Come Back, Rachel Carson …

Rachel Carson, founder of the modern American environmental movement, was born May 27, 1907.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” –Rachel Carson, American marine biologist and conservationist, author of Silent Spring

I’ve been contemplating writing a book on Carson’s spiritual life — from her Presbyterian upbringing to her deep mysticism. Linda Lear’s excellent biography Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature is a thorough introduction to Carson. She’s an amazing woman. Here’s an excerpt from a column I wrote about her for Sojourners:

Rachel Carson—biologist, wri­ter, conservationist, Presby­ter­ian, and founder of the modern U.S. environmental movement—never lost her sense of wonder and awe in the natural world. She instinctively rooted for life and was ferocious in its defense. She sought out suppressed narratives in nature, such as the silencing of songbirds by industrial pesticides described in her 1962 classic Silent Spring. She cultivated an affectionate ethic for the natural world and the humans who worked most closely with it. Carson was driven by some “memory of paradise,” as playwright Eugene Ionesco put it.

Carson understood that human dignity was protected by social justice and had its own kind of natural beauty. Though Silent Spring focused on songbirds, Carson also flagged the danger pesticides posed to farm workers. Her research, along with immigration policy changes, gave Chicano leaders Dolores Huerta and César Chávez the climate they needed to mobilize for the rights and safety of farm workers, leading to the formation of the United Farm Workers union.

Read the rest of A Memory of Paradise by Rose Marie Berger.