Carson’s rare ability to combine scientific fact with poetic language reached the hearts and minds of a lay audience. Her readers’ eyes were opened not only to the beauty of nature and the tragedies of its ruin, but the travesty that this destruction was being carried out by forces supposedly acting for our own good. The result of Carson’s tour-de-force was ultimately a new public mindset: that the health of our environment directly affected us, and that we’d all suffer the consequences.
“The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world–the very nature of its life.”
In 1962 I was only eight years old, but I listened with fascination as my mother read segments of Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring, to the family after dinner. My parents were naturalists and early environmentalists and I gravitated to nature even as a preschooler. Like so many people of the Silent Spring generation, we read (or in my case, listened to) Carson’s book with growing alarm.