEO of SMA, just finished re-reading “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, the iconic book that inspired the environmental movement. He picked this book as a way to celebrate Earth Day this year—it will also inspire you to renew your commitment to the environment.
He first read the book in 1988 when he was involved in environmental restoration projects for the Department of Energy. The book inspired him to become an expert in nuclear waste cleanup, speaking on the topic at numerous conferences and with corporate executives. When Ajay was first hired at SMA in 1993, it was to create a new line of business helping companies like Bechtel and ICF Kaiser win multi-billion-dollar contracts for environmental restoration of military and nuclear weapon production sites.
Rachel Carson meticulously documented years of research on the impact of the widely used pesticide DDT on humans, animals, and vegetation. In the book, she describes in detail how DDT enters the food chain, accumulates, and causes cancer and genetic damage. She wrote that even a single application on a crop will kill insects for weeks and months—not only the targeted insects but countless more—and remains toxic in the environment even after being diluted by rainwater. Rachel Carson was one of the first scientists to explain to a public audience how the unregulated use of pesticides can contaminate the world’s food supply.
Soon after its publication, the book unsurprisingly catalyzed attacks by powerful chemical companies such as the American Cyanamid Company and Monsanto. The book became a focal point pitting industry against a rising group of environmentalists prompting President John F. Kennedy to commission his Science Advisory Committee to examine the issues raised by the book. The committee’s report vindicated the author and “Silent Spring.” DDT use was placed under government supervision and was eventually banned.
The impact of “Silent Spring” cannot be overstated. Rachael Carson’s detailed research, inquiry-based science, unique storytelling approach, clear writing, and courage sparked the environmental movement that continues to this day. Ajay encourages you to read “Silent Spring” or re-read again if you are already familiar with the book, to renew your interest in leaving the Earth a better place for our future generations.