“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings … Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change … There was a strange stillness … The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”
– Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Thus Rachel Carson’s most famous book, Silent Spring begins, elegant and dire, influencing the culture that was for the most part, oblivious to environmental dangers. It was published in 1962, and influenced President Kennedy, who after reading it, to called for the testing of those chemicals mentioned in the book. They included DDT and some lesser-publicized pesticides that have since been placed under a nationwide ban.
In the face of character-assassinating criticism from the corporate industrial chemical giants, Carson’s campaign to outlaw those poisonous chemicals prevailed and she has been called the mother of the modern environmental movement. The grass roots public outcry that she inspired led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. And in addition to inspiring a generation of activists, and feminist scientists, Carson is recognized as one of the greatest nature writers in American letters. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, the highest civilian honor in the United States. Norway has an annual prize called the “Rachel Carson Prize” which annually awards money to women who have made a contribution to the environment. Ms. Carson died of cancer at the age of 56.
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.”
“The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world – the very nature of its life.”
“Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.”
“For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that you use it so little.”
“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.”
“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”
“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.”
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature but of ourselves.”
– Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
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