March 01, 2013

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

JoAnne L. Dunec

William Souder, On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, Crown Publishers, 2012.

The publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, in 1962, created a national debate, which in some respects continues to this day. During a press conference at the time, President John F. Kennedy was asked, “Mr. President, there appears to be a growing concern among scientists as to the possibility of dangerous long-range side effects from the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides. Have you considered asking the Department of Agriculture or the Public Health Service to take a closer look at this?” The President replied, “Yes, and I know that they already are. I think particularly, of course, since Miss Carson’s book, but they are examining the issue.” Author, William Souder, observed,

In this brief exchange something new had come into the world, for this was a cleaving point—the moment when the gentle, optimistic proposition called “conservation” began its transformation into the bitterly divisive idea that would come to be known as “environmentalism.”

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