This week, we celebrate Rachel Carson as one of the most influential advocates for environmental conservation. Her groundbreaking work Silent Spring, published on September 27, 1962, eventually led to the American government’s ban on DDT for agricultural use and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Throughout her life, Carson exchanged letters with her friend and confidante, Dorothy Freeman. In these letters, Carson and Freeman describe their love and wonder of the natural world– the way it constantly surprises us with its patterns and workings and how mankind’s hubris acts as constant threat to the world’s delicate ecosystems. It is through their letters that Carson went on to write Silent Spring and ultimately expose the dangers of pesticide use for wildlife and humans alike.
On February 1, 1958, Dorothy received a letter from Rachel that reveals her inner most thoughts and ideas for what was to become Silent Spring:
“About the book. It was comforting to suppose that the stream of life would flow on through time in whatever course that God had appointed for it. Without interference by one of the drops of the stream, man, and to suppose that, however the physical environment might mold life, that life would never assume the power to change drastically or even destroy the physical world. These beliefs have almost been part of me for as long as I have thought about such things. To have them even vaguely threatened was so shocking that as I have said, I shut my mind, refused to acknowledge what I couldn’t help seeing. But that does no good, and I have now opened my eyes and my mind. I may not like what I see, but it does no good to ignore it. And it’s worse than useless to go on repeating the old eternal verities that are no more eternal than the hells of the poets. So it seems time someone wrote of life in the light of the truth as it now appears to us, and I think that may be the book I am to write. Oh, a brief one, darling, suggesting the new ideas, not treating them exhaustively. Probably no one could; certainly I couldn’t.”