Poison the earth and it will poison you. That was the message of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and it's one that awakened a nation.
In 1962 Silent Spring made a huge impression on the public because Carson made it clear that pesticides didn't kill only bugs, they were also contaminating our entire food supply. Fish, birds, and even us humans who reside at the top of the food chain were susceptible to the hazards of these manmade chemicals.
Silent Spring, from housewives to the White House, got the attention of readers across the nation. By encouraging us to reconsider our relationship with the natural world, Carson has been credited with laying the groundwork for the modern environmental movement.
Before Silent Spring hit the shelves, The New Yorker gave it a soft launch of sorts by serializing it in three parts. Today it's another voice from The New Yorker who is documenting the catastrophic effect that we're having on the planet. In her new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert writes:
"Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us."
Today Harvard historian Nancy Koehn discusses why Rachel Carson's message roused the nation and Elizabeth Kolbert's work has made a barely audible thud.
To be awakened by Nancy Koehn listen here: