~~April 16, 2014~~
Silent Spring is an environmental science book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin on September 27, 1962. The book documented the detrimental effects of indiscriminate use of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims unquestioningly.
Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people.
Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
~Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” – Published Fifty Years Ago~
By: Mark Stoll, Environment and Society Portal
~A noisy half century~
In her new book Rachel Carson tries to scare the living daylights out of us and, in large measure, succeeds. Her work tingles with anger, outrage and protest. It is a 20th-century “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
— Walter Sullivan, “Books of the Times,” New York Times, 27 September 1962, p. 35
The history books say that the American environmental movement began on 16 June 1962, the date of the New Yorker magazine that contained the first of three excerpts from Rachel Carson’s new book, Silent Spring. Controversy ignited immediately. Just five weeks later, before the book was even out, a 22 July headline in theNew York Times declared, “‘Silent Spring’ Is Now Noisy Summer.” Houghton Mifflin released Silent Spring on 27 September. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies and stayed on the best seller list for thirty-one months.
Reviewer Walter Sullivan was only the first of many to compare Silent Spring to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most controversial American book of the nineteenth century. Silent Spring inspired immediate outrage and opposition. Chemical and agricultural spokesmen loudly attacked both the book and its author. They alleged ignorance, hysteria, misstatements, cultism, and communist sympathies.
Yet Silent Spring also galvanized conservationists, ecologists, biologists, social critics, reformers, and organic farmers to join in the American environmental movement. Carson’s sensational best seller helped transform and broaden the older conservation movement into more comprehensive and ecologically informed environmentalism. Moreover, through dozens of translations, Silent Spring affected events abroad and prepared the way for the rise of environmental and Green movements worldwide.
Half a century later, Silent Spring continues to outrage many conservatives and inspire environmentalists.
Quiet, reserved, and very private, Silent Spring’s author was no radical rabble-rouser. Carson was born on 27 May 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. From an early age she aspired to be a writer but at college she switched her major from English to biology.
Carson earned a masters’ degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932 but interrupted her doctoral studies due to financial problems during the Great Depression. She took a job as a biologist with the US Bureau of Fisheries — later the US Fish and Wildlife Service — and wrote and edited informational materials for the public.
In her spare time Carson wrote Under the Sea-Wind, published in 1941. Her second book, The Sea Around Us, was a fantastic success. It zoomed to the top of the best seller list in 1952 and remained there for a record eighty-six weeks. A new edition of Under the Sea-Wind joined it there. Success enabled Carson to resign from her job and write full time. In 1955 her third book, The Edge of the Sea, reached the best seller lists, too.
Carson then turned her attention to a problem that had concerned her for at least a decade: the use and abuse of dangerous new chemicals in agriculture and pest control.
She tried to get other authors interested in the topic, but in the end she found that she had to write the book herself — Silent Spring.
Rachel Carson, “the gentle storm center,” as Life magazine called her, poses in her study with Silent Spring.
Unfortunately, Carson would only see the beginnings of the revolution she helped start. Halfway through the research and writing of Silent Spring she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Wearing a wig and sometimes moving with difficulty, she hid her illness from the public while she defended her book on television, at congressional hearings, and before many audiences.
On 14 April 1964, Carson died at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, at age fifty-six.
There’s and exhibition which presents the global reception and impact of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. On one side are the attacks that began even before a word was printed, as well as the vilification of the present day. On the other is found the equally persistent admiration and support for Carson and her book from scientists, policymakers, activists, and the general public.
Portions of the exhibition rely on quite thorough and extensive documentation, particularly for the United States, where Silent Spring had its earliest and greatest impact. Other sections go beyond previous accounts to emphasize popular culture, music, literature, and the arts. They also give equal weight to the book’s international legacy.
