May
27
2007

Rachel Carson, inspiration for the modern environmental movement: Photo from US Fish & Wildlife Service
Rachel Carson, inspiration for the modern environmental movement: Photo from US Fish & Wildlife Service

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, whom many credit as the inspiration for the modern environmental movement. Her 1962 book Silent Spring warned the world of the dangers of environmental degradation, especially due to the overuse of chemical pesticides. The book stirred millions of people worldwide to take action. In the United States, we saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency – all the result of the movement Carson inspired.

Today, our air and water are cleaner thanks to these actions, and dangerous chemicals are more closely regulated. But some people are re-evaluating Carson’s legacy, especially with regards to the pesticide DDT. Carson explained how insects absorbed the poisonous chemical. Birds which ate enough insects often died themselves, or would have trouble hatching eggs. Carson promoted restricting the use of DDT.

However, some of her followers went further, pushing for a total ban of DDT in many countries. Unfortunately, DDT is extremely effective at killing mosquitoes that spread malaria – a disease that kills some one million people each year. Responsible, limited use of DDT could save millions of lives.

(Science Buzz has discussed malaria here and here,and the possible effects of preventative measures such as mosquito nets, drugs, and genetic engineering.)

Carson’s legacy reminds us not only of the importance of protecting our environment, but also that one person can have a tremendous impact. It also reminds us that even the best ideas can have unintended consequences, and any major changes need to be undertaken in a balanced, rational and flexible manner.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Cool, two birthday stories right next to each other. Happy 100th birthday plastic!

posted on Mon, 05/28/2007 - 3:51pm
a-l school's picture
a-l school says:

happy 100th birthday you old person!!!!!!

posted on Thu, 06/07/2007 - 11:25am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

John Tierny, science writer for the NY Times, reviews the legacy of Rachel Carson.

posted on Sun, 06/10/2007 - 10:09am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

And he has a follow-up post on naturally occurring pesticides.

posted on Tue, 06/12/2007 - 12:44pm
derek's picture
derek says:

happy birthday !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted on Mon, 06/11/2007 - 10:30am
mariah's picture
mariah says:

happy birthday
your a wonderful person

posted on Mon, 07/09/2007 - 4:21pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Happy Birthday

posted on Wed, 08/22/2007 - 3:27pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

hey what's with false advertising abaout molaria?

posted on Sun, 09/02/2007 - 4:12pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Not sure what you mean. But there's plenty of discussion about malaria elsewhere on Science Buzz. Just follow the links in the main post above.

posted on Sun, 09/02/2007 - 7:11pm
Gloria's picture
Gloria says:

OMG rachel ur name is my cousins and ihave the same b-day as u

:-)

posted on Sun, 09/02/2007 - 4:29pm
Burnedette's picture
Burnedette says:

hey we love everything that you do and have done. you are a big inspiration to everyone that walks the earth and someone that everyone could or can look up to. we love you girl! keep it up

posted on Tue, 09/18/2007 - 10:49am
Rich's picture
Rich says:

What wonderful time to have a birthday

posted on Sat, 09/22/2007 - 5:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

She is a very important person

posted on Thu, 10/18/2007 - 3:59pm
Christina's picture
Christina says:

HappyBirthday Rachel Carson, she was a great scientist to our world

posted on Fri, 11/09/2007 - 4:37pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

happy 100th birthday, and you have made huge differance.

posted on Wed, 04/16/2008 - 12:34pm
Neutral's picture
Neutral says:

i just don't understand what the deal is here. i mean, just legalize DDT already and stop with this noncence!!!

posted on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 1:58pm
Andreea's picture
Andreea says:

I`m glad a woman did this! We women should take more credit for the things we've done..not only men. Start by reading the google nemesis review.

posted on Tue, 08/12/2008 - 4:36am
thelaa's picture
thelaa says:

Carson’s legacy reminds us not only of the importance of protecting our environment, but also that one person can have a tremendous impact. It also reminds us that even the best ideas can have unintended consequences, and any major changes need to be undertaken in a balanced, rational and flexible manner.

posted on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 12:56pm

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