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Heroes you should know: Rachel Carson

 “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”  -Rachel Carson Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist, an acclaimed non-fiction author, and a conservationist who is considered by many to be the inspiration of the modern environmental movement. Carson was reared on her family’s 65 acre farm in Pennsylvania, where she developed a love for nature and writing.  She majored in Biology at the Pennsylvania College for Women, and did graduate work in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins.  Her doctoral work was interrupted by the death of her father, and she chose to drop out of school to provide financially for her family.  But as is so often the case with heroes the end of one dream becomes a transition to a new dream. She took a job with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries writing script for a weekly radio program.  This led to her doing marine research, and eventually becoming a biologist for the Bureau. By 1949 Carson had become the chief editor of publications at what was now the Fish and Wildlife Service.  The job provided opportunities for her to spend time in the field, and to increase her writing projects.  In addition to her government work, she was also writing essays for journals like The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Collier’s, and had completed the first book of her trilogy on marine life.  The Sea Around Us would remain on the New York Times Best Seller List for 86 weeks. In 1952 the commercial success of her writing enabled Carson to quit her job with the government and work full-time as a writer and environmental researcher.  She had become deeply concerned with the use of DDT and other synthetic pesticides and was actively compiling research on the negative consequences for both the environment and humankind (including findings based on hundreds of individual cases of exposure to pesticides and the connection with cancer).  This work was finally presented in her controversial and best-selling Silent Spring.  The book, published in 1962, is a bleak portrayal of a natural world destroyed by pesticides.  Its release, and the furor it caused, was an international phenomenon.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture---which at the time was responsible for both regulating pesticides and advocating for the agricultural industry---and the chemical industry ferociously attacked both the book and Carson (personally and professionally).  Yet she never wavered in her commitment to what was true.  And on May 15, 1963 President Kennedy's Science Advisory Committee issued a report that largely supported her claims.  A year later, Rachel Carson’s life was cut short by cancer.  But her courage, her integrity, and her global influence on the way humans understand stewardship of the natural world is still felt today. On June 9, 1980, Rachel Carson was posthumously given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. She is a hero you should know.   To learn more about this hero, you might consider:-Wikipedia: Rachel L. Carson-1,000 years, 1,000 People, by Agnes and Henry Gottlieb and Barbara and Brent Bowers-Encyclopædia Britannica: Rachel Carson-The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement, Mark Hamilton Lytle

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