CBC Digital Archives

Rachel Carson: scientist, sentimentalist, icon

As populations grow and cities expand, the human footprint on Earth grows ever larger. The natural world inevitably pays the price: forests shrink, lakes die and species disappear. In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson named April 22 as a day for grassroots demonstrations for environmental protection. His idea has flourished and continues to gain momentum as countries and consumers strive to become more "green." To mark Earth Day, the CBC Digital Archives reflects on the growing awareness of our fragile world and the people who helped shape our environmental consciousness.

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There was a strange stillness. The birds for example - where had they gone? ... The few birds seen anywhere were moribund: they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices.

In 1962, Rachel Carson shook the world violently awake with the chilling vision of Silent Spring, her book about the terrible impact of pollution on the natural world. She started the modern environmental movement and became an icon in the process. Now, on the hundredth anniversary of her birth, The Sunday Edition looks back at her controversial life and career.

Silent Spring was Carson's most dramatic and enduring success, she would never see the book's great impact. She died of breast cancer in April 1964, less then two years after the book was published.

  • While the book made Rachel Carson enduringly famous, she was a successful author before its publication. Her books The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea and Under the Sea-Wind were all bestsellers in the U.S.

Silent Spring ranks 16th on Discover magazine's list of the best science books of all time. It also rated an honorable mention on a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, as compiled by U.S. conservative website humanevents.com, a list that includes Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto and The Origin of Species.

Medium: Radio
Program: The Sunday Edition
Broadcast Date: Jan. 14, 2007
Guest(s): Linda Lear
Interviewer: Michael Enright
Duration: 29:23
Photo: Rachel Carson, from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last updated: October 1, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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