Happy Birthday, Rachel Carson!

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Image via Google

You may not know who Rachel Carson is. But she changed the air you breathe and the food you eat.

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Image via the Rachel Carson Council

No, Rachel Carson was not a yogi or breathing guru, or nutritionist or a fad diet endorser. As Mark Stoll  Carson was a marine biologist, conservationist, and writer whose book Silent Spring helped launch the global environmental movement. We have Carson to thank (or hate on, if you’re Rick Perry) for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the ban on DDT, a pesticide which targeted insects but had deleterious effects on other species and contains carcinogens. Carson’s raised people’s awareness through her ground-breaking book Silent Spring, which was first published serially in four additions of The New Yorker in 1962.

Not surprisingly, the pesticide industry responded with a campaign of disinformation and sexism. As Mark Stoll details in a remarkable multimedia history, Carson’s gender, looks and un-married status were all seized upon by her critics,who called her a “hysterical woman,” a “priestess of nature” and a “spinster.”  An executive of the American Cyanamid Company warned, “If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.” And one scientist wrote an article entitled “Silence, Miss Carson.” An agricultural “expert” told a reporter, “You’re never going to satisfy organic farmers or emotional women in garden clubs.” And in a letter to President Eisenhower, Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson asked why a “spinster was so worried about genetics.” Because some things never change, Monsanto got in on the fun and printed a brochure parodying the book.

Luckily, Carson was prepared for these attacks. Born in Pennsylvania in 1907, Carson was told as young science student that “there was no future for women in science apart from teaching in high schools or obscure colleges” and that “science was too rigorous a field for women.” Yet by the time she wrote Silent Spring, Carson was an accomplished scientist and successful writer. In addition to penning  several articles, Carson had written three best-sellers,  The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea, and Under the Sea Wind.

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Image via Wikipedia

Carson continued to work on the issue of pesticides and testified before congress. The fact that she was battling multiple illnesses, including arthritis, an ulcer, staphylococcus infections, and cancer, makes her that much more impressive. She died of breast cancer in 1964. Learn more about Rachel Carson and how her legacy lives on.


Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.13.50 PM Katie Halper is a writer, filmmaker and comedian who first learned about Rachel Carson at Camp Kinderland, where she went and worked. Kinderland named one of its Olympics teams “Silent Spring.” 


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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