Rachel Carson on Agents of Death

 Rachel Carson“The beauty of the living world I was trying to save has always been uppermost in my mind – that, and anger at the senseless, brutish things that were being done. . . . Now I can believe I have at least helped a little.”

Today, as we remember Rachel Carson (1907-1964) in the context of Earth Day and caring for the ecological balance of our planet, many probably imagine a kind little woman who wrote beautifully about nature. However in her time, Rachel Carson was reviled and vilified because she dared attack the unfettered progress of big corporations and the government. The attacks on her were vicious. She was called a communist, peace-nut, a woman scared of bugs, a food faddist, and a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature. A review in Time Magazine called her “unfair, one-sided, and hysterically overemphatic.” Hounded, she used the royalties from her book Silent Spring to buy a cottage on an island where she lived two years as she struggled with the breast cancer that eventually led to her death.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 3 of Silent Spring:

For the first time in human history, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals from the moment of conception until death. In the less than two decades of their use, the synthetic pesticides have been so thoroughly distributed throughout the animate and inanimate world that they occur virtually everywhere. They have been recovered from most of the major river systems and even from streams of groundwater flowing unseen through the earth. Residues of these chemicals linger in the soil to which they may have been applied dozen years before. They have entered and lodged in the bodies of fish, birds, reptiles, and domestic and wild animals so universally that scientists find it almost impossible to locate subjects free from such contamination. They have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in soil, in the eggs of birds, and in man himself.

 Today, she is being vilified again for the role she played in making millions aware of human-caused environmental dangers. For example, Senator Colburne (R-Ok) blocked a bill naming the post office in her hometown after her. A December 2012 Forbes review says her junk science ideas would send us back to the Dark Ages.

It is interesting that even though she has been dead almost fifty years corporations still fear her words. What power in the pages of a book! Could it be they fear there’ll be more “Rachel Carsons” writing books that call them to account? After all the environmental problems are much, much worse today than in her day. We need more Rachel Carsons. So writers… here are some current news stories to inspire earth-shaking books. Which one will you choose to write about?

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