Carson and Patterson. Patterson and Carson. Finkle and Einhorn. 

Illustration by: Lauren Simkin-Berke (

I’ve been quiet lately! And I am truly sorry! There was a series of unfortunate circumstances in the last few weeks starting with my dad (who is all the way in Florida) being hospitalized on Christmas (he was able to come home yesterday!!!!)  and ending with me slipping on my dog’s drool on the tiled floor and breaking my hand! Which has made writing a challenge. Not to fear! All is well! And I have not let this time go to waste. I have been researching, researching, and researching some more. What have I been researching? One big question that I’ve been asking since I started my zero waste process,

“How do I make my dad care?”


My dad is the anti-zero waster. He’s not a mean person, far from it. He dresses up as Santa every year and visits children’s hospitals and rescues sick and injured animals. He’s THAT type of guy. But, he was born in the 1950s, a true baby boomer, and was brainwashed with the first television commercials, the first use of packaging, he was exposed to leaded gasoline, BPA, DDT… the list goes on. He grew up with the first plastic straw. Single-use convenience is embedded in him… and many others of his generation. He’s not going to walk an extra half foot to toss a plastic bottle in a recycling bin, never mind carry a reusable bottle.

So how do I reach THESE KIIIIIIIIDS?!?!?!?!?!?!

I’ve been diving into the research, life, and influence of two key environmental figures who (I know) I write about a lot: Clair C. Patterson and Rachel Carson. Carson managed to have DDT banned, and Patterson exposed the harm of tetraethyl lead (the deadly toxin once added to  gasoline). Only the banning of DDT took a relatively short period of time, a little less than a ten years, while the lead in gasoline wasn’t removed for over two decades. Carson wrote a book that went directly to the public. It wasn’t too “science-y” so the average Joe could pick it up and understand it’s message. Whereas Patterson went through the legal system, through litigation and court proceedings, and when I look back at the news articles from that time period, the information is pretty limited.
It just wasn’t considered newsworthy.
Nevertheless, they both got shit done.
Rachel Carson, a marine biologist, who was fighting breast cancer, almost single-handedly beat the agricultural chemical industry. And a mild-mannered scientist, Claire C. Patterson, almost single-handedly lobbied against the Big Oil Companies (Ethyl Gas Co.) ….. and won.
And though we still don’t know these figures as well as we should, considering the contributions they made toward society, their effects can be witnessed all around us. The birds are still singing, and not everyone born after 1980 has a toxic level of lead in their systems.

How do we use their strategies to ban plastic?

Following Carson’s method, how does a scientist write a book (or better, make a film – because  film is more mainstream.) that actually influences … my dad. And that’s where I have been lately. Of course I always supporting early environmental education in schools – when kids grow up with these habits, they just become a part of life…. But that’s become underwhelming. How do we reach the unreachable? That’s where the biggest impact can be made. How do we reach the people that don’t care that “there is no away,” as long as its away from them?
Short of dropping them off via parachute onto a beach in Beirut, of course. Which I have considered.

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