Rachel Carson : biography
Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.
Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award, recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. This sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the depths.
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 and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.
Collected papers and posthumous publications
Carson bequeathed her manuscripts and papers to Yale University, to take advantage of the new state-of-the-art preservations facilities of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Her longtime agent and literary executor Marie Rodell spent nearly two years organizing and cataloging Carson’s papers and correspondence, distributing all the letters to their senders so that only what each correspondent approved of would be submitted to the archive. See also the Beinecke .
In 1965, Rodell arranged for the publication of an essay Carson had intended to expand into a book: A Sense of Wonder. The essay, which was combined with photographs by Charles Pratt and others, exhorts parents to help their children experience the "lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world", which "are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life."Murphy, 25; quotations from A Sense of Wonder, 95. The essay was originally published in 1956 in Woman’s Home Companion.
In addition to the letters in Always Rachel, in 1998 a volume of Carson’s previously unpublished work was published as Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson, edited by Linda Lear. All of Carson’s books remain in print.
Grassroots environmentalism and the EPA
Carson’s work had a powerful impact on the environmental movement. Silent Spring, in particular, was a rallying point for the fledgling social movement in the 1960s. According to environmental engineer and Carson scholar H. Patricia Hynes, "Silent Spring altered the balance of power in the world. No one since would be able to sell pollution as the necessary underside of progress so easily or uncritically." Carson’s work, and the activism it inspired, are at least partly responsible for the deep ecology movement, and the overall strength of the grassroots environmental movement since the 1960s. It was also influential on the rise of ecofeminism and on many feminist scientists.
Carson’s most direct legacy in the environmental movement was the campaign to ban the use of DDT in the United States (and related efforts to ban or limit its use throughout the world). Though environmental concerns about DDT had been considered by government agencies as early as Carson’s testimony before the President’s Science Advisory Committee, the 1967 formation of the Environmental Defense Fund was the first major milestone in the campaign against DDT. The organization brought lawsuits against the government to "establish a citizen’s right to a clean environment", and the arguments employed against DDT largely mirrored Carson’s. By 1972, the Environmental Defense Fund and other activist groups had succeeded in securing a phase-out of DDT use in the United States (except in emergency cases).