September 27, 2012

Video of the Week: A Tribute to Rachel Carson and Silent Spring

by Christine Hoekenga

Over increasingly large areas of the United States spring now comes unheralded by the return of birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.  — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring 1962

Fifty years ago this week, Rachel Carson’s now-famous book Silent Spring rolled off of the presses. It drew widespread attention to the effects of pesticides like DDT on wildlife and human communities and is often credited with launching the modern environmental movement in the United States. The title laments the loss of songbirds to unintentional poisoning.


As a child growing up on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, Carson learned to love and respect birds and other wildlife. Our video of the week is a tribute to Carson and her enormous impact on public understanding of ecology and environmental toxicology in the United States. The Eastern Towhee shown here is one of many birds Carson likely heard singing on her farm during her formative years.  Thanks in large part to Carson’s eye-opening book, broad applications of pesticides have been reduced, and there’s hope that we will never experience a truly silent spring.

Read a brief biography of Rachel Carson and excerpts from her often lyrical writings

Learn more about the Eastern Towhee (including listening to other audio clips of their songs and calls) as well as many other bird species on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds site

Read the first chapter of Lind Lear’s Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, a detailed biography of Carson’s life

Have you read Silent Spring or other writings by Rachel Carson? What did you think?


Christine Hoekenga

Written by

Christine is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist, specializing in science and nature. She holds an Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Media Studies and a Master's of Science Writing. She has been working in science communication and education for nearly a decade as a journalist, an organizer for conservation groups, and a museum educator. Before joining the Visionlearning team, she served as the New Media and Online Community Manager for the Webby award-winning Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Christine is assisting Visionlearning with developing new modules and glossary terms, managing the blog, and outreach through social media.

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