This month is the 50th birthday of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," the book that ignited the environmental movement and helped to ban DDT in the U.S. Carson combined data, case studies, and anecdotes to paint a frightening picture of a world poisoned by synthetic pesticides.
But long before she took on DDT, Carson investigated two worrying and perplexing trends: warming winters and rising sea levels. In 1951, she published "The Sea Around Us," which would win the 1952 National Book Award for Nonfiction and a Burroughs Medal in nature writing. Popular Science printed a condensed version of the bestseller in November 1951, calling it "one of this year's most fascinating books." Here is an excerpt (of the excerpt) from our archives.
Read the full story in our November 1951 issue: Why Our Winters Are Getting Warmer.
Carson's talent is fabricating an emotionally charged fantasy from the very thinnest of facts. Ironically, DDT, the criminal in Silent Spring, is possibly the most benign pesticide ever used. It didn't kill anyone or cause cancer or birth defects. Studies controlling for multiple environmental factors affecting raptors showed no significant effect on egg shell thinning, contrary to Carson's claims. The only valid indictment was that it was being overused, which was easy to solve. The terrible legacy of the subsequent ban on DDT was the deaths of millions of people, mostly children, in malaria-stricken countries that would have been prevented by the studious application of DDT...all in the name of protecting birds that weren't even affected by it. This was the worst--but not the only one--of the excesses of the environmental movement
I miss DDT. Thanks to it, Florida, my home state does not have malaria, but poor children all over the tropical part of the world still gets the privilege of dieing of malaria. Thanks Carson!
Don't forget everyone that in the 70s (and I was alive during that time) that it was all about how to survive the pending ice age...