Great Books of the World – Part 10

“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall.
He will end by destroying the earth.”
Albert  Schweitzer

“La Soñadora” (The Dreamer) by Enya (courtesy of IntoTheLight911):

 

Yo; el otoño I; the autumn
Yo; el vespero I; the evening star
He sido un eco I have been an echo

Seré una ola I shall be a wave
Seré la luna I shall be the moon
He sido todo, soy yo I have been everything, I am myself

Yo; el verano I; the summer
Yo; el ébano I; the ebony
Soy la soñadora I am the dreamer

“In nature nothing exists alone.”
Rachel Carson

 

Courtesy of Eredus:

 

In this post, I am writing about Rachel Carson, whose prophetic warning in her famous book “Silent Spring” steered our attention into the path of the oncoming truth. This book was highly influential in highlighting the American government’s abuse of new chemical insecticides like DDT which was sprayed over farmland fields without any regard for the welfare of humans or other creatures. The highly toxic material was derived from lethal compounds developed originally for use in war. In her book, Rachel Carson wrote:

“For many years public-spirited citizens throughout the country have been working for the conservation of natural resources, realising their vital importance to the Nation. Apparently, their hard-won progress is to be wiped out, as a politically-minded Administration returns us to the dark ages of unrestrained exploitation and destruction.”

She was a messenger of modern environmentalism, and through her facts-finding that rocked the world, she became a towering figure whose light illuminated our sense of the world forever. The power of her words showed us how interconnected are our actions with all life on Earth. Rachel Carson was a woman of substance and courage, and generations were directed by her moral compass. We envy her spirit and we can only resolve to continue her work, needed even more now than ever.

Courtesy of TED-Ed:

 

RACHEL  CARSON

27 May 1907  –  14 April 1964

Rachel Carson was born in the Allegheny Valley at Springdale, the youngest of three children. She grew up on a Pennsylvanian farm, where she learned about nature and wildlife. From a very young age, she knew that she was born to write. When she was ten-years-old, her first work was published in the St Nicholas literary magazine for children. A reader and loner, she was a devotee of birds and all nature. She continued writing during her studies at Pennsylvania College for Women where she was studying English. The biology course reawakened her ‘sense of wonder’ which she had always brought to the natural world, and she switched to zoology.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine:

 

Allegheny River, Springdale in Pennsylvania

The family homestead in Springdale

Courtesy of CBS Sunday Morning:

 

Graduating magna cum laude in 1928, Carson went on to John Hopkins University to complete her Master’s degree in zoology. It is at this time that she first saw the sea and fell under the spell of its eternal mysteries. Her strong lyrical prose caught the attention of the editors at the Atlantic Monthly. She was invited to write her first work ‘Undersea’ for them. Its feeling was near-mystical  – the ever-changing changelessness of life on Earth. She explained that it was the sea that fascinated her, ‘for the sense of the sea, holding power of life and death over every one of its creatures from the smallest to the largest, would inevitably pervade every page.’

This is an extract that I feel compelled by its haunting beauty to quote:

“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 shorebirds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, 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. These things were before man ever stood on the shore of the ocean and looked out upon it with wonder; they continue year in, year out, throughout the centuries and ages, while man’s kingdoms rise and fall….  Thus… the parts of the plan fall into the place: the water receiving from earth and air the simple materials, storing them until the gathering energy of the spring sun wakens the sleeping plants to a burst of dynamic activity, hungry swarms of planktonic animals growing and multiplying upon the abundant plants, and themselves falling prey to the shoals of fish; all, in the end, to be redissolved into their component substances… Individual elements are lost to view, only to reappear again and again in different incarnations in a kind of material immortality…. Against this cosmic background, the life span of a particular plant or animal appears, not as a drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change.”

Courtesy of kuma1024:

In 1940 she was working at the Fish and Wildlife Service as an editor specialising in marine zoology. She was liked by all her colleagues for her uncommon competence and dedication but also for her childlike enthusiasm and undiminished wonder at the myriad ways of nature which made a scientific expedition out of the simplest foray into field or tide pool.

“Martha’s Harbour” by All About Eve:

 

At that time, Carson learned of the government’s plans to distribute through the Department of Agriculture pesticides, even more toxic than DDT, including dieldrin, parathion. heptachlor, malathion, and others, for public use and commercial manufacture. “The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became, I realised that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything that meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened and that nothing I could do would be more important.”

