Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Beginning of the Environmental Movement in the United States

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Beginning of the Environmental Movement in the United States

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Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Beginning of the Environmental Movement in the United States


When Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962, it generated a storm of controversy over the use of chemical pesticides. Miss Carson's intent in writing Silent Spring was to warn the public of the dangers associated with pesticide use. Throughout her book are numerous case studies documenting the harmful effects that chemical pesticides have had on the environment. Along with these facts, she explains how in many instances the pesticides have done more harm than good in eradicating the pests they were designed to destroy. In addition to her reports on pesticide use, Miss Carson points out that many of the long-term effects that these chemicals may have on the environment, as well as on humans, are still unknown. Her book as one critic wrote, "dealt pesticides a sharp blow" (Senior Scholastic 1962). The controversy sparked by Silent Spring led to the enactment of environmental legislation and the establishment of government agencies to better regulate the use of these chemicals.

Miss Carson first became aware of the effects of chemical pesticides on the natural environment while working for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Of particular concern to her was the government’s use of chemical pesticides such as DDT. She was familiar with early studies of DDT and knew of its dangers and lasting effects on the environment. According to Miss Carson, "the more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important." Thu...


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Harvey, Mary. "Using a Plague to Fight a Plague." Saturday Review 29 Sept. 1962: 8.

Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: Holt & Co., 1997.

McDonnell, Lawrence and Sarah F. Bates. Natural Resources Policy and Law: Trends

and Directions. Washington, D.C.: Island, 1993.

Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Story of Silent Spring."

http://www.nrdc.org/health/pesticides/hcarson.asp. 1997.

Naum, Nicole. "Environmental Vanguard: Rachel Carson."

http://www.geo.lsa.umich.edu/~crlb/COURSES/140/FINAL00/features.html.

"Pesticides: the Price for Progress." Time 28 Sept. 1962: 45-48.

"The Furor Over Pesticides." Senior Scholastic 12 Dec. 1962: 10+.

Vig, Norman and Michael Kraft. Environmental Policy in the 1990s. Washington D.C.:

CQ, 1997.

Vogt, William. "On Man the Destroyer." Natural History Sept. 1962: 3-5.

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