Aug 18 2009

Right Beside The River

Published by at 7:09 am under Books & Events

Rachel Carson with her brother and sister (photo courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)

Today I have an excuse to write about the little girl in this picture.  She’s Rachel Carson, one of my heroes, pictured here with her brother and sister beside the Allegheny River, circa 1915.

Rachel Carson was born in Springdale and grew up with the Allegheny River as her playground.  She eventually studied marine biology and zoology and worked for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  She also wrote many books, including The Sea Around Us, but her most famous book was Silent Spring in which she described the dangers of the indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides.  Birds prompted her to write the book, sparked by a letter from a friend who described birds dying on the spot after aerial pesticide spraying. 

When the book was published in 1962 Rachel Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and labeled as an emotional person who didn’t know what she was talking about.  Neither was true.  Silent Spring took the country by storm.  Ten years later Congress outlawed DDT making it possible for birds of prey – including the peregrine falcon – to make a comeback.  Thank you, Rachel Carson!

Besides the chance to talk about peregrines, my real excuse for writing about Rachel Carson is that she’s one of the many people featured in Rick Sebak’s new show — Right Beside The River – premiering this Thursday August 20 at 8:00pm on WQED.  It’s a whimsical look at the people, communities and activities that have sprung up along the rivers in our area.  You’ll like it.  Thursday, 8:00pm.

(photo courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Right Beside The River”

  1. John Englishon 18 Aug 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I remember reading both books in high school. That was amazing considering that I graduated in 1966. Both books were required summer reading – something I did not dread like most of my classmates ;-)
    “Silent Spring” made profound impact and caused many conflicts when I had to declare a major in college. Music education won out, but I’ve always been a naturalist and environmentalist at heart.
    Thank you, Rachel and Kate.

  2. faith Cornellon 18 Aug 2009 at 8:36 pm

    It wasn’t until I started reading about the birds losing out with their eggs not hatching that I read her book. Made me sad. But at least enough people understand now. We could do alot more but at least there’s an awareness. Faith Cornell

  3. Libby Strizzion 19 Aug 2009 at 7:46 am

    I hadn’t realized that Rachel Carson was from western PA — thanks for the education, Kate, and thanks, Rachel, for persevering to publish your books and force changes that so helped the birds.

  4. John Englishon 19 Aug 2009 at 1:04 pm

    The Rachel Carson Homestead is up in Springdale, PA
    http://www.rachelcarsonhomestead.org/

  5. Kate St. Johnon 19 Aug 2009 at 1:30 pm

    At lunchtime today at work we saw Rick Sebak’s new show. Quite good! It has mounds, toys, ferries, diners, fishing, factories, archaeology, boats, bikes, trails, festivals and much, much more. I’m glad I can watch it again tomorrow night at 8:00pm. …What a nice thing to work at a place where we’re urged to watch movies at lunchtime!

  6. CHWon 19 Aug 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Rachel is also one of my heros. My father’s family was from Springdale and my grandfather owned and operated White Brothers store on Pittsburgh Street; the Carson family were some of his customers. My dad’s sisters were aquaintances of Rachel’s, since from all accounts she was sort of a loner as a child. I was at Chatham College, her alma mater, about the time Silent Spring was published. She had agreed to come back for a lecture series and all of us ‘bio’ majors were so excited. Unfortunately she fell ill that fall and never made it back. I agree that the peregrines are one of her lasting legacies, and I will watch the show with great interest.

  7. Kate St. Johnon 19 Aug 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Yes, it’s sad that she died of breast cancer at age 56 before she could see most of the changes wrought by Silent Spring.

  8. Anne Curtison 20 Aug 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Excellent show! Among his finest! Anne

  9. faith Cornellon 21 Aug 2009 at 6:41 am

    Watched show last night (8/20). Loved it. When I was first married we lived across the street from the Harmony Village across the street in Ambridge. And went to that Lutheran Church with 1 clock hand. What they are doing along river side is wonderful. We are bike riders. Hope to get back to it. But worth driving in just to walk now. Faith Cornell

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