Ms. Wray

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I’ve always wondered, what if Rachel Carson had lived longer??  Would we be in the terrible state we’re in today??  Would the world have been forced to pay attention to her?

In Silent Spring Rachel Carson documents, in beautiful lyrical prose, the connection between pollution and the environment.  While her primary focus was on birds, she explored the issues deeply and widely in this and other writing.

We owe the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency to her testimony at Congressional hearings in the early 1960’s, when I was but a toddler.  But since then, what have we really and truly accomplished?  Is anyone listening?

One of the supreme ironies of life is that Rachel Carson died of breast cancer – quite likely environmentally induced – just two short years after the publication of this ground breaking book.  I spent my teen years wishing that I had been born a decade earlier such that I might have had the chance to meet her.

Given that last year was the 50th Anniversary of the original publication of the book, it seems a logical pick for me.  After you read this, read the wonderful new biography by William Souder.  Titled “On a Farther Shore” it was on the New York Times top 100 list last year.  It’s on the new arrivals shelf in the Library.

Additionally, you’ll want to read works by Sandra Steingraber and/or Devra Davis…  my other two eco-feminist heroines.  We have work by both of these wonderful women scientists in the Library.

John Steinbeck, The Pearl

I had to read this novella in high school, and how fortunate it was that I did.  I honestly think that reading this, at the moment in time which I did, helped inform my personal beliefs around social justice and my long standing interest in issues of global development, not to mention my feminism.

The story is so fundamentally tragic.  In a just world, no one should have to be faced with the situation – the choices – faced by Kino, and his family.  The precariousness of life, and the way in which greed and aspiration can wreak havoc on a life is, to me, unconscionable.

Steinbeck’s concise, clear and relatively simple style in this parable allow the story to unfold, for the reader, unencumbered.  By the end, one is left seriously questioning both the meaning and the value of progress and material wealth.  Even today, it gives one pause.