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Silent Spring

The materials presented in this exhibit reflect much more than the past 50 years of ecological concern, observed annually on Earth Day. The science and philosophy found here goes back many centuries: climatological records, observations of crop successes and failures, dire predictions and calls to action, toxicology, strategies for sustainability and adaptation to change. Earth Day has always meant to serve as an alarm, a wake-up call to understand the unpleasant truths and vast implications of what the data and observations tell us is going on with the earth. It doesn't require a Greek oracle or the intriguing ecology symbol created by Ron Cobb to tell us where we're heading.

From earliest times, the work of scientists has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with that of librarians and archivists. Observations and research by the former, organized and preserved for posterity by the latter, is used, interpreted, measured and added to again, and so on. Past findings are compared to those of the present; species described at one time become extinct later; new species are described and their classifications debated. Taxonomies evolve and expand. Over time a body of literature grows so vast that no one library can address everything; even collections themselves require protection.

In the 1980's a crisis in libraries around acidic paper rallied the preservation community into action. Millions of deteriorating pages were microfilmed and/or digitized to head off the permanent loss of untold numbers of works, many which contain the data and observations that has informed and supported the work of scientists, activists and policy makers for decades. Stewardship of the written word is a matter of eternal vigilance – no less so than that of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land upon which we live.

The works that built and continue to inform the environmental movement can be found throughout the collections of Mann Library, which encompasses every area of the life and environmental sciences. The “back to the land” movement of the 1960’s and early 1970’s is especially well documented, and a wealth of primary source materials in biodiversity, natural history, soil sciences, agronomy, agriculture and many other fields are also available in Mann’s Special Collections. Cornell University Library, and Mann in particular, is a major contributor of digitized content to the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s efforts “to document Earth’s species and understand the complexities of swiftly-changing ecosystems in the midst of a major extinction crisis and widespread climate change,” since “researchers need something that no single library can provide – access to the world’s collective knowledge about biodiversity.”