New(s) @ Axe

News and Events of the Leonard H. Axe Library, and of the
Kansas Technology Center Library - Pittsburg (KS) State University

Friday, May 11, 2007

Celebrating the Centennial of the Founder of the Modern Environmental Movement

This month, in honor of Rachel Carson, marine biologist, ecologist, bestselling writer of popular science and author of Silent Spring, one of the most influential books of the 20th century, the Library will be putting up a display of her works in the 2nd floor along with a collection of books and documents on pesticides and their damaging effects on the environment.

Rachel Carson
May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964

One of Carson’s first jobs was with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries during the Depression. There, she scripted a series of seven-minute radio programs on marine life called "Romance Under the Waters." At the same time, she wrote articles on conservation and nature for newspapers and magazines, in which she encouraged regulation of “the "forces of destruction", urging her readers to consider always the welfare of the "fish as well as that of the fisherman." Her articles were published by the Baltimore Sun and other syndicated papers.

Carson's first book, Under the Sea-Wind was published in 1941. After getting a position with the new government agency. the U.S. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, she used her talents as a writer of popular science to write pamphlets and speeches for Fish and Wildlife personnel as well as edit all the work of their writing staff. Her second book, The Sea Around Us, was a great success, enjoying 81 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and enabling her to quit her government job in 1952 and pursue her writing full time, In 1962, she published her environmental classic Silent Spring.

Carson had been aware of the dangers of chemical pesticides but also knew she would face opposition from the agricultural community, which needed pesticides to increase crop production. Concerned in particular about the effects of DDT, she produced Silent Spring after years of research across the United States and Europe. The controversial book provoked attacks on Carson’s professional integrity by the pesticide industry, which made every effort to discredit her. When CBS Television scheduled an hour long news report on Carson's work, during which she explained how the chemical industry was pouring poisonous runoff into the country's water supply, two corporate sponsors withdrew. The federal government, however, ordered a review of its pesticide policy and called Carson and others to testify before a Congressional committee. As a direct result of the study, DDT was banned. With the publication of Silent Spring, Carson is credited with launching the contemporary environmental movement. Former Vice President Al Gore credits Carson's work with prompting the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as helping millions of Americans to develop an environmental consciousness.

Rachel Carson died of breast cancer in 1964. Some persons speculate that this cancer may have been caused by exposure to the environmental carcinogens which she studied. However, her influence is still felt by the chemical industry, which to this day passionately tries to convince people that she was wrong.

On the second floor, the Library has placed a number of Ms. Carson’s books as well as biographies and numerous publications about pesticides and their effects on the environment. There are also printouts from numerous web sites dedicated to her memory, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Pennsylvania is Carson’s home state), the Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale, PA, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA.

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