Sharing the work and the activism of the amazing Rachel Carson (1907-1964) on Rachel Carson Day
At the age of 56, after a lifetime of ‘joining up the dots’ between the natural world, the human species and the impact of chemicals on nature and ourselves, Rachel Carson died of breast cancer – and we can but wonder how much more campaigning impact she would have gone on to make, had she lived longer. She died just 2 years after the publication of her ground-breaking book Silent Spring.
‘..much of Carson’s science was accurate and forward-looking. Dr. Theo Colborn, an environmental health analyst and co-author of a 1996 book, “Our Stolen Future,” about endocrine disruptors — the chemicals that can interfere with the body’s hormone system — points out that Carson was on the cutting edge of the science of her day. “If Rachel had lived,” she said, “we might have actually found out about endocrine disruption two generations ago.”
New York Times 2012 – How Silent Spring ignited the environmental movement.
Then, as now, the chemical industry stands in opposition. Today, the campaign to ban Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup) has gathered widespread public support while the ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement grows apace (1 million+ facebook likes). There is a strong global coalition of civil society groups striving to push back the anti-democratic power of the Monsanto corporation. And Pan Europe is actively co-ordinating a campaign to push for non renewal of glyphosates licence. There are several petitions you can sign including this one from We.Move.EU.
So it may come as no surprise to learn that, back in 1962, Monsanto had Rachel Carson in their sights.
With the publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962, Rachel Louise Carson, the essence of gentle scholarship, set off a nationally publicized struggle between the proponents and opponents of the widespread use of poisonous chemicals to kill insects. Miss Carson was an opponent. …
The Monsanto Company, one of the nation’s largest chemical concerns, used parody as a weapon in the counterattack against Miss Carson. Without mentioning her book, the company adopted her poetic style in an article labeled “The Desolate Year,” which began: “Quietly, then, the desolate year began . . .” and wove its own apocalyptic word picture–but one that showed insects stripping the countryside and winning…As the chemical industry continued to make her a target for criticism, Miss Carson remained calm.
NY Times On This Day 1964 New York Times obituary, written April 15, 1964.
CREDIT: One Voice Films Trailer
Despite all this, in the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency looks to her as a founding inspiration and the Fish & Wildlife Service as a source of agency pride. The EPA’s official history site states: “There is no question…that SILENT SPRING prompted the Federal Government to take action against water and air pollution — as well as against the misuse of pesticides — several years before it otherwise might have moved.”
But the common view of Rachel Carson’s impact goes far beyond government bureaucracy. Carson and her most famous book, SILENT SPRING, are credited with no less than inspiring the modern global environmental movement.
In its collection of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century, TIME magazine said: “Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book.”
Rachel Carson Day is celebrated across the USA – we hope to see it gain ground here, in the UK.
More reading, viewing and listening
Silent Spring : The Book
Rachel Carson: everything you need to know including all her publications
Short 5 min film about her life and work
Bill Moyers Film: 2007 Centenary of her birth
The Power of One Voice http://powerofonevoicefilm.com/
New York Times obituary, written April 15, 1964. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0527.html
New York Times Magazine 2012 How SILENT SPRING ignited the environmental movement
Rachel Carson would have been 100 on May 27. The Rachel Carson Homestead threw a celebration that attracted hundreds of people. The Allegheny Front staff talked with partygoers. Jennifer Jordan produced this audio postcard that includes Josh LaFace, Mary Whitney, and Earl McCabe, Jr.
If you are concerned or want to take action on this issue, please sign our petition at