Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Breaking the Silence

Friends board member Paul Trunnell shares his thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Some books entertain. Some articulate our experience. And some change the world.

Such is the case with Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, published 50 years ago by Houghton Mifflin. Researched and written over several years, Silent Spring offers a well-documented analysis of the negative effects of wide-spread pesticide use on the environment. While this premise is well-accepted in 2012, in 1962 it was a controversial challenge to popular faith in the value of man-made chemicals – and the political and economic powers that profited from their use.

When she began writing Silent Spring, Rachel Carson was already a published author and had worked for many years as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

She was supported in her writing by Houghton Mifflin editor Paul Brooks, a respected environmentalist and writer in his own right. His book The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work gives additional insight into their work together.

I read Silent Spring as a college student, nearly 30 years after its controversial release. It opened my eyes to a history I knew nothing about, and made me appreciate how the world in which I had grown up was impacted by Carson's thoughtful arguments.

We continue to live in a world where controversial scientific debates – around global warming, energy consumption, and environmental degradation – affect our lives. My thanks to Rachel Carson, and many other modern-day scientists, writers, filmmakers and other artists, who help us understand these issues so we can help change our world for the better.

My thanks also to the articles and authors of the spring 2012 edition of Sanctuary, The Journal of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which helped inform and inspire this blog entry.

What book have you read that’s helped to change the world in a big or small way?  Please take the time to share its title with us by leaving a comment below.

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