“From all over the world come reports that make it clear we are in a serious predicament.”
The above timeless quote was taken from Rachel Carson’s landmark 1962 book “Silent Spring” which is widely acknowledged as having inspired the environmental movement and all its accomplishments. Today’s environmental regulations, government agencies, citizen action groups, toxicity testing and environmental education are a testament to her courage and determination.
David Suzuki credits “Silent Spring” for his awareness that “The lab is not the real world. In the real world everything is connected.”
Does “Silent Spring” already have special meaning for you? Maybe this 60th anniversary tribute will stimulate reinspiration while encouraging others to read it for the first time. To fully appreciate this amazing woman in context with her times, please view the classic 1963 CBS Reports “Silent Spring” on YouTube.
Carson started writing in her childhood through her fascination with nature.
“I can remember no time, even in earliest childhood, when I didn’t assume I was going to be a writer.” After completing her zoology masters at John Hopkins, she began her doctorate work in 1932 but had to leave to support her family. While with the US Fish and Wildlife Service she continued to develop her analytical and writing skills. Her love for the sea, its inhabitants and all its mystery de ella inspired three beautifully written and successful books, “Under the Sea Wind” (1941), “The Sea Around Us” (1950) and “The Edge of the Sea” (1955).
Following the Second World War, DDT along with an ever increasing host of other toxic synthetic chemicals were heralded as the miracle tool for agricultural and urban control of insects and weeds. Dupont’s slogan was “better living through chemistry.” However, independent scientists and the public soon noticed that these chemicals did more than kill the targeted insects.
Carson’s extensive research coupled with her ability to break scientific concepts down into palatable and readily understood form allowed her to bring the risks of widespread, intensive and indiscriminate use of these pesticides into the public forum for all to see.
“These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes — nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the good and the bad, to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger in the soil — all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for life? They should not be called insecticides, but biocides.”
She taught the public about biomagnification, the way toxins accumulate in ever greater concentrations as they move up through the food chain from prey to predator.
Most importantly she reminded humanity of our true place and responsibilities within our environment. “But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”
The release of “Silent Spring” on Sept., 27, 1962, was met with enormous public interest and substantial criticism. Many government leaders, including President John F. Kennedy took Carson seriously.
The chemical industry attacked her slowly but with no success. The book’s 55-page List of Principal Sources with nearly 600 entries made challenging the integrity of her claims impossible.
“Through it all, Carson persevered, countering the vilification with grace, dignity and courage.” (Margaret Atwood)
The US banned DDT in 1972 vindicating Carson who, long suffering from cancer, died in early 1964. She showed us the way … “Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent.”