Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movement
She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.
Rachel Carson began work on Silent Spring in the late 1950s, when a dizzying array of synthetic pesticides had come into use. Leading this chemical onslaught was the insecticide DDT, whose inventor had won a Nobel Prize for its discovery. Effective against crop pests as well as insects that transmitted human diseases such as typhus and malaria, DDT had at first appeared safe. But as its use expanded, alarming reports surfaced of collateral damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife. Silent Spring was a chilling indictment of DDT and its effects, which were lasting, widespread, and lethal.
Published in 1962, Silent Spring shocked the public and forced the government to take action-despite a withering attack on Carson from the chemicals industry. The book awakened the world to the heedless contamination of the environment and eventually led to the establishment of the EPA and to the banning of DDT and a host of related pesticides. By drawing frightening parallels between dangerous chemicals and the then-pervasive fallout from nuclear testing, Carson opened a fault line between the gentle ideal of conservation and the more urgent new concept of environmentalism.
Elegantly written and meticulously researched, On a Farther Shore reveals a shy yet passionate woman more at home in the natural world than in the literary one that embraced her. William Souder also writes sensitively of Carson’s romantic friendship with Dorothy Freeman, and of her death from cancer in 1964. This extraordinary new biography captures the essence of one of the great reformers of the twentieth century.
About William Souder
William Souder is the author of three books. “A Plague of Frogs” in 2000 followed the investigation of outbreaks of deformed frogs across North America. “Under a Wild Sky,” a 2004 biography of John James Audubon, won numerous awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. “On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson,” was published by Crown in September 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Carson’s “Silent Spring.” Mr. Souder lives in Grant, Minnesota.
“By 1959, some eighty million pounds of DDT were being used annually in the United States,” writes the author. Already a vocal conservationist, Carson had long suspected that pesticide use was accumulatively detrimental to animals and humans. This holistic view of the living world was startling and prescient, and it struck a chord with an American public that was already spooked by the similar dangers of fallout from nuclear testing. Carson grappled with the literary celebrity that accompanied Silent Spring, yearning to maintain a quiet, private life yet forced to answer the powerful opposition she faced from the chemical industry. Souder writes beautifully about this dichotomy, revealing intimate details about the writing process and her relationships with editors, fans, family and her beloved companion Dorothy Freeman, with whom she spent some of her happiest moments while on the Maine coastline. The author also conducted ample contextual research, providing readers with a clear sense of the political, economic and social ramifications of DDT use and the threat of atomic warfare and how Carson’s writing played a vital role in progressive public policy for decades after her death. One wonders how the past 50 years might have been different were Carson alive to write about global warming, fossil fuels, the erosion of coral reefs and other similar matters. That her views on DDT were eventually proven correct is just a small part of her legacy as an environmental pioneer, but also a defining instance of citizen activism. – Kirkus Reviews
The Poisoned Earth - ‘On a Farther Shore,’ by William Souder
The New York Times Book Review – September 14, 2012 (Excerpt)
On the bookshelves of many a contemporary environmental journalist looms at least one canonical text she’s hesitant to read. For this reviewer, it was Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” among the gloomiest books ever written, an unrelenting catalog of crimes committed by man against nature. But after reading William Souder’s engrossing new biography of Carson, “On a Farther Shore,” I returned to the book and discovered its central message to be — depressingly — timeless. Substitute organic pesticides and herbicides with the endocrine-disrupting compounds found in everyday household items or the creep of chemicals used in hydrofracking, and you may experience the same hair-prickling alarm felt by Carson’s readers 50 years ago.
“Silent Spring” was a clarion call that helped pave the way toward establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, tighter controls on the use of chemicals and other regulatory achievements. But success for its unassuming and enigmatic middle-aged author was no fluke, as Souder makes abundantly clear. By the time Carson signed her contract for this book, she had written scores of magazine and newspaper articles and three best-selling books about the sea, one of which, the lyrical “Sea Around Us,” had been serialized in The New Yorker. She was considered the nation’s pre-eminent nature writer. Her great themes, novel to many Americans at the time, were the biological forces that link all life through the ages, the interdependence of living organisms and the continual cycling of nutrients and genetic material through species and over time. [Read the full article...]
Book review: William Souder’s ‘On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson’
The Washington Post Book Review – September 28, 2012 (Excerpt)
Quick: How many nuclear warheads had been detonated above-ground by 1963?
If your answer was somewhere just north of two, I wouldn’t blame you. I wasn’t yet born then myself, and the idea of nuclear bombs exploding above Nevada is hard to fathom. The answer, I learned in the opening chapter of William Souder’s new biography of Rachel Carson, is more than 500. The United States was responsible for about 200 of those.
The story of Carson’s life is the story of an era that is quite recent but also strangely distant from our own, in which the twin threats of nuclear fallout and chemical use were the subject of national debate. Souder makes this plain in the book’s opening scene, with a reporter asking President John F. Kennedy about the growing concern over the use of the pesticide DDT. He responded that his administration was looking into it, “particularly, of course, since Miss Carson’s book.” [Read the full article...]
CRIMSON DAWN Book One of the Darklife Saga by Ronnie Massey
Two Women Hunting A Rogue Vampire
Vampire Valeria Trumaine must confront old demons and face new possibilities as she struggles to bring a rogue vampire to justice. Her best friend and powerful Sidhe princess, Irulan, joins the hunt. Valeria will find that Irulan’s motives for keeping her safe are not what she thinks. And soon she is faced with an undeniable attraction that makes her question everything she knew about herself. [Read More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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