Exit 27 onramp to I-95 Northbound; near the Rachel Carson Greenway Trail, Beltsville, Maryland
“Off upcoming EXIT 27 there is a park along a slim ribbon of a river. Rachel Carson Greenway Trail is named after Rachel Carson, a conservationist author and former resident of Silver Spring Maryland. Environmentalist Rachel Carson wrote two seminal books introducing Americans to the science and urgency of ecology. The books were “The Sea Around Us” and “The Silent Spring”.
Often regarded as the most influential nature writer of the Twentieth Century, Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is remembered more today as the woman who challenged the notion that humans could obtain mastery over nature by chemicals, bombs, and space travel than for her studies of ocean life. Her sensational book “Silent Spring” in 1962 warned of the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of science. Using a local dead spring as a metaphor, she reported on the inadvertent effects of chemical pesticides such as DDT.
A former Scientist with the US Navy, Rachel questioned the direction of modern science. Previously science was credited with progress. It was not blamed for potential disasters. This questioning initiated the contemporary environmental movement. Meanwhile Carson's many books on the sea introduced modern oceanography to the wider public. Having worked as an oceanographer for the Navy during World War Two, Carson wrote about underwater research -- of how islands were formed, how currents change and merge, how temperature affects sea life, and how erosion impacts not just shore lines but salinity, fish populations, and tiny micro-organisms.
Even in the 1950's, Carson’s ecological vision of the oceans shows her embrace of a larger environmental ethic which could lead to the sustainability of nature’s interdependent systems.
Global warming, rising sea-levels, melting Arctic glaciers, collapsing bird and animal populations -- all are part of Carson’s work. But how, she wondered, would the educated public be kept informed of these challenges to life itself? What was the public's "right to know"?
In her nearby neighborhood, Rock Creek Park passes along the west side of the town of Silver Spring, and offers hiking trails, picnic grounds, and bicycling. Acorn Park in the downtown area of Silver Spring is believed to be the site of the eponymous "silent spring". No doubt these natural features influenced the great writer even as the parks' natural forest pushed up against the ever expanding suburbs with their good and bad influences.
This was her most lasting legacy: by the early 1960’s , Rachel Carson was the first person — man or woman — to warn the broader public that the study of Science offered natural and human possibilities — and impending disasters as well.
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