Press Release cold war and modern environmentalism

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Date: August 14, 2008

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is premiering a new visitor program this summer - Fallout: The Atomic Age and the Emergence of the Modern Environmental Movement examining the relationship between the “Atomic Age” and the awakening of a new environmental consciousness in the 1960’s. A highlight of the program is a guided tour of a 40-bed fallout shelter constructed at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now open to the public for the first time, following several years of restoration, the shelter is part of a larger 78-bed underground complex at the park. A veritable time capsule from the 1950’s and 60’s, shelter cabinets are filled with once familiar brands, like Lavoris mouth wash and Mennen deodorant, along with period board games, like Chinese Checkers.  
The national park interprets the history of conservation and there were few greater acts of conservation in the second half of the twentieth century than the signing of the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty and the curtailment of wide spread DDT use. The national park program examines the inter-related context that linked both of these actions in an era when the global environment was being simultaneously assaulted by dangerously high levels of atmospheric radiation and indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides. At the center of this story is Rachel Carson, the heroic biologist and author of the hugely influential book Silent Spring, published in 1962.  

At a time when public attention is once again focusing on the atmosphere and the impact greenhouse gases, Rachel Carson own words from 1963, have a particular prophetic relevancy:

“I suppose it is rather a new, and almost humbling thought, and certainly one born of this atomic age, that man could be working against himself. In spite of our rather boastful talk about progress, and our pride in the gadgets of civilization, there is, I think, a growing suspicion – indeed, perhaps an uneasy certainty – that we have been sometimes a little too ingenious for our own good. We are beginning to wonder whether our power to change the face of nature should not have been tempered with wisdom for our own good, and with a greater sense of responsibility for the welfare of generations to come.”


Last updated: May 21, 2018

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