“Elixirs of Death,” “Needless Havoc,” “And No Birds Sing,” “Rivers of Death,” “Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias”:Silent Spring’s chapter titles seem to promise a lurid muckraker. The text, however, is impassioned but scrupulously scientific. Critics called the book inaccurate and exaggerated but they could never name specific examples of errors. The most telling criticism was that it one-sidedly omitted any positive benefits of chemicals. Rachel Carson’s defenders responded that the chemical industry’s promotion efforts had already done that quite well.
Other writers had written on overuse and misuse of chemical pesticides and herbicides and hardly anyone noticed. Why was Silent Spring so different? The most important reason was Carson herself, the most popular nature writer of the 1950s, with three recent best sellers. As the latest book by Carson, Silent Spring had a ready public who looked forward to it with keen interest.
Second was the quality of the writing itself. Surely no one but Carson had the literary skills to write an international best seller about chlorinated hydrocarbons. Decades of writing science for the public prepared her to present complex science to the general public in ways that both made it readily understandable and drew the reader in.
Finally, recent events and health scares had prepared the American public to hear and respond to the frightening message of Silent Spring. Most dramatic was the worrisome spread of radioactive substances across the globe from a spree of open-air tests of nuclear weapons. Carson explicitly compared pesticides to radiation: both were invisible, unavoidable, and threatening. Her explicit comparisons to now well-known health dangers from radiation made her task much easier to explain the very similar threats from dangerous agricultural chemicals.
Rachel Carson testifying before the Senate Government Operations subcommittee studying pesticide spraying (June 4, 1963)
Silent Spring prompted Congressional hearings.
On 4 April 1963, the day after a CBS documentary on the book aired, Connecticut senator Abraham Ribicoff announced hearings on pollution, including federal regulation of pesticides. Hearings started on 16 May, serendipitously one day after PSAC released its report. On 4 June, Carson testified. Echoing Abraham Lincoln’s famous greeting of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ribicoff welcomed her with the words, “You are the lady who started all this.”
After Silent Spring, Congress revised the regulation of chemicals. Prior to 1962, the government regulated pesticides mainly to ensure that chemical preparations were effective and not fraudulent. The Insecticide Act of 1910 and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947 (FIFRA) served these goals. A 1952 amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act established a procedure for setting tolerances for chemical residues in food, feed, and fiber, but not for regulation of chemical use itself. Now Congress amended FIFRA to include attention to safety considerations in pesticide labeling.
Repeated environmental crises during the 1960’s, including major events like the Santa Barbara, California, oil well blowout and the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland, Ohio, kept environmental issues in the headlines.
The astonishing success of the first Earth Day in April of 1970 put tremendous pressure on politicians to act. The Nixon Administration established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 and gave it authority to set tolerances for chemical residues. Congress amended FIFRA in 1972 to transfer pesticide regulation to the EPA and mandated protection of public and environment health. The EPA ceased licensing DDT in 1972.
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 was Silent Spring’s greatest legal vindication. It directed the EPA to protect the public from “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” Under its authority, the EPA acted to ban or severely restrict all six compounds indicted in Silent Spring — DDT, chlordane, heptachlor, dieldrin, aldrin, and endrin—and assumed responsibility for testing new chemicals.
We ALL are connected through NATURE!!
~~Rachel Carson, author of The Silent Spring~~
~~Uploaded on Apr 5, 2011~~
The Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was an explosive book when first published in 1962. It challenged the belief commonly held by scientists at the time, that man can control the balance of nature.
In my humble opinion, she foresaw the future that awaited us as a species. She foretold of the effects of introducing chemicals into Nature. She describe 50 years ago what is exactly happening in our times … both the effects on Nature and the adverse, as well as the extremely biased response from the big chemical companies.
I wonder what Monsanto, Dupont, Sygenta, Dow, Bayer, BASF would do if Rachel would be alive today.
“On one side are the attacks that began even before a word was printed, as well as the vilification of the present day. On the other is found the equally persistent admiration and support for Carson and her book from scientists, policymakers, activists, and the general public.”
We ALL are ONE!!