Growing up in a home where nature was integrated to their daily ventures allowed Rachel Louise Carson to love it from a very young age, which in turn influenced her field of academia. Her accomplishments in writing and research embarked an activist movement related to the environment, impacting a range of individuals all over the world. Carson was born on May 27, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Living in this rural river town allowed her to write about nature at a very young age. Becoming a published writer at the age of ten for children’s magazines was just the beginning for Carson (Michals, 2015). Choosing marine biology as her focus Carson first graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women and studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Soon after, she completed her master’s degree (MA) in zoology at Johns Hopkins University in 1932. Carson wrote articles and books such as “Undersea”, “Help Your Child to Wonder”, “Our Ever-Changing Shore”, Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea, and the most influential Silent Spring (Lear, 2015). These compositions were based on her research which increases its credibility, fundamental to ignite an activist movement.
Carson’s research opportunities began when she started working for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries where she was simultaneously serving as a scientist and editor. With fifteen years of experience, Carson became the Editor-in-Chief for all publications of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her writing was centered on the impact humans hold over nature, at times beneficiary and others harmful. For instance, The Sea Around Us was a biography of the ocean and its life. It explained the discoveries found by underwater research which concluded the following: the relationship between the ocean and temperature and the effects of erosions. Although Carson’s work was mainly concentrated on educating the public about nature, the more she wrote the more it became apparent that she was warning humankind. Silent Spring was her first piece that directly cautioned individuals. After the Second World War pesticides became very common among the public which sparked the topic Carson alerted in Silent Spring. In order to convey her message, she asked strongly worded questions related to human’s control over nature, whether they had the right to determine who in nature should live or die. Her powerful message questioned the government about human’s role in nature. Soon Carson became a leader to a social revolution with Silent Spring, “handbook for the future of all life on Earth” (Lear, 2019).
Beginning with the excessive use of DDT, a type of pesticide, advertised solely for its beneficiary aspects such as an increase in farming production, eliminating pests, and fighting diseases like malaria. However, these corporate propaganda strategies left out the risks of pesticides, which was Carson’s main concern. She had stated that pesticides made its way up the ecosystem affecting and killing birds, fish, and even causing danger to children (Griswold, 2012) With many supporters including regular consumers allowed Carson to form an activist group fighting against these toxic chemicals. In 1963, a year after Silent Spring was published, Carson was able to testify before Congress, advocating for new policies to protect the wellness of living things— taking both humans and the environment into account (Lear, 2019). Unfortunately, Carson passed due to her struggling battle with breast cancer before her efforts to better human health and the environment were accomplished through policies. A couple years after her death, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) canceled all orders for DDT. Carson’s constant effort to prove how harmful pesticides are resulted in further studies which positively correlated the exposure of DDT with tumors and reproductive disabilities (Eyen, 2017). By 1975, all toxic chemicals were banned or restricted. These changes eventually led to the production and sale of organic products seen in local supermarkets today (Stoll, 2012).
In all her efforts, Rachel Louise Carson left a legacy in environmental activism. Throughout the remaining decades of the twentieth century organizations were founded with the sole purpose of cementing Carson’s lifelong goals— that is furthering the protection of human health and the environment. These organizations include but are not limited to Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society, Rachel Carson Institute, and Rachel Carson Council (Lear, 2019). Both national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helped spread and maintain this legacy. The Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society (RCC) serves as an international NGO that promotes research and enlightens the public on environmental and humanitarian protection. The RCC offers a series of fellowship opportunities and graduate programs as a means to provide more research to the public (Huber, 2019). Their sole focus being the betterment of the relationship between nature and humankind, Carson’s focal point.
Unfolding the love for nature from a very young age led Rachel Louise Carson to establish significant impact on a national and international perspective in regard to environmental awareness. Her diligence and perseverance on these topics inspired many scientists, authors, and activists to conserve her lifelong objectives. Advocating for better living conditions to enhance human health and an advancement of environmental protection. These advancements make the world today a healthier place for all living beings and continue to stimulate new developments in the social sciences as we proceed on through the twenty first century.
- Michals, D. (2015). Rachel Carson. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/rachel-carson
- Lear, L. (2015). Rachel Carson’s Biography. Retrieved from https://www.rachelcarson.org/Bio.aspx
- Lear, L. (2019). The Life And Legacy Of Rachel Carson. Retrieved from https://www.rachelcarson.org
- Griswold, E. (2012, September 21). How ‘Silent Spring’ Ignited the Environmental Movement. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/magazine/how-silent-spring-ignited-the-environmental-movement.html
- Stoll, M. (2012). Legacy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Retrieved from http://www.environmentandsociety.org/exhibitions/silent-spring/legacy-rachel-carsons-silent-spring
- Lear, L. (2019). Organizations. Retrieved from https://www.rachelcarson.org/Organizations.aspx
- Huber, B. (2019). About the Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society. Retrieved from https://www.carsoncenter.uni-muenchen.de/about_rcc/index.html