A Sense of Wonder

As part of Environment Week events, the film A Sense of Wonder about the life of Rachel Carson will be presented at 7 pm on Friday, June 12, 2009, in Building 200 at Vancouver Island University. This event is sponsored by Nanaimo Global Film Festival and the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust.

Rachel Carson is credited with sparking the environmental movement in North America. In 1962 Carson published her third book, Silent Spring, which struck an immediate chord with the American public. People who had noticed and shared her concern over the mass deaths of birds and fish, and the effects on other species, responded with scores of letters to newspapers and magazines. Her scientific research explained the connection between the indiscriminate use of pesticides and their cumulative effect on wildlife.

Rachel, a graduate biologist with a talent for writing, experienced a storm of opposition, often slanderous, but even scientists who opposed her conclusions admitted that her research was thorough and her facts were correct. While lawsuits were threatened, none were ever filed. President Kennedy set up a special scientific committee, and a year later the committee substantiated many of her claims. In 1970 President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consolidate environmental preservation.

Time Magazine, which in 1962 said Carson’s conclusions were “patently unsound”, at the end of the century called her “one very brave woman” and named her one of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century.