185. RACHEL CARSON: Wonder and excitement
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Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was a scientist, ecologist and writer who helped start the environmentalism movement with her book Silent Spring, published in 1962.
Inspired to appreciate the natural world by her mother, Carson also loved writing as a child. She first studied English at college but switched to Biology, earning her Masters in Zoology. Carson settled for a job at the US Fish and Wildlife service to help support her family where she analysed data, wrote radio scripts and pamphlets. Being a kick-ass writer, one of Carson’s essays she wrote for work was deemed too good for a government brochure and was instead submitted and accepted by Atlantic Monthly magazine. Over the years, Carson continued to combine her love for writing and science with her articles appearing in magazines including Science Digest and The New Yorker.
In 1951, Carson’s book The Sea Around Us was published to critical and commercial success and finally allowed her to leave the Fish and Wildlife service to become a full-time writer. She wrote another two best-selling books on the ocean, Under the Sea-Wind and The Edge of the Sea, before writing the game-changing Silent Spring. The book alerted the world to the harmful impact of chemical pesticides and caused a storm of controversy. Although gaining a legion of fans, the book also saw a large pushback from the pesticide manufacturers who claimed the book was nonsense. The controversy caused then-president JFK to set up a committee to investigate pesticides with the findings eventually agreeing with Carson’s claims. During the committee, a senator said of Silent Spring: “Every once in a while in the history of mankind, a book has appeared which has substantially altered the course of history.” In 2012, the book was added to the list of American National Historic Chemical Landmarks, recognising landmark achievements in the history of chemistry.
The following quote is taken from Silent Spring, which was written over 50 years ago and is quite depressing that it still applies today:
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
The quote used in the comic is taken from The Sense of Wonder, Carson’s essay on how to nurture a child’s love of nature. Carson writes about her own experiences with her nephew – their strolls on the beach in search of ghost crabs, long walks in the woods looking for foxes or Christmas trees – and in the process shares her philosophy about instilling a love of nature in a child.
– Official Rachel Carson website.
– How Silent Spring Ignited the Environmental Movement by The New York Times.
– Rachel Carson Didn’t Kill Millions of Africans by Slate.