Linda Lear's introduction to the 2002 edition
Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:24 am
Those of you reading the 2002 edition, did you read Linda Lear's intro? These two paragraphs ring familiar to me.
It's hard to remember the cultural climate that greeted Silent Spring and to understand the fury launched against its quietly determined author. Carson's thesis that we were subjecting ourselves to a slow poisoning by the misuse of chemical pesticides that polluted the environment may seem like common currency now, but in 1962 Silent Spring contained the kernel of a social revolution. Carson wrote at a time of new affluence and intense social conformity. The cold war, with its climate of suspicion and intolerance, was at its zenith. The chemical industry, one of the chief beneficiaries of post-war technology, was also one of the chief authors of the nation's prosperity. DDT enabled the conquest of pests in agriculture and of ancient insect-borne disease just as surely as the atomic bomb destroyed America's military enemies and dramatically altered the balance of power between humans and nature. The public endowed chemists, at work in their starched white coats in remote laboratories with almost divine wisdom. The results of their labors were gilded with the presumption of beneficence. In post-war America, science was god, and science was male.
In 1962 , however, the multimillion-dollar industrial chemical industry was not about to allow a former government editor, a female scientist without a Ph.D. or an institutional affiliation, known only for her lyrical books on the sea, to undermine public confidence in its products or to question its integrity. It was clear to the industry that Rachel Carson was a hysterical woman whose alarming view of the future could be ignored or, if necessary, suppressed. She was a "bird and bunny lover," a woman who kept cats and was therefore clearly suspect. She was a romantic "spinster" who was simply overwrought about genetics. In short, Carson was a women out of control. She had overstepped the bounds of her gender and her science. But just in case her claims did gain an audience, the industry spent a quarter of a million dollars to discredit her research adn malign her character. In the end, the worst they could say was that she had told only one side of the story and had based her argument on unverifiable case studies.