60 Years on, the Spring remains Silent

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

It is 60 years on from the publication of Silent Spring in 1962.  A recent feature in The Economist explored the legacy of this iconic book.

In the book that Paul Vare and I wrote, Learning, Environment and Sustainable Development: a history of ideas, we divided it into three sections: the time before environmental issues came to the fore (which we’ve suggested was up to the publication of Silent Spring), from then to the present time, and what the future offers.  In a real sense it was Silent Spring that marked the coming to public conscientiousness of 'the environment' both as a phenomenon, and as a problem for humanity – and also of humanity as a problem for the environment, or for nature, more accurately, perhaps.

Here's an extract from The Economist feature:

"Carson died of cancer less than two years after “Silent Spring” was published. But she left a lasting legacy despite the best efforts of America’s chemical industry to suppress her book and discredit her, both professionally and personally. She was called a “hysterical woman” and “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature”. The public felt differently. The book was an immediate bestseller; almost a million copies had been sold by the time Carson died in April 1964.”

Some cult.  Rachel Carson was interviewed by CBS in 1964.  She said:

“We still talk in terms of conquest.  We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe.  We in this generation, must come to terms with nature, and … prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.”

57 years on the CBS interview we still have not "come to terms with nature, and … prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves".  

You really have to wonder if we ever shall.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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