Google Doodle honors Rachel Carson

May 27, 2014 • 7:25 am

If you go to the Google home page today, you’ll see this:

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It celebrates Rachel Carson’s 107th birthday (she died, way too young, in 1964).

I know you’ve heard of her, for she was the twentieth century’s most notable environmentalist, and her 1963 bestseller, Silent Spring, undoubtedly the most important environmental work of our time. (If you want to learn more, today’s Washington Post has a nice retrospective.) That book —I still remember when it was published—called everyone’s attention to the dangers of pesticides, and, by so doing, launched the environmentalism of the 1960s that continues today.  She was also, of course, a marine biologist, having preceded Silent Spring with two bestsellers on ocean life.

Breast cancer took her at 56, but she’s one of those people for whom the words “she’s still with us” are more than a consoling bromide.

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12 thoughts on “Google Doodle honors Rachel Carson

  1. Her legacy’s celebrated in Pittsburgh, too; her homestead N of the city is open for tours.

    But I hadn’t been aware of her work with what is now the Fish & Wildlife Service until at a meeting at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown WV (very close to Antietam). An absolutely cool facility that you should grab any opportunity to visit, and if you’re able to attend a meeting there, ask about seeing the museum in the basement. They have some ephemera of hers there.

  2. One of my theatre professors in college wrote a one woman show about Carson’s life called “A Sense of Wonder.” She has been traveling around the country performing it for the past two decades. I had the opportunity to see it about seven or eight years ago. It was one of my first immersions into the inner life of a great scientist and human being; it is one of the things that sparked my passion and respect for scientists and their work.

  3. My mother purchased her book “Silent Spring” the year it was published, and it transformed the way our family lived. We all became conscientious “ecologists” respectful of the environment in ways we weren’t aware of before. I have a huge respect for Rachel Carson.

  4. Does it seem to anyone else that there are far fewer insects today than in the past?

    In the 1970s we used to drive 400 miles from Oshkosh, WI, to Wilmar, MN. We’d arrive at each end of the journey with the car PLASTERED in dead bugs. It was gross, but I was always fascinated and saddened when I’d find rarer or more beautiful insects.

    I don’t recall anything like this when I lived in SW Michigan, western Pennsylvania, or the Piedmont of North Carolina, nor on any of my road trips back to Wisconsin.

    Are my memories accurate and representative of a real decline in insect numbers, or am I misled by my childhood impressions?

    1. We got a fair coating of bugs a few years ago in SW MN when driving in the evening, more than we get in central PA. I wonder if current, more aerodynamically shaped cars reduce the number of bug hits?

  5. The right wing is shrieking about Carson being a catalyst for getting DDT banned and causing malaria death. Except this is wrong – as everyone on this website knows (grin) mosquitoes can evolve resistance to DDT in a very short amount of time. As of 20-25 years ago, the only places that had much malaria trouble were places where DDT was still being used.

    1. Plus, the travesty of right wingers pretending to be concerned about (black) Africans is too revolting to be funny.

      They are concerned about profits for pesticide manufacturers. Period.

      1. I suspect that tearing down Rachel Carson is more just part of a more general campaign the right is fighting against environmentalists. Rachel Carson has to be smeared because she was a leading early environmentalist.

  6. I read silent spring not too long ago. Prompted by another book I was reading at the time.
    Sadly, after living in the Sierra Nevada for the better part of 20 years, I really don’t see a dramatic change in attitude and use of toxins in the forests.

    Did you know that part of the process of clear cutting involves spraying herbicides to prevent competition with the generic trees. Nearly 300,000 pounds of herbicides were sprayed in California’s forested counties in 2010 (California Department of Pesticide Regulation).

    I think Rachel Carson would be saddened by how little things have changed, despite the environmental movement.

  7. Although I graduated with a BA in American history,I was able to write my undergraduate thesis on Rachel Carson’s work. “The ecological ramifications of American mythology”, 1989.

  8. Of course, memory plays tricks on all of us, but *if* I recall correctly, “Silent Spring” was the first serious non-children’s non-fiction book that I ever read. I was 9 when it came out, and it must have been not long after that when I read it. I have been an environmentalist at heart ever since; not even 25 years as a fundamentalist was able to displace that conviction.

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