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Artist/Naturalist

Rachel Carson
(1907 - 1964)

Rachel Carson was the most influential environmentalist of the 20th century. She was a marine biologist and superb writer.

Among her earliest conscious memories was a "feeling of absolute fascination for everything relating to the ocean." Her book about the ocean, The Sea Around Us was a bestseller in 1951, and established her reputation as a fine writer. 

Her 1962 book Silent Spring sent a shockwave across America as her readers realized that our widespread use of pesticides was destroying many creatures, especially the birds. For the first time the general public learned that our lifestyle was damaging the environment.

The modern environmental movement was jump-started by the publication of Silent Spring .  

In Her Own Words

I can remember no time, even in earliest childhood, when I didn't assume I was going to be a writer. Also, I can remember no time when I wasn't interested in the out-of-doors and the whole world of nature.

carson feeder

We still think in terms of conquest.  We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. 

But man is a part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. 

Now, I truly believe that we must come to terms with nature, and I think we are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.



After Silent Spring's impact, and just before her death at 56 from breast cancer, she wrote to a friend, 

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.
I have felt bound by a solemn obligation to do what I could. If I didn't at least try I could never be happy again in nature. But now I can believe that I have at least helped a little. It would be unrealistic to believe one book could bring a complete change."

 

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.

 

Rachel Carson published several superb books
Under the Sea Wind
1941
The Sea Around Us
1951
The Edge of the Sea
1955
Silent Spring
1962
The Sense of Wonder
1965 (posthumous)

In a television interview, Carson stated that "man's endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and to destroy would inevitably evolve into a war against himself, a war he would lose unless he came to terms with nature."

Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live. As civilization creates cities, builds highways, and drains marshes, it takes away, little by little, the land that is suitable for wildlife. And as their space for living dwindles, the wildlife populations themselves decline. Wildlife refuges resist this trend by saving some areas from encroachment, and by preserving in them, or restoring where necessary, the conditions that wild things need in order to live.

Links to useful Carson sites:
Introduction to 40th Anniversary edition of Silent Spring, by Al Gore:

http://clinton2.nara.gov/WH/EOP/OVP/24hours/carson.htmll

Article by Peter Mathiessen, Time Magazine

http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/carson.html

 

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