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16 April 1998
Rachel CarsonWitness for Nature 
by Linda Lear.
Allen Lane, 634 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 7139 9236 0
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... defoliant), the mosquito, the fire-ant were all enemies that the American Government believed could be wiped out for ever, and aircraft began drenching vast swathes of countryside with poison. RachelCarson’s Silent Spring focused public interest on the appalling risks that the US Government had ignored and stopped the policy of blanket spraying in its tracks. Its publication marked the ...

A Strange Blight

Meehan Crist: Rachel Carson’s Forebodings

6 June 2019
‘Silent Spring’ and Other Writings on the Environment 
by Rachel Carson, edited by Sandra Steingraber.
Library of America, 546 pp., £29.99, March 2018, 978 1 59853 560 0
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... Kazakh steppe. And the walruses. Oh, the walruses. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, and then as now the die-offs were caused by human activity. In Silent Spring, her ecological masterpiece, RachelCarson wrote of fish and birds mysteriously dropping dead all across America (‘In the summer of 1960 the refuge staff picked up hundreds of dead and dying birds at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath … ...

Noddy is on page 248

Jay Griffiths: On the streets

10 June 1999
The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Protest 
edited by Brian MacArthur.
Penguin, 440 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87052 8
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DIY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain 
edited by George McKay.
Verso, 310 pp., £11, July 1998, 1 85984 260 7
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... subjects, heavily protested. MacArthur’s gravitas has advantages. The book is thorough on race equality, poverty and war, and the selection provides a sober roll-call: Ida B. Wells, Aneurin Bevan, RachelCarson, Martin Luther King, Václav Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Its portrayal of the first half of the century has solidity; you are in safe, if stubby hands. There are also some poignant contributions ...

The Prodigal Century

David Blackbourn: Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century by John McNeill

7 June 2001
Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century 
by John McNeill.
Penguin, 448 pp., £8.99, August 2001, 0 14 029509 7
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... motor plant and costs the USA a billion dollars a year. Only occasionally does a section seem skimpy, like the half-page on space junk or – more surprisingly – the three pages plus picture of RachelCarson, under the sub-heading ‘environmental ideas’. The detail is often vivid (like the lions in London Zoo dying of smog-induced bronchitis), and McNeill has a dry sense of humour, perhaps a ...

Middle-Aged and Dishevelled

Rebecca Solnit: Endangered Species?

23 March 2006
In the Company of Crows and Ravens 
by John Marzluff and Tony Angell.
Yale, 384 pp., £18.95, October 2005, 0 300 10076 0
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... population on the beaches – told me he considered ravens and crows to be tantamount to a ‘second Silent Spring’ (the first being the destruction of birds by DDT and other pesticides, which RachelCarson addressed in her 1962 book). When I came to San Francisco, ravens and crows were a rare sight in urban spaces; they had become rare altogether in the 1920s, but populations since the 1980s ...

The Most Eligible Bachelor on the Planet

Thomas Jones: ‘The President is Missing’

5 July 2018
The President Is Missing 
by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.
Century, 513 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 78089 839 1
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... or his country. He’s also a former governor of North Carolina, the state he was born in and where he was brought up by his single mother. He married his law school sweetheart (called, bizarrely, RachelCarson), and they had one child, a daughter. So he’s a curious – you could almost say implausible – mix of John McCain and Bill Clinton, though a few decades younger than either of them ...

