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Margaret Atwood on Rachel Carson

Author Margaret Atwood praises Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 50 years after the book’s publication.

Biologist and science writer Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. The book was popular and controversial, and it led to an environmental awareness that many Americans now take for granted.

Silent Spring challenged the widespread practice of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. In the “good old days,” to get rid of parasites in the forest, we sprayed the whole forest with poison. To get rid of pesky mosquitos, we filled the air with poison — even though we breathed the same air.

And we didn’t spend a lot of time thinking that if we killed the bugs, we might, in turn, be killing the things that need the bugs, which would then kill the bug needers and, ultimately ourselves.

In this piece from The Guardian, novelist Margaret Atwood takes a look at the impact of Rachel Carson’s most famous work, a book that is quite possibly the most important book on the environment in the last half-century. As Atwood puts it:

one of the core lessons of Silent Spring was that things labelled progress weren’t necessarily good. Another was that the perceived split between man and nature isn’t real: the inside of your body is connected to the world around you, and your body too has its ecology, and what goes into it – whether eaten or breathed or drunk or absorbed through your skin – has a profound impact on you. We’re so used to thinking this way now that it’s hard to imagine a time when general assumptions were different. But before Carson, they were.

Of course, as Atwood points out, we’re still adding toxins to our own existence, either from blithe disregard or sanguine expectations. But there’s hope. 

Amusingly enough, Margaret Atwood finds hope in the Bug A Salt, a newfangled invention that allows you to shoot flies from a gun loaded with salt:

Okay, enough fun with Bug A Salt. Time to read the Who2 biography of Rachel Carson.

(Main photo of Rachel Carson from Wikipedia.)

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