Rachel Carson was Right – Then, and Now

Authored by: Joni Seager

Routledge Handbook of Gender and Environment

Print publication date:  June  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415707749
eBook ISBN: 9781315886572
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315886572.ch1

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Abstract

The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is universally recognized as a watershed event in the history of modern environmentalism. This book is credited with launching modern environmental movements around the world, catalyzing bans in the United States and many other countries on DDT(dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and cognate pesticides (especially the organochlorines and organophosphates), and framing the first sustained exposé and critique of the depredations wrought by an uncritical embrace of the chemical age. Yet Silent Spring offered even more sweeping and radical critiques: of capitalism, productionism, militarism, and corporate control of government agendas. When Silent Spring was released, the pesticides narrative was so dominant, and Carson’s findings so shocking to most readers, that the larger socio-political critical position within which her pesticides findings were embedded went largely unremarked. A few contemporaneous critics muttered about her being a ‘communist’, but those seemed mostly to be knee-jerk denouncements, not cogent analyses. Mostly, her anti-capitalist and anti-militarist critiques have only received attention more recently, as the fiftieth anniversary of Silent Spring produced a renewed interest in the book.

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