Away We Go on Our Green Journey

Silent Spring and the Birth of the Modern Environmental Movement

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Begun as a series of articles in the New Yorker, the book, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, educated the public regarding the hazards of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, many of which the effects were not fully known. Silent Spring not only raised awareness about the issues of pesticides but also taught us about the ecological systems of which we all are a part, encouraging society to reexamine our relationship to the natural world. Silent Spring catalyzed action from all segments of society including housewives, garden club members, President Kennedy, and the US government. Recognizing the need for the public to be informed and actively engaged in the environmental movement, Rachel Carson personally responded to letters and calls from citizens throughout the country.

Her book and its resulting public discourse led to greater restrictions on the use of chemicals and the banning of DDT. In 1970, less than a decade after Silent Spring was published, the US Environment Protection Agency was established.

In 1963, CBS Reports featured an hour-long news report on Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the use of pesticides in the United States. The following clips are from CBS Reports: The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson.

Clip 1: In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson argues that the public should not be responsible for bearing the risk of the indiscriminate use of pesticides when the effects are not fully known or openly shared with them.

Clip 2: In one of the most famous passages of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson describes how the use of pesticides, intended to kill insects, travel through the food chain, impacting the health of birds and people. Through this example, Rachel Carson introduces the public to the field of ecology—the study of the interrelationships between organisms, people, and their environment.

Clip 3: Rachel Carson prophetically writes about how we will need to reinvent our relationship with the environment to avoid serious environmental problems in the future.

Intro | Silent Spring | Evolving Awareness | An Inconvenient Truth | Greening Media | Paley Greening | Going Green