From Humanities: Environmental Prophet Rachel Carson Cultivated a Culture of Wonder

More than a half century after the publication of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book about the ecological dangers of pesticides, she endures as a writer few Americans recall with a smile.

Silent Spring, which drew its name from the prospect of a poisoned world in which no birds sing, sparked the modern environmental movement and the banning of DDT. It was a profound and important book, although not, because of its subject matter, a fun read. In spite of what it asked of readers—or perhaps because of it—Silent Spring became a runaway best-seller, cementing Carson’s place in literary history. She’s fixed in the public mind as a kind of hair-shirted prophet, full of dire but compelling predictions about the fate of the earth if humanity doesn’t change its ways.

But Carson (1907–1964) had a lighter, lyrical side, as Library of America has reminded readers with Silent Spring & Other Writings on the Environment, a new selection of her prose.

About Silent Spring, many already know. But the other writings in this LOA project, including letters, speeches, and articles, reveal a writer who could be hopeful, happy, even funny.

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