This Day in History

Sept. 27, 1962: Silent Spring Published

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Women's History
Rachel Carson | Zinn Education Project

Photo by Hank Walker, LIFE 1952.

On Sept. 27, 1962, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published.

The book exposes the devastating impact of widespread and uncontrolled pesticide use on the environment. As explained on the Rachel Carson website,

Serialized in three parts in The New Yorker, Silent Spring was published in August and became an instant best-seller and the most talked about book in decades. Utilizing her many sources in federal science and in private research, Carson spent over six years documenting her analysis that humans were misusing powerful, persistent, chemical pesticides before knowing the full extent of their potential harm to the whole biota.

. . . She identified human hubris and financial self-interest as the crux of the problem and asked if we could master ourselves and our appetites to live as though we humans are an equal part of the earth’s systems and not the master of them.

In response, Carson was vilified by the chemical industry and their allies in the mainstream press and government. She was called a Communist, disloyal, unscientific, and hysterical.

More than six decades later, the need to teach about threats to the environment is even greater and the attacks on truth telling continue.

The American Experience PBS offers a documentary called Rachel Carson: She set out to save a species. . . us.

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Find more lessons, books, and films to teach about environmental justice, the Cold War, and McCarthyism below.