Voice Of The People Should Be Heard

To the Reader’s Forum:

The note from 50 years ago in the “In Years Past” section of today’s Post-Journal (4/30) describing Dr. Roger Tory Peterson’s concerns about the use of insecticides on bird populations resonated with me for two reasons. First, as an entomology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin during the early 1960s, several of my professors used their lecture platforms to voice their intense disagreement with the message carried by Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring.” Some of their classroom comments, bordering on the vitriolic, were also expressed in writing in the Madison newspapers. The reason behind their professorial objections to Carson’s book became clear to me and some of my fellow grad students when we realized that the chemical companies manufacturing the pesticides contributed significantly to the salaries of many of the entomology department’s faculty. History records that Rachel Carson was right, and I remember seeing the lawns of suburban Madison littered with dead robins after the city’s remaining elm trees were sprayed to kill the beetles transmitting Dutch Elm disease.

For my second reason, let’s fast-forward to today. Some of our county residents are echoing concerns being voiced across the state and, indeed, the nation about the potential environmental effects of the disposal of waste fluids resulting from the high-volume hydrofracturing of shale formations. There are also the related concerns about the use of gas/oil well brine from long-established (non-shale) regional wells for ice and dust control on area highways, the transport of hydrofracturing waste from Pennsylvania shale wells over our county roads, and the use of unprecedented volumes of fresh water in the hydrofracturing process. These are complex topics involving environmental, economic, sociological, public safety and governmental issues. It is important that public officials at all levels listen well to the voices of the people. Despite protests from the chemical industry, Rachel Carson’s book began a public movement that produced significant policy changes in our nation regarding chemical pesticides. We shall see if there are any parallels with the use of hydrofracturing chemicals. Meanwhile, I am grateful to see eagles and ospreys flying over Chautauqua County.

Thank you, Rachel Carson!

Thomas A. Erlandson

Chautauqua County legislator