Event Honors New Mexican Activist Nadine Padilla on 50th Anniversary of Silent Spring

 

Staci Stevens

 

On a sunny September morning at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Santa Fe, more than 100 people gathered for the annual Southwest Women in Conservation conference, hosted by Audubon New Mexico. The crowd was composed mostly of women from varying backgrounds, all brought together by a common purpose—to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the conservation movement.

Now in its third year, Audubon’s Southwest Women in Conservation event was established as a platform to recognize and honor the diversity of work being done by women in the field of conservation locally and beyond. This year’s event brought together educators, conservation advocates, policy makers, scientists, writers and students, among others.

The forum honored well-known writer, scientist and ecologist Rachel Carson on the 50th anniversary of her 1962 book Silent Spring, in which she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world. Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist, but courageously spoke out to remind the public that they are a vulnerable part of the natural world, subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, she called for new policies to protect human health and the environment. Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer. Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures. [NOTE: FIND PHOTO OF RACHEL CARSON]

Acknowledging the role of women in conservation is nothing new to the Audubon Society, as women have long played a leading role in the environmental movement and were instrumental in the organization’s beginnings. In fact, Audubon’s roots can be traced back to the late 1800s when Boston society women gathered over afternoon tea to save birds from being slaughtered for the hat trade.

Our annual Southwest Women in Conservation event is a way for us to honor our roots and celebrate the work of some amazing women, while hopefully inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders,” said Karyn Stockdale, executive director of Audubon New Mexico.

Guest speakers at this year’s gathering were Nadine Padilla and author Elizabeth Grossman. Padilla, of Navajo and Pueblo descent, began working with the Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality (SAGE) Council as a community organizer in 2006, focusing on Native American healthcare and environmental issues. She currently serves as the coordinator for the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, a coalition of grassroots organizations working to address the uranium legacy that still plagues many communities.

The devastating legacy of leaving hundreds of abandoned mines and radioactive waste after companies left town and refused to clean up their mess continues to haunt our communities, resulting in sky-high rates of various cancers, kidney disease, birth defects and miscarriages,” said Padilla.

Grossman has been described as an“eloquent scientific muckraker” and is the author of several books including Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health and the Promise of Green Chemistry; High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics and Human Health; and Watershed: The Undamming of America. Grossman, whose work has appeared in numerous scholarly publications, writes extensively about the widespread use of synthetic chemicals in our everyday products and the harmful consequences of these chemicals to our bodies and our environment. Additionally, she’s been a Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and, like Carson, a fellow at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

During the forum, Audubon surprised Padilla by awarding her the first Fellowship for Southwest Women in Conservation. Established to encourage more women to become involved in conservation and remain committed, the fellowship was created last year in honor of long-time Southwest native and conservationist Eleanor Wootten, who lives on the Gila River. The award is a cash gift to help a woman in the Southwest pursue her ambitions in the field of conservation.

While the many environmental challenges facing today’s society may be overwhelming when added together, Audubon’s gathering demonstrated the positive change that individuals can make within a movement. “My hope is that people left our event feeling inspired and optimistic,” said Stockdale. “There are many people on the ground like Nadine doing important work and Audubon New Mexico wants to help reinforce their commitment to working for a better tomorrow.”

 

Staci Stevens is the Communications and Policy Manager with Audubon New Mexico. 202.294.3101, sstevens@audubon.org, http://nmaudubon.org