She intended to make sure that if the public continued to be led by politicians who stood by and allowed the looting of the world resources and the pollution of the land, air, and water that our children must inherit, it would not be because we knew no better. In 1957, startling wildlife mortality in the wake of a mosquito control campaign near Duxbury, Massachusetts, was followed by a spraying of DDT over eastern Long Island for the needless eradication of the gypsy moth. That year Carson protested in a letter to the Washington Post about the use of highly poisonous hydrocarbons and organophosphates allied to nerve gases to chemical warfare build-up from small beginnings to what a noted British ecologist recently called “an amazing rain of death upon the surface of the earth.” Most of these chemicals have long-persisting residues on vegetation, in soils, and even in the bodies of earthworms and other organisms. If this “rain of death” has produced such disastrous effects on birds, what of other lives, including our own?

Courtesy of GBH Archives:

Rachel Carson hit upon a metaphor with her book title “Silent Spring” which would draw these dire warnings to a powerful point.

“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings… Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change… There was a strange stillness… The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that once throbbed with the dawn chorus… of scores of bird voices, there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”

“Song of the Birds” by Pablo Casals, performed by Yo-Yo Ma (courtesy of Ένας αγέρας)

 

The house of Rachel Carson in Colesville, near Silver Spring, Maryland

Silent Spring, serialised in the New Yorker in June and July of 1962, raised the violent fury of the entire chemical industry. As the book said: “This is an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged.” She was accused of many things, including that she “ignored God” and she responded: “As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no conflict between a belief in evolution and belief in God as the creator. Believing as I do in evolution, I merely believe that is the method by which God created, and is still creating, life on earth.  And it is a method so marvellously conceived that to study it in detail is to increase – and certainly never to diminish  – one’s reverence and awe both for the Creator and the process.”

By the end of 1969, Time would run Carson’s photo at the head of an environmental article citing new evidence that completely supported the data in Silent Spring. The book became a runaway bestseller, with international reverberations.  Miss Carson was awarded the Audubon Medal and numerous honours. Famed as a scientist whose timely book on chemical poisons served as a warning to the world about the insatiable nature of corporate greed, she was at the same time a great writer, perhaps the finest nature writer of her century. Throughout her life, she was brave and fierce in her defence of what she held most sacred, which was the wonder of life and all its creatures, even such malignant creatures as ourselves.

She wrote about forest spruce behind her cottage which she planted:

“The island voice which came… most beautifully and clearly each evening was the voice of a forest spirit, the hermit thrush. At the hour of the evening’s beginnings, its broken and silvery cadences drifted with infinite deliberation across the water. Its phrases were filled with beauty and its meaning that were not wholly of the present, as though the thrush were singing of other sunsets, extending far back beyond his personal memory, through aeons of time when his forebears had known this place and from spruce trees long since returned to earth had sung the beauty of the evening. Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of its own creation… But I believe that 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.”

Hermit Thrush

The song of the Hermit Thrush (courtesy of Wild Bird and Nature Videos by McElroy Productions):

 

At one of the World Wildlife Fund dinners, its former president, the Duke of Edinburgh said:

“Miners used canaries to warn them of deadly gases. It might not be a bad idea if we took the same warning from the dead birds in our countryside.”

Since Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring”, her fame can be seen acknowledged everywhere…

The Rachel Carson Bridge spanning the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of Anna Samsonov:

I leave the last word to Rachel Carson, a remarkable woman:

“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 the Stone Age of science. It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth.”

“Sérénade mélancolique”, Op. 26 by Tchaikovsky, performed by Jascha Heifetz:

 

There was not enough time to write more but today is an especially sad day, marking the passing yesterday of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II.

Courtesy of NeuesLied:

 

 

 

45 thoughts on “Great Books of the World – Part 10

  1. As always, Joana, a wonderful assembly of music, video and information. How wonderful is our planet and how badly it is abused by those who have lost their soul. Thank you for the lovely music and images you always find to soothe the mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful write up of both Rachel Carson and Queen Elizabeth. We miss her on this side of the pond too.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Pat, for your kind comments! After listening yesterday to King Charles III’s speech I feel reassured that he will continue his beloved mother’s legacy of dedication and hard work.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you, Carolyn, for your generous comments! After following your daily posts, I know that we are both sharing a deep love of nature, and with the growing number of like-minded people around the world, there is hope that our planet will be saved.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I will definitely read this one. I love nature, wildlife. There is a beautiful book ‘ Wild and Wilful’ by Indian author Neha Sinha about Indian species, being carelessly troubled by our mindless development. I read the book during pandemic and it sort of stayed with me and educated me a lot. I will definitely lay my hands on this other wonderful book you have suggested. I look forward to your insightful blogs and suggestions. Thank you Joanna for finding such precious pearls and sharing with the rest of us.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you, Dear Amrita, for your wonderful comments! I am going to look for the book you have recommended as it seems very important read. Thank you also for finding time to read my post and comment as you have busy week ahead.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely loved this post Joanna. You’ve given us, as always, a great selection of images, videos and music (thanks for reminding me of Martha’s Harbour by the way), but most of all the story about a woman who had a vision and talent to bring to the world’s attention the desecration of the natural environment by those who should know better.

