Eddie Albert, the beloved star of TV’s Green Acres died Thursday at the age of 99. A World War II hero, he’ll probably best be remembered for his performances on TV, and as the heavy in the original (and no doubt still best) version of The Longest Yard.
A more controversial aspect of his life is his role as a proto-environmentalist:
“Green Acres” made Albert a rich man and allowed him to pursue his causes. He established Plaza de la Raza, a foundation in East Los Angeles that teaches arts to poor Hispanics.
He helped Dr. Albert Schweitzer combat famine in Africa. He traveled the world for UNICEF. Concerned about seeing fewer pelicans on beaches where he was jogging, he went with ecologists and his son on a trip to Anacapa Island.
“We discovered that in every nest all the eggs were crushed, and nobody knew why,” the younger Albert said. “They took samples and tested them, and found DDT in all the eggs. … An entire generation of species was being wiped out.”
Albert began speaking about the harmful effects of the pesticide at universities around the country, and in 1972 the federal government banned DDT.
For some background on this, remember that 1962 saw the publication of Rachel Carson’s now-infamous Silent Spring. As Ronald Bailey of Reason noted in 2002:
The modern environmentalist movement was launched at the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what would become Rachel Carson