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In Brief

Rachel Carson: Speaking for the Environment

31 January 2012

Rachel Carson sitting at desk holding pen (AP Images)

It is the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the groundbreaking 1962 book that described the environmental harm caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides such as DDT. Carson is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

Rachel Carson launched the modern environmental movement. Her 1962 book Silent Spring focused worldwide attention on the harm to human health and the environment caused by indiscriminate pesticide use.

Carson, a marine biologist, was a writer at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. She was concerned that DDT and other pesticides could contaminate waterways, soil and plants and kill non-target species, including birds and fish. Scientists had documented the effects of certain pesticides on the environment, but Carson — a gifted writer — explained these ideas in terms the general public could understand. Speaking on television and in congressional hearings, she didn’t call for a ban on pesticide use, but rather for more research and tighter regulations.

In 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency. The federal government conducted a review of pesticide policies and, in 1972, banned DDT in the United States.

See Rachel Carson: Pen Against Poison.