Rachel Carson’s “Spring Without Voices” and the Rise of Environmental Literature

Throughout quarantine, many have turned to nature for a place of comfort and solace. We go to parks for socially distanced picnics, run on wood-chipped trails, and fill our bedrooms with pothos and ferns. When the pandemic is over and we are able to return to a semblance of normal, it is important to remember that nature was always there for us; it is finally time for us to be there for her. 

Environmental literature has been warning us about our decaying world for decades, and it is time to listen. Rachel Carson’s environmental science book Silent Spring was among the first and most important of its kind; Carson laments over the United States’s use of synthetic pesticides and how they have resulted in severe damage to our environment. From DDT to Parathion, Carson explains how insecticides have poisoned every aspect of nature, starting with spraying it onto our crops to killing millions of non-target organisms such as birds and fish. Describing how these insecticides wiped out multiple animal populations, Carson wrote, “It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh” (2). 

Carson’s words are particularly relevant to our current climate; in the same way that spring was marked by the sounds of birds, summer was once defined by warm, late nights, beach gatherings, and barbecues. As we watch our first pandemic summer come to an end, we must think about how we have relied on nature and what we can do to prevent further destruction. 

We must not only carry on Rachel Carson’s legacy but be wary of the fact that her book still rings true sixty years later. Authors like Rebecca Solnit instill hope in those that are disillusioned by peoples’ lack of care for our environment. In “Letter to a Young Climate Activist on the First Day of the New Decade,” Solnit explains how we need to rise out of our state of disillusionment in order to make change. This begins by understanding the beauty and worthiness of nature. 

So, the next time you go to your local park or stare at the birds outside your window, remember, as Rebecca Solnit says, “We owe it to the whales, to every songbird in every tree, to frogs and trout and fireflies.”

Kelsey Allen

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