Rachel Carson, fully Rachel Louise Carson

Carson, fully Rachel Louise Carson

American Conservationist, Marine Biologist and Author, best known for advancing the Global Environmental Movement and for her book "Silent Spring "

Author Quotes

The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place.

What happens? when the public interest is pitted against large commercial interests?

From all of this we may generalize that, since the beginning of biological time, there has been the closest possible interdependence between the physical environment and the life it sustains. The conditions on the young earth produced life; life then at once modified the conditions of the earth, so that this single extraordinary act of spontaneous generation could not be repeated. In one form or another, action and interaction between life and its surroundings has been going on ever since. The historic fact has, I think, more than academic significance. Once we accept it we see why we cannot with impunity make repeated assaults upon the environment as we do now. The serious student of earth history knows that neither life nor the physical world that supports it exists in little isolated compartments. On the contrary, he recognizes that extraordinary unity between organisms and the environment. For this reason he knows that harmful substances released into the environment return in time to create problems for mankind?.The branch of science that deals with these interrelations is Ecology?.We cannot think of the living organism alone; nor can we think of the physical environment as a separate entity. The two exist together, each acting on the other to form an ecological complex or an ecosystem

For the child? it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused - a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love - then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response... It is more important to pave the way for a child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts that he is not ready to assimilate.

The fact that man, like all other living creatures, is part of the vast ecosystems of the earth, subject to the forces of the environment,? she argued, was on a par with (and ultimately inseparable from) Darwin?s theory of evolution. The obvious corollary of such an evolutionary-ecological view is that ?man is affected by the same environmental influences that control the lives of all the many thousands of other species to which he is related by evolutionary ties.

When I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, studying under the great geneticist H. S. Jennings, the whole biological community was stirring with excitement over the recent discovery of another distinguished geneticist, Professor H. J. Muller, then at the University of Texas. Professor Muller had found that by exposing organisms to radiation he could produce those sudden changes in hereditary characteristics that biologists call mutations. Before this it had been assumed that the germ cells were immutable?immune to influences in the environment. Muller?s discovery meant that it was possible for many, by accident or design, to change the course of heredity, although the nature of the changes could not be controlled. It was much later that two Scottish investigators discovered that certain chemicals have a similar power to produce mutations and in other ways to imitate radiation. This was before the days of the modern synthetic pesticides, and the chemical used in these experiments was mustard gas. But over the years it has been learned that one after another of the chemicals used as insecticides or as weed-killers has power to produce mutations in the organisms tested or to change or damage the chromosome structure in some other way

How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?

Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself, in his cities of steel and concrete, from the realities of earth and water and the growing seed. Intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into more experiments for the destruction of himself and his world. There is certainly no single remedy for this condition and I am offering no panacea. But it seems reasonable to believe ? and I do believe ? that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.

The most alarming of all man?s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world?the very nature of its life.

When we review the history of mankind in relation to the earth we cannot help feeling somewhat discouraged, for that history is for the most part that of the blind or short-sighted despoiling of the soil, forests, waters and all the rest of the earth's resources. We have acquired technical skills on a scale undreamed of even a generation ago. We can do dramatic things and we can do them quickly; by the time damaging side effects are apparent it is often too late, or impossible, to reverse our actions. These are unpleasant facts, but they have given rise to the disturbing situations that this committee has now undertaken to examine.

A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

I am always more interested in what I am about to do than in what I have already done.

Man's future welfare and probably even his survival depend upon his learning to live in harmony, rather than in combat, with these forces.

The ocean is a place of paradoxes.

Who has decided ? who has the right to decide ? for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight. The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power; he has made it during a moment of inattention by millions to whom beauty and the ordered world of nature still have a meaning that is deep and imperative.

A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods. I always thought so myself; the Maine woods never seem so fresh and alive as in wet weather. Then all the needles on the evergreens wear a sheath of silver; ferns seem to have grown to almost tropical lushness and every leaf has its edging of crystal drops. Strangely colored fungi ? mustard-yellow and apricot and scarlet ? are pushing out of the leaf mold and all the lichens and the mosses have come alive with green and silver freshness.

I am glad to see Ruth Harrison raises the question of how far man has a moral right to go in his domination of other life. Has he the right, as in these examples [of intensive farming], to reduce life to a bare existence that is scarcely life at all? Has he the further right to terminate these wretched lives by means that are wantonly cruel? My own answer is an unqualified no.

Modern man in the artificial world of his cities and towns...often forgets the true nature of his planet and the long vistas of its history, in which the existence of the race of men has occupied a mere moment of time.

The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth ? soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife. To utilize them for present needs while insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program based on the most extensive research. Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.

Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?

Among the herbicides are some that are classified as ?mutagens,? or agents capable of modifying the genes, the materials of heredity. We are rightly appalled by the genetic effects of radiation; how then, can we be indifferent to the same effect in chemicals that we disseminate widely in our environment?

I am not afraid of being thought a sentimentalist? when I stand here tonight and tell you that I believe natural beauty has a necessary place in the spiritual development of any individual or any society. I believe that whenever we destroy beauty, or whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man's spiritual growth.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you this morning the problems of environmental hazards and the control of pesticides. The contamination of the environment with harmful substances is one of the major problems of modern life. The world of air and water and soil supports not only the hundreds of thousands of species of animals and plants, it supports man himself. In the past we have often chosen to ignore this fact. Now we are receiving sharp reminders that our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves. The problem you have chosen to explore is one that must be resolved in our time. I feel strongly that a beginning must be made on it now, -- in this session of Congress. For this reason I was delighted when I heard, Mr. Chairman, that you were planning to hold hearings on the whole vast problem of environmental pollution. Contamination of various kinds has now invaded all of the physical environment that supports us -- water, soil, air, and vegetation. It has even penetrated that internal environment within the bodies of animals and of men. It comes from many sources: radioactive wastes from reactors, laboratories and hospitals, fallout from nuclear explosions, domestic wastes from cities and towns; chemical wastes from factories, detergents from homes and industries.

The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster.

Any concept of biology is not only sterile and profitless, it is distorted and untrue, if it puts its primary focus on unnatural conditions rather than on those vast forces not of man's making that shape and channel the nature and direction of life.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Carson, fully Rachel Louise Carson
Birth Date
Death Date

American Conservationist, Marine Biologist and Author, best known for advancing the Global Environmental Movement and for her book "Silent Spring "