    For me, I reckon this post is the best in your series of Great Books of the World so far – and that’s saying something. If you were to compile a book out of all these books and authors you’ve written about, then it would have to be a best seller. I would have it in my library at least 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you, Malc, for these amasing comments! Your view that this is the best post is of course a personal one, but nevertheless, greatly appreciated. Your idea about a book is starting to look appealing, thank you. Still, there is more to come…

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s the connection with the environment that especially appeals to me Joanna, and I’m glad to hear that there are more to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Joanna , greetings . Amazing post. Informative, lovely music and video clip all are nature’s pride. I will read through other posts soon. Have a wonderful weekend. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Once more I’ll say I really like how you go on posting information. I invariably learn something new
    Thanks a lot, dear Joanna🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello. I haven’t read Silent Spring. But I’ve read The Sea Around Us. It is brilliant, both in content and use of language. She was a huge, important talent.

    Like

  13. Thank you, Luisa, for your wonderful comments!

    I am a little late in acknowledging today’s kind comments because here, in London, we are witnessing

    never seen the Proclamation of the King.

    Thank you, Luisa, again, very much appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A very important event! 👑👑👑

    Like

  15. Indeed, the historical event was never seen before openly by people worldwide as it was televised.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you, Neil, for your kind comment. Indeed, She was a force for good.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for getting that funny doormat and reading my post! Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Like

  18. You are most welcome. Thank you for your time. Glad you like the funny doormat . Cheers.

    Like

  19. Cheers. Have a great time. Smile.

    Like

  20. This post of yours acts as an eye opener for those who take nature for granted. Governments and politicians are undoubtedly responsible for the mess so created, but we are not less responsible. We all are aware of the evils of chemical pesticides, but to increase productivity, we ignore even the carcinogenic chemicals. Do you know that all cows and buffaloes are injected with oxytocin before milking? All fruits and vegetables are similarity treated with chemical solutions. Your use of organic products is the best solution for the well being.

    It’s in this context that Silent Spring by the environmentalist, Rachel Carson assumes significance. I’m happy that you chose this book for your weekly post. Rain of death is too scary, but use of chemicals, pesticides etc have become the order of the day. Artificiality has truly gone too far. It’s true that right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged, while it’s an established fact that everything is interconnected and interdependent in the ecosystem. Carson was not only born to write but born to write sense.

    Thank you, Joanna, for this informative post interspersed with quotes, images and videos, as always. And yes, we all mourn the sad demise of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. RIP.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. 👍💗👍💗👍

    Like

  22. It is you who first introduced me to Rachel Carson, Joanna, and I am a huge fan as a result. I so admire her continued willingness to stand up to ultra-powerful corporations. She was an important force, especially in this country! (On a side note, I finally read The Alchemist, and what a jewel! I gobbled it up in one afternoon!) Wishing you & your country many blessings on your road to recovery & change. 🌞

    Like

  23. Thank you, Lisa, for your lovely comments, and my admiration for your reading of the recommended books! You made me feel good! Our new king has been a dedicated environmentalist for the past 50 years, planting hundreds of trees and promoting only organic farming. We have great hope that he will, as he pledged today follow in his beloved mother’s footsteps of hard work and dedication to people not only here but worldwide. Thank you, Lisa, for your good wishes.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Thank you for sharing such a nice post about Rachel Carson.

    Like

  25. Bravo. Thank you for highlighting this wonderful environmentalist and all the work she did throughout her lifetime. We can stand to learn a lot from Rachel Carson, especially with everything going on in the world today. We need to protect our environment more than ever.

