Back to main page 

Rachel Carson Quotations 

"Down on the shore we have savored the smell of low tide-that marvelous evocation combined of many separate odors, of the world of seaweeds and fishes and creatures of bizarre shape and habit, of tides rising and falling on their appointed schedule, of exposed mud flats and salt rime drying on the rocks. I hope [my nephew] Roger will later experience, as I do, the rush of remembered delight that comes with the first breath of that scent, drawn into one's nostrils as one returns to the sea after a long absence." Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), p. 66.
"In the Salt Pond itself live many inhabitants of the intertidal zone, the area which is exposed only at low tide. . . . Most of the brown-green seaweeds growing on the rocks are either rockweeds or knotted wrack. At very low tide, one can see a species of red algae called Irish moss, which may also be green or purple. Other seaweeds such as kelp, sea collander, or dulse, which do not normally grow in the intertidal zone, may wash up here. Living between or sharing the rocks with the seaweeds are several kinds of mollusks [and] three species of periwinkles (snails). . . . Preying on these mollusks are dogwinkles or whelks. . . . Hermit and green crabs are also abundant in the Salt Pond. Common starfish and green sea urchins are found occasionally. . . ." From "Life in the Salt Pond," Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve Brochure, Maine Chapter, The Nature Conservancy.
"In the early 1950s, when Carson finished The Sea Around Us, she was optimistic about the use science could make of nature while still respecting the final priority of natural processes over human manipulation. . . . Ten years later, at work on Silent Spring, Carson was no longer as sanguine about the ability of the environment to protect itself from human interference. She had begun to understand the destructive impact civilization had on the environment, and was presented with a dilemma: the growth of civilization destroys the environment, but only through increased knowledge (a product of civilization) can destruction be stopped." Vera Norwood, "Heroines of Nature: Four Women Respond to the American Landscape," Environmental Review, 8, no. 1 (1984): 34-56, on pp. 46-7.
"[Rachel Carson] had peered into the fairy caves and tide pools of her beloved Maine coast and had seen the fragility and tenacity with which even the smallest creatures struggled for life against the relentless ocean tides. Her flashlight had captured the unforgettable spectacle of the solitary crab on the rocky beach at midnight, vulnerable yet unassailably resilient. She could not stand idly by and say nothing when all that was in jeopardy, when human existence itself was endangered. . . . She wrote a revolutionary book [Silent Spring, 1962] in terms that were acceptable to a middle class emerging from the lethargy of postwar affluence and woke them to their neglected responsibilities. It was a book in which she shared her vision of life one last time. In the sea and the bird's song she had discovered the wonder and mystery of life. Her witness for these, and the integrity of all life, would make a difference." Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (New York: Henry Holt, 1997), pp. 4-5.
"These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes-nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the 'good' and the 'bad,' to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil-all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called 'insecticides,' but 'biocides.'" Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962).
"[Rachel Carson] articulated a philosophy of how civilized people ought to relate to nature and its care. Carson's technical critique of insecticides launched from a philosophical foundation ultimately found a home in a new movement, environmentalism, in the late 1960s and 1970s. She must be regarded as one intellectual founder of the movement, even though she perhaps did not intend to do so nor did she live to see the real fruition of her work." John Perkins, Insects, Experts, and the Insecticide Crisis: The Quest for New Pest Management Strategies (New York: Plenum Press, 1982), p. 33.