Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Bill Moyers Journal: Rachel Carson - Her Life and Legacy

Carson, Rachel. "Her Life and Legacy." Bill Moyers Journal (September 21, 2007)

Excerpt from the introduction:

The Environmental Protection Agency looks to her as a founding inspiration and the Fish & Wildlife Service as a source of agency pride. The EPA's official history site states: "There is no question...that SILENT SPRING prompted the Federal Government to take action against water and air pollution — as well as against the misuse of pesticides — several years before it otherwise might have moved."

But the common view of Rachel Carson's impact goes far beyond government bureaucracy. Carson and her most famous book, SILENT SPRING, are credited with no less than inspiring the modern global environmental movement. In its collection of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century, TIME magazine said: "Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book." In 2007, the centenary of Carson's birth is being celebrated around the world — and her work is still making waves — just as it did in 1962.

Rachel Carson was born in 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Carson was always interested in writing — contributing a number of stories to the children's magazine ST. NICHOLAS. She also had a long-standing love of nature. In a speech to the society of women journalists, Theta Sigma Pi, in 1954 she said: "I was rather a solitary child and spent a great deal of time in woods and beside streams, learning the birds and insects and flowers."

Carson attended the Pennsylvania College for Women at Pittsburgh. Originally intending on majoring in English composition, Carson changed her focus to biology and went on to study at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and received her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.

Carson went on to a position as aquatic biologist with the Bureau of Fisheries in Washington (subsequently the Fish & Wildlife Service). Both a writer and biologist — Carson started out creating radio scripts — her series was called "The Romance of the Seas." She stayed with the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service for fifteen years, finishing her career as Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the Service.

Encouraged by friends and colleagues, Carson submitted articles for publication — "Undersea" was published in 1937 by ATLANTIC. Carson followed with three books about the sea: 1941's UNDER THE SEA WIND, best-selling THE SEA AROUND US in 1951, and THE EDGE OF THE SEA, 1955 — all of which were lauded for her ability to write eloquently and clearly about science for a mainstream audience. THE SEA AROUND US won numerous awards including the Gold Medal of the New York Zoological Society, the John Burroughs Medal, the Gold Medal of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia and the National Book Award — and was a best-seller.

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