Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Visionary Project: Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson: Man is Fighting Against Himself
     Rachel Carson was very fortunate to grow up on a 65-acre farm in rural Pennsylvania and to have a loving mother who ultimately influenced her visions of the world. She grew up exploring the forests and streams surrounding her childhood home and at the age of ten was first published in a children’s magazine (Rachel). Her education first started out as being an English major at the Pennsylvania College for Women, but then changed to being a student in marine biology and went on to get her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University (Lear). This showed how knowledgeable Carson was of the surrounding environment and its components as well as her devotion to the betterment of the world.

Carson had a vision to improve people’s knowledge of harmful chemicals in the environment and their impact on public health; however, the constant struggle of going up against the government, chemical industries, and even friends made it a challenge to convince society of her points. The time period that Carson grew up in was a time when people were afraid to speak their mind. This is because the government was very powerful and communism was speculated in certain individuals in the United States, therefore resulting in people trying to keep quiet (Maryland). No one wanted to be thought of as a communist; therefore they would not speak of anything controversial or attention grabbing. This was the age of Tupperware as well and of the assassination of President Kennedy.
            In addition, Carson loved the world and everything within it and showed this through her writing about its beauty, however, this all came to an abrupt halt when she had noticed the harmful effects of pesticides on birds and nature itself which then formed her vision for the future. Referring to her early views of the world, it is stated, “She wrote several other articles designed to teach people about the wonder and beauty of the living world…” (Lear). This proves that Carson was an active advocate for the world around her and wanted everyone to see it in a different perspective. It is implied that people take advantage of the Earth and do not view it as a “beautiful thing” until someone points it out to them. She does this by writing pamphlets on conservation and natural resources, scientific articles, and many other books from her government research (Lear). However, as time went on Carson started to notice the effects of pesticides on the environment, especially on birds. They began to die in increased rates and this is when Carson developed the vision of spreading awareness and trying to prevent the use of harmful pesticides on the environment. This first was shown through her book, Silent Spring, which helped in the banning of the chemical DDT. Carson talks about the effects on birds from DDT in Silent Spring by stating, “Heavy mortality has occurred among about 90 species of birds, including those most familiar to suburbanites and amateur naturalists” (109). She goes on to talk about how the birds were indirectly poisoned by the chemical through worms and other insects that were being targeted. The publishing of Silent Spring was a turning point in Carson’s life and arose many conflicts because of it. One of which was the attacks on Carson from chemical industries affected by her harsh words towards their products. It is stated, “The pesticide industry mounted a massive campaign to discredit Carson…” (Rachel). Not only were they trying to discredit Carson, but also said that Carson wanted to blame pesticides for her cancer and made them her “scapegoat” (Maryland). Industries were persistent in trying to damage Carson’s work, but little did they know that this was her vision and was motivated to accomplish it.

            Carson had a hope for the future and was driven to make it possible which along with other characteristics made her a well-known visionary. She anticipated that in the future people will view the environment in a more serious way and will take into consideration what they are releasing into it (Maryland). This is one way that shows how Carson was an active visionary in addition, she was also very humanly. She wanted to look out for not only the environment, but also people that will be affected by pesticides. Rudy Baum states in the article Rachel Carson, “Her indictment of DDT, they claim, has resulted in something like 90 million preventable deaths from malaria” (5). This proves that Carson was looking out for people and nature, which we are an integral part of.
            Another aspect of Carson that was very admirable was her bravery in voicing her opinion. The statement, “She had long hoped someone else would publish an expose’ on DDT but eventually realized that only she had the background as well as the economic freedom to do it” proves that the times when the government was at its peak no one had the will to speak out against it except for Carson (Rachel). Carson was a highly respected woman at the time because she got her masters and was hired into a powerful position which does not happen to many women. In addition, it is stated in the article Rachel Carson, “Carson’s prose gave voice to millions who yearned for a value system that effectively opposed the indiscriminate poisoning of her world in the name of economic efficiency” (Baum). This shows that people wanted a way to voice their opinions, but it was not safe or possible for them at the time. Once Carson spoke out people became inspired and hopeful of the future. The ultimate theme of Carson’s work was the environment and the effects of chemicals on it.

            All of Carson’s hard work to make the world a safer place to live in paid off and has many long-lasting effects. Many people are now protesting without fearing the government and stood up for what they believed in (Maryland). Also, many lives today are saved because of Carson’s contribution to the environment and the banning of DDT.

Works Cited
Baum, Rudy. “Rachel Carson.” Chemical & Engineering News. 85.23 (2007): 5. Web. 16 April
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962. Print.
Lear, Linda. The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson. Connecticut College, 2013. Web. 4 April
Maryland Humanities Council, dir. “Biocides: Rachel Carson.” YouTube. Youtube, 1999. Web. 5
            April 2013.

“Rachel Carson: A Conservation Legacy.” U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. U.S. Fish & Wildlife
            Service, 28 Dec. 2007. Web. 16 April 2013.

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