The Power of Books

June 18th, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Power of Books

Our lawmakers in Congress are often fond of citing books as references when they are speaking on the floor. Typically these books will reference either economics or foreign policy, or some other exciting topic that we just can’t wait to get our hands on. A recent favorite of Congress is “The Big Short”, by Michael Lewis, which highlights the recent financial crisis and what really brought down the economy. Throughout the history of Congress, there have been several books that have played a significant role in shaping legislation. Even though the Organic Foods Industry often seems to be overlooked by our politicians, American authors have made some legislative inroads on the larger food and environmental industry with some key works.

1. “Silent Spring”, by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson’s work, “Silent Spring” is considered by many to be the first ecological treatise that truly challenged the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and the impact they were having on our land, our animals, and of course, on human health.

Published in 1962, this work is considered by many to be the beginning of the modern green or environmental movement. Few books have had as much impact on environmental consciousness as “Silent Spring”. If you have not read this, it is an amazing work, particularly when you consider that it was written in 1962.

Even though her book was quite controversial at the time, the Kennedy administration supported her views that pesticides were unsafe. The book is widely credited with being instrumental in launching the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and with pushing Congress to pass the Pesticide Control Act of 1972.

2. “The Jungle”, by Upton Sinclair
This famous novel was first published in 1905, and was originally intended to highlight awareness about workers’ rights depicting the conditions of poverty that existed throughout America’s working class. Although not the original intent of the writer, this work became famous for uncovering the unsanitary conditions in the food preparation industry, particularly meat packing.

Even though “The Jungle” was considered fiction, Sinclair conducted many interviews for the book and actually worked in the food preparation industry for a while. After the book was published, mounting public pressure on Congress led to the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which created the Food and Drug Administration, and the Meat Inspection Act.

3. “The Grapes of Wrath”, by John Steinbeck
A 1939 classic, this work highlighted the plight of migrant farm workers in America during the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt, not only read the book, but was deeply moved by it, and proclaimed, “something must be done and done soon.”

Not long after the book was published, the Senate’s Education and Labor Committee recommended that protective labor laws be expanded to cover farm workers.

Never underestimate the power of the artist, particularly when their brush is the written word.