Rachel Carson Quotes

Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

Rachel Louise Carson, 1951
Rachel Louise Carson, 1951. JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images

Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring documenting the impacts of pesticides on ecology. Because of this book, Rachel Carson is often credited with reviving the environmentalist movement.

Selected Rachel Carson Quotations

• The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man. The concepts and practices of applied entomology for the most part date from that Stone Age of science.

It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modem and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth.

• Through all these new, imaginative, and creative approaches to the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures there runs a constant theme, the awareness that we are dealing with life with living populations and all their pressures and counter pressures, their surges and recessions. Only by taking account of such life forces and by cautiously seeking to guide them into channels favorable to ourselves can we hope to achieve a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves.

• We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster.

The other fork of the road -- the one less traveled by -- offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

• If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.

• For all at last returns to the sea -- to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the everflowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

• One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, 'What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?'”

• Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

• If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.

• If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.

• It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.

• Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species -- man -- acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.

• Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

• The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.

• No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.

• Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.

• To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.

• There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.

• The current vogue for poisons has failed utterly to take into account these most fundamental considerations. As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways. These extraordinary capacities of life have been ignored by the practitioners of chemical control who have brought to their task no high-minded orientation, no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper.

• 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."

Quotes About Rachel Carson

• Vera Norwood: "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." John Perkins: "She 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."