    Like

  26. Thank you, Joyce, for your kind comments! Yes, indeed, it is a crucial problem.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you, Iswar, for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  28. I share your hope. 🙏🙏🙏

    Like

  29. I didn’t know who is Rachel Carson. It’s only because of you I could know. You’re welcome 🤗

    Like

  30. Thank you Joanna for sharing the amazing work of Rachel Carson. So thankful for people like her, advocating for nature and for her gift as a writer, leaving the world with her famous book “Silent Spring.” Indeed a great metaphor in the name of her book.

    May Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, RIP. Best wishes to you and your country.

    Like

  31. Thank you, Henrietta, for your wonderful comments! The alarming escalation of climate change makes it even more important to pay attention to Rachel Carson. Thank you, Henrietta, for your best wishes.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  32. An inspiring and enlightening look at the life and work of Rachel Carson!
    Her message is more relevant than ever. Thank you for a lovely, informative post, Joanna.

    The news here is filled with stories from Great Britain. Many Americans were admirers of Queen Elizabeth II. She was a remarkable human being as well as a great leader. I saw her once from the deck of a cruise ship as she stood on the deck of The Britannia and waved as our ships passed. Her great capacity to relate to people impressed me very much.

    It will be a good thing if King Charles III continues to follow her example. I have seen documentaries about his environmentalism and service to worthy causes. I hope he can continue to have a positive influence as he takes on his responsibilities as king.

    As a child of five or six, I remember my mother admonishing me that Prince Charles and Princess Anne, who were about the same age as I was, took their baths by themselves and so should I!

    Like

  33. Thank you, Cheryl, for your lovely comments! I am glad that you could see the importance of Rachel Carson and her work.

    I like your memories of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

    She was a nature and animal lover, especially horses and dogs.

    There are many interesting stories recalled by people who knew her well.

    Thank you again, Cheryl. I greatly appreciate your comments.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  34. What a beautiful song the Hermit Thrush has. Just a very small part of another fabulous collection of facts, music, and videos. Thank you Joanna.

    Like

  35. Thank you, Peter, for your generous comments. Very much appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Dearest Joanna, first of all my apologies for taking a few days off from the writing world here. But even if I and many like me are not here it is important for the world to have many a nature human like Rachel and yourself to push what majority doesn’t even consider a need anymore. We need nature, and more than nature we need humans to talk and act for nature.

    Rachel’s life is an inspiration. Her book Silent Spring outlived her message and became a movement. I may have heard about her name or about the book but could never go beyond these names. And it is thanks to you Joanna, because we now know whomsoever you decide to quote, to talk and write about has to be a lover of nature to ones best capability.

    DDT and the likes were brought to India and created havoc in longer terms, like Rachel there were people and farmer who stood against it but may be more than harming the soil, government decided that higher produce was the need of the hour then, but in last few decades its effects were known and some have been catastrophic. Like losing some bird specie like Indian Vultures because of it. I really like how Kaushal Ji summarised what all happened and at what speed. But you know I am happy that many people are waking up to the importance Organic, natural living. And it was possible because of every single person like Rachel and like you, who voice their love and their concern when it matters most.

    I hear Hermit thrush as i write it. its relaxing and it makes me wander to exactly where Pianos take you. Thanks for sharing her deep life and love Joanna.

    Like

  37. Thank you, Dearest Narayan, for your inspiring and insightful comments. Reading your beautiful words, I know that the future of our planet will be assured. More and more people choose organic farming, and even turning empty spaces into wildlife meadows. The future belongs to the young generation who is committed to saving the earth as it is the only planet we have. My aim is to write about Nature and our inherent need for its beauty of it for our wellbeing. I noticed with great pleasure that my biggest readership is when I write about many aspects of nature.
    Thank you, Narayan, again for your generosity and kindness in reviewing this post.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Yes, its the best time to get into everything back to organic. Be it living, be it indulging in any habits.
    I only wish that you be super well and always healthy for us to know and learn more about nature, in general and those humans who literally lived it, through you. How else we will ever know dearest.

    Thank YOU

    Like

  39. Thank you! I always wish I could live forever because I am curious. I would love to know what your generation and those after you achieved to make the world a better place for humans and all other creatures sharing this planet. Thank you for your kind words.

    Joanna

    Like

  40. Thank you, Dearest, I will do my best to live as long as can!

    Joanna

    Like

  41. Of course you are going to live as long as anyone had. Nature is protecting you, you must know.

    Like

  42. Dearest, Narayan,

    Any more of such wonderful words and I will live on and on, and on…

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  43. A person I knew nothing about until now. Many thanks! ~Eva

    Like

  44. Thank you, Eva, for your kind comments! Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

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