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Remembering Silver Spring's Rachel Carson, Environmental Pioneer

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The Rachel Carson House, a National Historic Landmark in the neighborhood of Quaint Acres in Silver Spring.
Jonathan Wilson/WAMU
The Rachel Carson House, a National Historic Landmark in the neighborhood of Quaint Acres in Silver Spring.
Rachel Carson's study, where she did much of her research and writing. (Jonathan Wilson/WAMU)

In a two-story rambler, conservationist Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which is widely considered one of the greatest environmental books ever published. This month marks the 50th anniversary of Carson’s death, and to learn more about her life and impact, Environment reporter Jonathan Wilson visited Carson’s former home to talk with Diana Post, a co-owner of the property.

Why Silent Spring remains relevant:

“It was the genesis of the modern environmental movement — the fountainhead, so to speak. It 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 published.”

Carson’s day-to-day life in Maryland:

“We know that she was a workaholic-type person. She loved work, she loved research and 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 [Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1960], in her bedroom.”

Exposing the dangers of pesticides:

“[The public and the agriculture industry] were in awe of the new bright shiny toys that they had to control weeds, to control insects: DDT, 24D, 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... So when she wrote Silent Spring, they realized that they needed to look around, read labels, find alternatives or risk possible harm — possibly cancer or other untoward effects.”

Music: "Younger Than Springtime" by Ray Conniff from The Broadway Collection

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