Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which in 1962 exposed the hazards of the pesticide DDT, eloquently questioned humanity’s faith in technological progress and helped set the stage for the environmental movement.
Carson, a renowned nature author and a former marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was uniquely equipped to create so startling and inflammatory a book.
Silent Spring took Carson four years to complete. It meticulously described how DDT entered the food chain and accumulated in the fatty tissues of animals, including human beings, and caused cancer and genetic damage. A single application on a crop, she wrote, killed insects for weeks and months, and not only the targeted insects but countless more, and remained toxic in the environment even after it was diluted by rainwater.
The book’s most haunting chapter, “A Fable for Tomorrow,” depicted a nameless American town where all life—from fish to birds to apple blossoms to human children—had been “silenced” by the insidious effects of DDT.