March 23, 2007

Moderator's Comments from Deanne Urmy

Thank you Linda Lear for nearly a month's worth of erudite and provocative comments on Rachel Carson's life and work and its implications for life on our planet today. And thanks to all of you who have been weighing in.
I've just finished work as in-house editor at Houghton Mifflin for Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate the Life and Writing of Rachel Carson. In reading contributions for that book from Al Gore, Edward O. Wilson, Sandra Steingraber, John Elder, Terry Tempest Williams, Janisse Ray, and more, I was reminded of the sheer bravery of Rachel Carson at the time of publication of Silent Spring.
It has always seemed especially moving to me to imagine her, without any institutional "cover," and increasingly ill, finding the courage to defend what she had discovered to be scientifically true, in the face of powerful and public assaults from government and industry.
Today, writers and scientists often find themselves again under fire for reporting environmental truths. From the March 9, 2007 New York Times, for instance: "The director of the Fish and Wildlife Service defended the agency requirement that two employees going to international meetings on the Arctic not discuss climate change, saying diplomatic protocol limited employees to an agreed-on agenda."
Does Rachel Carson offer guidance (or even direct quotations!) to scientists and academics who find that top-down control is a reality in their environmental work and writing?


Ellie Goldberg for Healthy Kids said...

Yes. "What Would Rachel Say?" sets a standard for legislators, institutions, corporations, public agencies and citizens. As the evidence of harm continues to grow, Rachel Carson has given citizens a clear rubric of values for evaluating public policies and institutional practices ... and the inspiration to use it.

Kay McLeod said...

Is there any way to get an advance copy of Courage for the Earth? I am a high school educator and always do Earth Day and Rachel Carson celebrations each spring. I would love to augment the celebration this special year with the addition of that book.
I love this online book club and how it is honoring Rachel Carson and her legacy. I hope that the outcome might be someone catching on to the importance of making a film of Rachel's life, impact and courage....

julie dunlap said...

Courage for the Earth sounds wonderful! I wish we could all get advance copies to praise throughout the blogosphere. . . .

That book's gathering of luminaries to celebrate Carson, I think, helps answer the question of how she could be so brave in the face of "top-down" detractors and distractions. She wasn't truly alone; she had professional support from Marie Rodell (her agent), Paul Brooks (another Houghton Mifflin editor!), colleagues at Fish & Wildlife, thousands of admirers from previous books, and scores of scientists who fed and even leaked her the information she needed. So it wasn't just the courage of her convictions but of many individuals that carried her through.

I see the importance of her support network in Linda Lear's biography, in Paul Brook's House of Life, and, most personally, in the intimate letters to and from Dorothy Freeman in Always, Rachel. But I'd like to know more about the campaign against Silent Spring and how Carson and her supporters responded. Has anyone read Priscilla Murphy's "What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring"? It's promoted as an analysis of how Carson's single voice could catch the world's attention, but it hasn't been widely reviewed and I haven't met anyone who has read it. Or, is there a better book or publication that addresses this question?

Rick Reynolds said...

Hello, I am new to the discussion group. Like Kay, I am an educator and attempting to glean whatever I can to take back to my students. I will be teaching a new ecology class at my community college this summer and thought it would be cool to include some of Rachel Carson's writings - perhaps even require the book Silent Spring. I read it years ago and am looking forward to this book club and discussion. One of the things I find interesting is the ongoing parallels with today's environmental movement and global warming. I visited a used bookstore the other day and ran across a number of interesting volumes, including "The DDT Myth" by Rita Beatty (1973), and "The Recurring Silent Spring" by Patricia Hynes (1989). I wonder what lessons we have learned that may be applied to today's issues and environmental movement(s).

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