Although their role will probably always be less celebrated than wars, marches, riots or stormy political campaigns, it is books that have at times most powerfully influenced social change in American life. Thomas Paine's Common Sense galvanized radical sentiment in the early days of the American revolution; Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe roused Northern antipathy to slavery in the decade leading up to the Civil War; and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which in 1962 exposed the hazards of the pesticide DDT, eloquently questioned humanity's faith in technological progress and helped set the stage for the environmental movement.
Carson, a renowned nature author and a former marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was uniquely equipped to create so startling and inflammatory a book. A native of rural Pennsylvania, she had grown up with an enthusiasm for nature matched only by her love of writing and poetry. The educational brochures she wrote for the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as her published books and magazine articles, were characterized by meticulous research and a poetic evocation of her subject.
We go now to a reading of excerpts from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
Thank you to the KBOO volunteers who helped with this reading: Chris Andreae, Liam Delta, Beth Crawford, Kellyn Gross, and Ani Haines. A special thanks to the Natural Resources Defense Council for the introduction text.