Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Rachel Carson: too successful for her own legacy

By Jennifer Marohasy - posted Monday, 28 May 2007

Rachel Carson was born on May 27, 1907. If she were still alive, she would be 100 years old today.

Many claim her as founding the modern environment movement. Her work also had a direct influence on government. The US Congress went on to pass the National Environmental Policy Act, establish the Environmental Protection Agency, and ban DDT based on her activism.

Before Rachel Carson became an activist she was a writer.


She was just 10-years-old when her first story was published in a children’s literary magazine. She read widely, including the English Romantics, and was influenced by their belief in the concept of “the balance of nature” and “pristine wilderness”.

A zoology professor urged her to major in biology rather than English at Pennsylvania College for Women, today known as Chatham College. She was later to say that science, in particular marine biology, also gave her “something to write about”.

She never married, or completed the PhD she began at John Hopkins University in marine biology. Her first job was as a junior aquatic biologist at the Bureau of Fisheries where she was soon moved into communications and within 10 years was editor-in-chief of all the agency’s publications.

In 1951, still at the Bureau, her second book the The Sea Around Us was published and she became an overnight literary celebrity when it was serialised by the New York Times.

Her fourth book, Silent Spring, published in 1962 was also serialised by the newspaper. It combined Rachel Carson’s passion for writing and nature, with her growing hatred of industrialisation. The book was written to alert the American public to the environmental and human dangers of the indiscriminate use of pesticides and it also captured the imagination of President John F. Kennedy.

The book became a best seller.


In the same way people like Al Gore and Tim Flannery are today warning of a climate crisis, as far back as 1945 the Reader’s Digest was publishing Rachel Carson warning of the dangers of pesticides, particularly DDT. She wrote that the pollution of the environment through ignorance and greed was the ultimate act of human arrogance. She turned the widespread use of DDT into a moral issue in the same way Al Gore has turned global warming into a moral issue, including for the US government.

Like Al Gore, Rachel Carson gave testimony before congress. She claimed that public opinion was being ignored and government must take responsibility for the damage from the widespread use of toxic chemicals. At that time the Senate Committee on Commerce was hearing testimony on the Chemical Pesticides Coordination Act which would require labels to tell how to avert damage to fish and wildlife.

She had no institutional affiliation and had no scientific publications in the area of chemical toxicology but she galvinised public and government support for more controls on the use of chemicals.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All
 Institute of Public Affairs Advertisement


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

22 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Jennifer Marohasy is a senior fellow with the Institute for Public Affairs.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Jennifer Marohasy

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Jennifer Marohasy
Article Tools
Comment 22 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Latest from Institute of Public Affairs
 No reality holiday from this population challenge
 For budgets only smaller is tougher
 Government subsidies to green groups must end
 Boot-strapping on a carbon tax
 West's history not complete without reference to Christianity

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy