Silent Spring at 50: Reflections on an Environmental Classic

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Fifty years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the book’s legacy is mixed. It helped raise awareness about the costs of mass spraying operations, but it also provided justification for campaigns against the use of DDT in malaria control programs, which contributed to the deaths of millions in Africa and Asia.

Earlier in her writing career, Carson was a well respected nature writer, but in Silent Spring, she shifted to advocating positions linked to a darker tradition in American environmental thinking: neo-Malthusian population control and anti-technology efforts. Her background as a nature writer gave credence to these views and helped build those darker themes into mainstream environmentalism today. In this PERC Policy Series, Roger E. Meiners and Andrew P. Morriss argue that Carson’s red flag was raised too high.

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