September 27,1962 – Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is published, inspiring an Environmental Movement and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Silent Spring is one of the 20th century’s most influential books.
It didn’t really make the news at the time, but in 2013 there was a five-mile-long oil slick on the California coast near Santa Barbara, an unfathomably gorgeous stretch of the West Coast.
Scientists have said that 15 million metric tons of plastic were dumped in the planet’s oceans in 2016, enough to cover every foot of coastline on our pretty spinning blue orb. What’s more, it is predicted that the amount will more than double in the next decade.
Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose books make her a sort of godmother of modern environmentalism.
She became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us brought Carson financial security and much critical praise as a gifted writer. Her next books The Edge Of The Sea (1955) and Under The Sea Wind (1957) were also bestsellers. Her Sea Trilogy explores ocean life, from the shores to the surface of the bottom of the deep blue sea.
In the late 1950s, Carson turned her attention to the environmental problems caused by pesticides. On this day in 1962, Silent Spring was published. It became an unusually popular book about our environmental concerns, and brought enraged denial from the big chemical companies. Chemical giants Monsanto, Dow, and Velsicol vilified her as an emotional, hysterical, anti-American writer, a childless “spinster” who had “no business being interested in genetics” and who was “probably a communist.” Time Magazine claimed that she was the most dangerous person in the USA.
But, Carson’s bestseller brought the USA into a sort of reversal in our national pesticide policy, including a ban on DDT. Her books gave birth to the first grassroots environmental movement and helped bring about the EPA, the Clean Water Act Of 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act Of 1974, which our paprika colored POTUS and his cronies are currently in the process of dismantling. They simply seem as disinterested in the health of the planet as they do the health care of its citizenry. Concern with the oceans is a job-killer after all. They look backwards to when America was made great with non-regulated pesticide use. Carson is not a hero to the GOP, but she is to me. It is so sad that the work that Carson’s books inspired will now be unraveled.
Attacks on Carson by Climate Change deniers and Fox News commentators continues. Discrediting science is all about making money. Understanding science would require corporations to change their practices, and the government to implement necessary regulations. The GOP hates regulations.
“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problems.”
In 1953, Carson moved to an island off the coast of Maine, where she became acquainted with Dorothy Freeman. The two women started a relationship that would last the rest of Carson’s life. Freeman was a summer resident of the island along with her husband. She had written to Carson to welcome her to island life. She had read Carson’s work and was pleased that the famous writer would be her neighbor. The pair loved nature and they loved each other. They wrote letters when apart. They continued their love affair every summer for a decade, until Carson died, ironically, of cancer in 1964.
The prescient Carson probably would not have imagined an America where corporations are now legally people, replete with human rights, endangering the rights of ordinary noncorporate humans whose right to live in the un-poisoned world Carson bravely defended.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.“
Photograph of Carson: U.S. Department of Agriculture