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Silent Spring – Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson was a woman who was different from many. Her hard work, determination and confidence enabled her to be one of most well known authors in the 1950’s. During the 1920’s it was very rare for a woman to be a part of the scientific field, especially a successful one. However, this did not stop Rachel Carson. Attending the Pennsylvania College for Women, Carson majored in Biology and continued her education at Johns Hopkins in 1929 – focusing on zoology and genetics. Carson already proved herself as a successful scientist when she was hired to work for the US Bureau of Fisheries, where she was one of only two women. Carson continued her career at the Bureau however she also expanded into the world of literature. Carson was able to make an impact on those around her and open up the world’s eyes to the harm that was being inflicted into the environment and society.

Carson began her literary career in 1941 by writhing a book titled, “Under the Sea Wind”. However, the popularity of this initial book was no was a preview of what was to come for Carson. In 1951, Carson wrote the best seller, “The Sea Around Us”, also winning a US National Book Award. The public and many in the scientific profession were surprised that a woman would write a book about the sea and the environment, however Carson was truly a feminist before her time. After great praise and recognition Caron decided to write another book, focusing on something that was of great importance to her, the effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment. This was when Caron began work on, “Silent Spring”.

Carson had begun to focus her attention on conversation and explore the problems that she believed were caused by the use of chemical pesticides. Carson was very concerned and appalled by these grave negative effects brought on by the use of chemicals and wanted to spread the word and allow people to become more knowledgeable about the issue. Carson began working on the piece of writing and actually sent a chapter of the book to a newspaper, which after reading it knew it was a book that needed to be written. Carson began to focus much of her time on the completion on the book, however she faced many personal health issues. However, these did not put a stop to Carson. She continued to write and share her point of view even when she was weak physically from being ill.

Surrounding the time that Carson wrote Silent Spring, DDT began to be used in great quantities across the United States, in not only rural, but urban areas as well. Prior beliefs were that the chemicals which were used, were harmless to people. There were even ad campaigns ran on television, showing groups of people and children being spray with chemicals but still continuing their every day life. The chemists and people within the pesticide industry knew that DDT killed insects but didn’t care to go much further beyond it. They focused on the goal of killing the targeted insects and did not see importance on learning and evaluating the affects of the chemicals on other living animals and people.

However the public began to take notice of these negative externalities and began to complain to public officials and news sources. The government continued to use DDT in all areas, including suburbs, with the goal of ridding of mosquitoes., however that was not all the chemical was ridding of. One woman wrote a letter to a newspaper recounting the deaths of many birds after the area was sprayed with DDT. The people in these areas were not provided much information when they would see a truck coming down their street, spraying large amounts of white powder – however, they were given some information and instructions – that the chemicals were safe and to go inside. There were no bounds to the enthusiasm for DDT at that point, both public and private areas were being sprayed whether people like it or not.

Upon the completion of Silent Spring, Carson knew that there would be negative backlash in response and was ready to fight those who would argue against her points. Within two weeks of publication, Silent Spring became a best seller. However, getting the issues noticed by some public officials was not as easy, especially gaining the attention of the President and the White House – but it was important to Carson. Many people insulted Carson personally in response to the book, focusing on personal qualities as oppose to the statements from the book. There were people who tried to convince the public that she was not a trained chemist and did not know what she was talking about. A specific scientist, who was both well-known and a strong public speaker, Dr. White-Stevens, claimed that Carson did not have experience in that field and that the threat to people was biological not chemical.

Carson was able to gain the attention of government figures and Carson encouraged them to take a leadership role in the reduction of pesticide use. Within a decade, there were numerous environmental protection laws that were enacted, many believe these stemmed form Carson’s determination to create an environmental movement. Silent Spring continues to retain popularity and has been translated into 22 languages.

However, there is more to Carson than solely writing Silent Spring. She was a loving friend and even guardian to her nephew. She was known for her tranquility and her love for nature. During summers she would take trips to her summer home and would spent all of her time outside. She touched the lives of those who were close to her and helped motivate not only friends and family, but the public and member of society.

Rachel Caron spent many years of her live studying the environment in the hopes of bringing awareness to the public and improving the world around us. The world, especially the United States has improved and reduced the use of chemical pesticides. However that is not far enough. People are still affected by these chemicals every day and so are innocent animals. It is the responsibility of not only the government, but also corporations to try and reduce the negative impacts on the environment and the world around us. We have come a few steps forward however we still have miles to go.

Biography


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