Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964) was an extremely gifted writer and biologist who patiently wrote throughout the 1940s to 1960s of the effect of pesticides on soil, water, and air. Finally, with her detailed and emphatic 1962 publication, Silent Spring, Carson gained widespread recognition.
Silent Spring was profound, not only because it delivered a thunderous awareness of the harm of modern farming, but also because it imagined a partnership between humans and nature, working with rather than through. Carson urged a focus on the small as a window to the consequential. Her position launched a movement of environmentalists who thought similarly.
Of Carson’s many lessons, to care is first and foremost. To care and then to know. There is a gentle kindness in her writing, a wonder of nature and despite all cause for it, a lack of admonishment for those who destroy it.
The pathos of evolving nature at the hands of humans is not modern. It endures at the core of the work of American poet Wendell Berry and even in the writing of 18th century English poet John Clare.