Celebrating a Century of Rachel Carson


By Gerry Boyle '78

Silent SpringA celebration of the life of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson on the 100th anniversary of her birth, in May, brought performers, authors, and environmentalists—and admirers of Carson’s contribution to the environmental movement—to Mayflower Hill.

Events included a one-woman play about Carson, a performance by Maine folksinger Gordon Bok, and discussions on alternatives to toxic chemicals still used in our lives.

First published in 1962, Silent Spring was for most people a first warning of the hazards posed by pesticides. It changed the way we look at the natural world and our place in it and presaged discussions that now extend to climate change and management of natural resources.

The weekend events were sponsored by Colby’s Environmental Studies Program and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement and were organized by Gail Carlson, a visiting assistant professor and research scientist in environmental studies.

With more than 200 participants and a lineup of guest speakers that included the foremost Carson scholars, the Colby event was likely the most academic of the celebrations of the author’s centennial, according to Carlson. “I would go out on a limb and say our event was unique,” she said.

Carlson has taught Silent Spring in her courses for several years and still vividly recalls her first reading of the seminal work, which sent her scurrying to find more writings by and about Carson. “Almost every page I’d find that I was copying down an inspirational quote,” she said.

Carson was a complex person, she said, whose writings and actions have the power to inspire us as we face the daunting environmental challenges of the 21st century.

“Her message absolutely rings true today,” Carlson said.

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