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PROFILE - Rachel Carson: Mother of environmental movements

PROFILE - Rachel Carson: Mother of environmental movements
Pioneer environmentalist, scientist honored on anniversary of groundbreaking book, spurred birth of environmental movement

By Burak Bir

ANKARA (AA) - Environmentalist, author, and marine biologist Rachel Carson is being commemorated Friday on the 57th anniversary of the publication of her influential book Silent Spring, which spurred the birth of the modern environmental movement.

Silent Spring was published on Sept. 27, 1962, alerting the world to the serious dangers faced by nature in the era of dominance by humankind.

- Early life

Rachel Louise Carson was born on May 27, 1907, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and grew up on a farm where she was able to observe the natural world and the wildlife that surrounded her.

At age 22 she graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women and studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory before attending John Hopkins University for a post-graduate degree in zoology.

After earning her master’s in 1932, Carson intended to proceed to a doctorate degree. However, the financial difficulties of the Great Depression forced her to put off her goal.

She left the university to take a full-time position to support her family, but their situation worsened after their father passed away in 1935.

Amid her financial struggles, Carson became the second woman hired by the Bureau of Fisheries for a full-time professional position, where she worked as a junior aquatic biologist.

She was previously employed in a successful stint writing radio scripts for a weekly educational radio program, Romance Under the Waters, which ran 52 episodes and was intended to raise awareness of fish biology.

While working at the bureau, Carson also wrote articles on marine life for local newspapers as well as magazines.

- Success in hard times

In July 1937, her efforts began to pay off, when the venerated Atlantic Monthly magazine accepted a revised version of her essay The World of Waters, a piece she had originally written for a fisheries bureau brochure.

After this essay got published under the title Undersea, publishing house Simon & Schuster urged Carson to turn the essay into a book.

In 1941, Carson's first book, Under the Sea Wind, was published and won praise for its vivid descriptions of marine life, though it did not sell very well.

Through the 1940s she continued to work for the government in order to support her family.

In 1945, Carson grew interested in DDT, a colorless and tasteless insecticide, leading to her penning numerous essays warning of its harm to the environment, though publishers were not always interested in these.

The 1950s paved the way for more success as well as freedom from financial difficulties when she published The Sea Around Us (1951), which promptly shot up the sales charts, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller List for a record-setting 86 weeks.

The book brought much acclaim to Carson, winning both the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the John Burroughs Medal. She was also the recipient of two honorary doctorates.

Carson's third book, The Edge of the Sea -- focusing on coastal marine ecosystems -- was published in 1955 after two years of research in libraries as well as in the field on ecology and organisms of the Atlantic Ocean.

In her later years, Carson began focusing her efforts against the use of pesticides containing chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates.

The dangers of pesticides became one of Carson's main professional concerns.

- Roar of Silent Spring

Sept. 27, 1962 saw the publication of Silent Spring, the book that spearheaded environmental activism and led Carson to be called the "mother of environmental movements."

Silent Spring, written about the future of the world and life on planet earth, describes the harmful effects of DDT on the environment.

Carson called for people to act responsibly and with care as stewards of the living earth, which led to the launch of many an environmental movement.

Although the book was not the first to discuss this topic and raise awareness of the environment, her combination of poetic sensibility and scientific understanding made the book an instant bestseller.

Carson faced blowback from the chemical industry over her book, but ultimately, the "roar of Silent Spring" led to the banning of DDT and other pesticides across the U.S., and it was quickly translated into multiple languages around the world.

In 2012, fifty years after it was published, Carson's influential book was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society for its contribution to establishing the modern environmental movement.

On April 14, 1964, Carson passed away at age 56 in the U.S. state of Maryland, after a long battle with breast cancer.

She left behind a legacy of her unique works and struggle to protect human health and the environment.

- Publications

In addition to her sea trilogy and Silent Spring, Carson’s "Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson" and "The Sense of Wonder," a collection of magazine articles, were also published in 1998.

Along with her own books, many others were written about Carson after her death:

Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, 1997

Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964, 1994

Rachel Carson: The Writer at Work, 1998

The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement, 2007

Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate the Life and Writing of Rachel Carson, 2007

Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge (S U N Y Series in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics), 2008

DDT, Silent Spring, and the Rise of Environmentalism: Classic Texts, 2008

Understanding Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (Words That Changed the World), 2010

Silent Spring Revisited, 2012

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, Author of Silent Spring, 2012

Carson's Silent Spring: A Reader's Guide, 2014

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment, 2014

source: News Feed
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