|See why Carson’s analysis is more relevant now than ever.Buy Silent Spring at Amazon.com|
Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, and ecologist, grew up simply in the rural river town of Springdale, Pennsylvania. Her mother bequeathed to her a life-long love of nature and the living world that Rachel expressed first as a writer and later as a student of marine biology. Carson graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in 1929, studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and received her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.
She was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries to write radio scripts during the Depression and supplemented her income writing feature articles on natural history for the Baltimore Sun. She began a fifteen-year career in the federal service as a scientist and editor in 1936 and rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
She wrote pamphlets on conservation and natural resources and edited scientific articles, but in her free time turned her government research into lyric prose, first as an article “Undersea” (1937, for the Atlantic Monthly), and then in a book, Under the Sea-wind (1941). In 1952 she published her prize-winning study of the ocean, The Sea Around Us, which was followed by The Edge of the Sea in 1955. These books constituted a biography of the ocean and made Carson famous as a naturalist and science writer for the public. Carson resigned from government service in 1952 to devote herself to her writing.
She wrote several other articles designed to teach people about the wonder and beauty of the living world, including “Help Your Child to Wonder,” (1956) and “Our Ever-Changing Shore” (1957), and planned another book on the ecology of life. Embedded within all of Carson’s writing was the view that human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some cases irreversibly.
Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn the public about the long term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government, and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world.
Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist, but courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment. Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer. Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion–but the debate was far from over, continuing to be a political battleground to this day. Bringing to light key voices that illuminate the case and its historical context, Before Roe v. Wade looks back and recaptures how the arguments for and against abortion took shape as claims about the meaning of the Constitution—and about how the nation could best honor its commitment to dignity, liberty, equality, and life.
In this ground-breaking book, Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the Supreme Court for 30 years for The New York Times, and Reva Siegel, a renowned professor at Yale Law School, collect documents illustrating cultural, political, and legal forces that helped shape the Supreme Court’s decision and the meanings it would come to have over time. A new afterword to the book explores what the history of conflict over abortion in the decade before Roe might reveal about the logic of conflict in the ensuing decades. The entanglement of the political parties in the abortion debate in the period before the Court ruled raises the possibility that Roe itself may not have engendered political polarization around abortion as is commonly supposed, but instead may have been engulfed by it.
Two weavers are approached by a vain, pompous Emperor who desires the finest and most luxurious clothes in all the land for himself – clothes which are befitting of his supreme status. The two weavers promise him just such a set of clothes, so fine and wonderful that they will only be for the eyes of the great and good in society; indeed, they will be quite invisible to anyone who is stupid, incompetent or unworthy of their position in society. What’s more, the clothes will be made of a material so fine (‘as light as a spider web‘) that they will not weigh down the wearer, so fine, the wearer will not even be aware of them draped over his body. Such a set of clothes would be perfect for a great Emperor. They would suit his sense of his own importance, and their magical properties of invisibility to the unworthy, would enable him to find out which of his ministers were unfit for their jobs (‘and I could tell the wise men from the fools‘).
Of course, the weavers are nothing more than a pair of con-men – swindlers who have no intention of creating a fine set of clothes. They have heard of the Emperor’s vanity and they believe they can turn his failings to their own advantage. So they decide to go to the pretence of making this set of fine clothes. Of course when the Emperor goes to visit the weavers at their work and they make a show of enthusing over the cloth and the clothes they are making, he cannot see anything at all. But he is too proud to admit that he cannot see the clothes. To do so, would be to label himself as stupid and unfit to be Emperor. And of course when his courtiers and ministers visit the weavers, they also cannot see these clothes, but they also pretend that they can – because if they say anything different, they will be admitting their own incompetence and unworthiness. (‘Can it be that I’m a fool? It would never do to let on that I can’t see the cloth‘). What’s more, if any of them did have their suspicions about the existence of the clothes, well to voice their doubts would be to imply that the Emperor himself was stupid enough and gullible enough to be taken in by this foolery.
When the Emperor finally walks out among his subjects in his non-existent finery, the crowds watch eagerly. They all want to see which of their friends or neighbours are so stupid that they cannot see the clothes. What actually happens of course, is that none of them see any clothes. But no one says anything. Perhaps some are embarressed to tell the truth because they think that they themselves must be too stupid to see the cloth. Perhaps others believe that to say anything derogatory would be to draw attention to the truth of the Emperor’s own stupidity. Perhaps others simply do not wish to be the first to speak out with a contrary voice. Only one small child who is far too innocent of all this pretension and social convention shouts out ‘But he hasn’t got anything on!’ At first the little boy’s father tries to correct the boy, but gradually the news breaks out and so everyone finally realises they are not alone in their inability to see the clothes. And now everybody begins to find the strength in numbers to admit there is nothing to see, and they begin to laugh.
The Emperor cringes, but continues with the procession, because to turn back now would be to admit his own gullibility. Better by far to carry on in the pretence that he is the only one who has the wisdom to see the clothes. His courtiers likewise feel they have to continue to live the lie, and dutifully follow their leader.