Hero of Sustainability:
Rachel Louise Carson (1907–1964) was an American biologist, author, and conservationist. Her stance against the use of what she called biocides (pesticides and herbicides) catalysed action against multi-national corporations doing significant environmental damage. This ultimately led to the use of DDT being banned in the 1970s.
Carson began her career as a marine biologist and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award, recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Subsequent books about the sea, The Edge of the Sea and Under the Sea Wind were also bestsellers.
Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. In 1962, she published the book Silent Spring, for which she is best known around the world. Silent Spring met fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it catalysed a change in national pesticide policy, leading to a ban on DDT and other pesticides in the USA. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement which culminated in the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Carson’s work had a powerful impact, with Silent Spring in particular, as a rallying point for the fledgling environmental social movement in the 1960s. Her work also influenced the rise of ecofeminism as well as many feminist scientists.
Carson’s most direct legacy in the environmental movement was the campaign to ban the use of DDT in the United States (and related efforts to ban or limit its use throughout the world).
Her writings also influenced the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. One journalist described the EPA as “the extended shadow of Silent Spring.” Much of the agency’s early work, such as enforcing the 1972 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, was directly related to Carson’s work.