Figure 14: Rachel Carson

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(1904-1964)

Born and raised near the industrial hub of Pittsburgh, Rachel Carson was an early environmentalist. Obtaining a degree and masters in marine biology, she began a fifteen year career in public service, writing about conservation and rising to the role of editor-in-chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Beginning her personal writing career with her first article in 1937, she used her knowledge gained from her education and career and turned it into lyrical prose which was accessible to the general public with it’s use of non-technical language.

With the publication of her award-winning second book ‘The Sea Around Us’ in 1951, Rachel was able to quit her government job and had financial freedom; this must have been a relief, as she worked to support her mother, and her orphaned nieces.

Rachel wrote about the joy and beauty of the living world, but also emphasised that human’s were only one part of this, and damage to the environment would effect us, too. Her third book, ‘Silent Spring,’ was the result of her investigations into the effects of chemicals and pesticides that were used to excess in agriculture and around the home. She spoke about the possible long term effects of this use and asserted that ‘biocides’ (her name for pesticides, as she pointed out that their effects were not limited to insects) were deadlier than manufacturers were willing to admit.

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The book lead to a presidential commission looking into her accusations, and it’s findings were mostly in agreement with hers; some pesticides were banned, and her work had a major effect on the public consciousness and our ideas about our ‘ownership’ of nature.

Two years after the publication of Silent Spring, after receiving awards and accolades, Rachel lost a long battle with cancer. Rachel’s passion and genuine concern for the sake of the wellbeing of the planet and all of it’s inhabitants must have shone through in her work, and has no doubt made the world a safer place than if companies had been able to continue with their indiscriminate use of dangerous and cancerous chemicals. Despite their efforts to discredit Rachel as a communist or ‘hysterical woman,’ people listened to her, and she used her voice for the benefit of everybody. Even so, I had never heard of her, so I’m delighted to continue the legacy of this peaceful and thoughtful woman who changed the world.

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