Remembering Silver Spring's Rachel Carson, Environmental Pioneer (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Remembering Silver Spring's Rachel Carson, Environmental Pioneer

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We'll head now from downtown Silver Spring to a quiet residential street off New Hampshire Avenue, just north of Columbia Pike. It's here in a two-story rambler, that's what's widely considered one of the greatest environmental books ever was written.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:17
"Silent Spring," penned by conservationist Rachel Carson, was published in 1962, and inspired a grassroots movement that led to the beginning of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This month marks the 50th anniversary of Carson's death. To learn more about her life and her impact, environment reporter Jonathan Wilson visited her former home to talk with Diana Post, a co-owner of the property.

MS. DIANA POST

00:00:45
This is her study. And it's a very warm, homey place. She had books lined up over there. We, unfortunately, don't have those books, but we have the shelves that were there. And the paneling, the very plain fireplace and just a warm and wonderful site. It's inspiring to people who come here. We've had people who wanted to record their songs here because of the inspiration that they gained from looking around and just feeling like it was holy ground.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:01:26
So how similar is this room to how it was when she was writing?

POST

00:01:31
As far as paneling, exactly. Her desk was near that window. And she had a record player. That's pretty much all we know. We don't know that much about it because there were no photographs, except for the photographs taken by the people from CBS who interviewed her here. And they created the program, "The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson," which was a very important step in the acceptance of her work and the acceptance of the problem with pesticides.

WILSON

00:02:08
So she did get attention when she wrote the book.

POST

00:02:11
Yes. There was a commission established by President Kennedy to look into the information in the book, to verify it or to determine if it was misleading. And they did acknowledge and vindicate what she said was true.

WILSON

00:02:30
We're in the house where she lived. What was her day-to-day life like? Do we know?

POST

00:02:35
Well, we know that she was a workaholic-type person. She loved work, she loved research, she loved poring over facts and making them understandable to the public. And this is what she devoted four years to writing "Silent Spring" to -- in this house, in either her study, or when she wasn't feeling well, in her bedroom.

WILSON

00:03:00
So, again, for people who aren't familiar with why she is so revered. What's the easiest way to explain her impact?

POST

00:03:11
Well, she wrote a book called, "Silent Spring," published it in '62. And it was the genesis of the modern environmental movement -- the fountainhead, so to speak. And from it grew the EPA. The EPA was founded in 1970, and as a result – they themselves acknowledge -- of "Silent Spring." So there was a great deal of activity and environmental activity and legislation -- The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, The Endangered Species Act, all were emerging in the decades after "Silent Spring" was published.

WILSON

00:03:58
So nowadays, you know, we hear the word pesticides, and everybody knows to be a little cautious about pesticides and it's just common knowledge. But back then, you're telling me, people didn't think that way.

POST

00:04:08
Correct. They were in awe of the new, bright, shiny toys that they had to control weeds, to control insects -- DDT, 2,4-D, and some of the others. And they didn't really have enough of the negative information about these chemicals, and the field of toxicology was just emerging. And Rachel Carson contributed to its success, and this is acknowledged by people writing about the history of toxicology.

POST

00:04:46
So when she wrote "Silent Spring," they realized that they needed to look around, read labels, find alternatives or risks, possible harm, possibly cancer or other untoward effects.

SHEIR

00:05:02
That was Silver Spring resident Diana Post speaking with environment reporter Jonathan Wilson. You can see photos of the Rachel Carson house and hear more of Jonathan's conversation with Diana Post on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:05:24
After the break, we'll revisit the Silver Spring War.

MR. GUS BAUMAN

00:05:28
It was being fought neighborhood by neighborhood. It was being fought in court. It was fought through political action. It was very tough.

SHEIR

00:05:37
And we'll find out why this community is such a hot spot for record collectors.

MR. SAM LOCK

00:05:43
When we moved in it wasn't quite as cosmopolitan as it is now. So the rent was cheaper, but it's got a great demographic for us. We need all ages, all races.

SHEIR

00:05:52
That's just ahead as our tour of Silver Spring continues here on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.

ANNOUNCER

00:06:00
WAMU news coverage of labor and employment issues is made possible by your contributions, and by Matthew Watson, in memory of Marjorie Watson. And support for WAMU 88.5's coverage of the environment comes from the Wallace Genetic Foundation, dedicated to the promotion of farmland preservation, the reduction of environmental toxins, and the conservation of natural resources.
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