June 2012 marks 50 years since publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the book that helped launch the environmental movement. An ecologist and writer, Carson was the first to publicly expose the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds, as well as the hazards they pose to human health.
Her book, "The Sea Around Us," was published to wide acclaim, and gave her a name as a conservationist.
The title of Silent Spring is from the Keats poem, "La Belle Dame sans Merci," which contains the line "and no birds sing." The title is also Carson's core message about the devastation caused by pesticides. Silent Spring warned that extensive spraying with certain pesticides was damaging the food chain, and the entire ecosystem.
Carson stressed human beings exposed to these pesticides were at risk of cancer and other diseases.
The book helped establish the widely understood ecological principle that every ecosystem is interrelated and that damage to any one component causes damage to all other elements.
A new edition of Silent Spring has been published for the Rio + 20 summit in Rio de Janeiro this month.
View Michigan State University Museum article
View May 31, 2012 Haaretz article
View Environment & Society Portal popular culture study
View Silent Spring Wikipedia entry