Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Short Subjects: Saying “Thanks”

This Saturday Short began earlier this week with a Google Doodle. On May 27, Google honored environmentalist  Rachel Carson with a Doodle to commemorate what would have been her 107th birthday.

Trained as a marine biologist, Carson wrote pamphlets for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and became a well-respected, best-selling author of books about the sea during the 1940s and 1950s. With her book Silent Spring, published in 1962, she stirred up tremendous controversy by challenging the indiscriminate use of pesticides, particularly DDT, which killed not only insects, but also birds and other wildlife.  Linda Lear, Carson's biographer, wrote in the introduction to Silent Spring, “Rachel Carson’s alarm touched off a national debate on the use of chemical pesticides, the responsibility of science, and the limits of technological progress. When Carson died barely eighteen months later in the spring of 1964, at the age of fifty-six, she had set in motion a course of events that would result in a ban on the domestic production of DDT and the creation of a grass-roots movement demanding protection of the environment through sate and federal regulation.” The NRDC has an excellent summary on the importance of this work on their website.

Silent Spring was the book that started me on my “roadtogreenness.” I recalled the person who had introduced me to Silent Spring — the mysterious, rebellious, rumored to be son of Russian prince, junior high science teacher who deviated from the specified curriculum to make Silent Spring required reading. Over the course of the school year we would discuss far more than Silent Spring; I recall learning about the the African lungfish and being asked to consider it in an evolutionary context. We would be forced to challenge our thinking in ways many traditional parents and teachers were not ready to have us do; this was the early ’60s in a very conservative town. This out of the box teacher did not last long in the system and dropped off my radar.

I thought it would be nice to try to locate this teacher, to email a thank you if I found him. 

So, I googled Peter Ourusoff. Lots of hits. But no! Legacy. com was the most popular result. I should have done this sooner. 

I learned that Mr. Ourusoff [I guess I can call him “Peter” now.] had headed West in the late ’60s. He had become a naturalist and adventure tour guide, with northern California as a base. Those fortunate enough to have accompanied him on excursions to remote places recounted fond memories of their trips. But he had also shared his knowledge with those explorers who happened to arrive in his own backyard.

I think Peter would have smiled to learn that I remembered him and that I had seen the Año Nuevo seals with my family. Thanks, Peter, if you can hear me.

Today’s message? Be sure to thank those who have helped you on your way while you can.

“You don’t know what you’ve got till [sic] it’s gone.” 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

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