Perfectly Mobile, Perfectly Still

David Craig: Land Artists

14 December 2000
Time 
by Andy Goldsworthy.
Thames and Hudson, 203 pp., £35, August 2000, 0 500 51026 1
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... lives in responsible husbandry with nature, and seeks a symbiotic relationship with his environment and its renewable resources,’ we recognise notions from green thinking. The dismaying findings of RachelCarson in Silent Spring are ingrained in us now. So, positively, are Darwin’s demonstrations of how life works, how its ‘self-developing energies’ unfold, in that unobtrusive phrase from his ...
8 May 1997
Promising The Earth 
by Robert Lamb.
Routledge, 204 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 415 14443 4
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... mineral water production; Hitler’s doctor, Theodor Morell, held up the use of DDT in the Third Reich until 1943, on the grounds that it was a threat to health (this put him twenty years ahead of RachelCarson, who published Silent Spring in 1962); the doctors who supported the ‘new German science of healing’ at a meeting in Nuremberg in May 1935 did so because they opposed what they called ...
18 May 2000
... and all) during the postwar ‘green revolution’ – problems which GM techniques, as much as organic farming, are supposed to consign to history. (In 1962, the first lady of environmentalism, RachelCarson, was enthusiastic, for just this reason, about the potential of the bio-insecticide B.t., now reviled for its alleged effect on certain butterflies.) Nor would my futurologist have witnessed ...

Naderland

Jackson Lears: Ralph Nader’s novel

8 April 2010
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 
by Ralph Nader.
Seven Stories, 733 pp., $27.50, September 2009, 978 1 58322 903 3
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... difficult man. Nader’s work habits, ambition and obsession with detail got him to Princeton, where the number of dead birds on campus led him to demand an investigation into DDT (a decade before RachelCarson), and then to Harvard Law School, where he scraped by, never unpacking his boxes, consuming huge meals of yankee pot roast and strawberry shortcake, disappearing on long hitchhiking trips ...

Diary

Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands

14 July 2011
... wonder if there’s been a change in the way we think of nature itself, enough to make Ring of Bright Water and its like seem quaint, if not impossible. In 1962, two years after Ring of Bright Water, RachelCarson published Silent Spring. It made clear how an act here – spraying with DDT to control insects – had a dire effect there: weakening the shells of birds’ eggs. It was at once a plea, a ...
5 September 1996
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story 
by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers.
Little, 306 pp., £17.50, May 1996, 0 316 87546 5
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... for this is a book designed to alert a popular audience to a new range of risks. It carries a Foreword by Al Gore, in which he compares the work to that classic of the environmentalist movement, RachelCarson’s The Silent Spring, published some thirty years ago. Carson analysed the toxic effects of the spreading use of industrial chemicals, showing how these were accumulating in the soil, as well ...

Dressed in Blue Light

Amy Larocca: Gypsy Rose Lee

11 March 2010
Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee 
by Noralee Frankel.
Oxford, 300 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 19 536803 1
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Gypsy: The Art of the Tease 
by Rachel​ Shteir.
Yale, 222 pp., £12.99, March 2009, 978 0 300 12040 0
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... performed all the time, endlessly reducing grown men to sobbing matri-rage – particularly when Patti LuPone is involved. Both Stripping Gypsy by Noralee Frankel and Gypsy: The Art of the Tease by Rachel Shteir struggle, much like their subject, to escape Rose’s heavy shadow – ‘the musical’s premise that the only moving force in Gypsy’s rise to fame was her mother is an illusion that needs ...
28 May 1992
Understanding the present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Picador, 272 pp., £14.95, May 1992, 0 330 32012 2
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... mundane lives. It is chemistry that has changed the face of the earth, poisoned the air and the waters, and, some say, may heat us to extinction. (Chemistry is mentioned only once, in connection with RachelCarson’s Silent Spring.) Likewise the knowledge of microbes and the practice of sanitation are responsible for the population explosion. I do wish the sceptics of science would ‘get real’, as ...

Then came the Hoover

Hugh Pennington: The Allergy Epidemic

22 June 2006
Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady 
by Mark Jackson.
Reaktion, 288 pp., £25, May 2006, 1 86189 271 3
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... undetectable by the human senses, such as minute particles from motor car exhausts, microwaves from phone masts and insecticides in food, have caused particular concern since the publication of RachelCarson’s Silent Spring. But Carson was building on a long-standing tradition. Miasmas – invisible emanations from the environment – were feared just as much in the 19th century as pollutants ...

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