The publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 is widely regarded as one of the major events that launched the modern environmental movement. Silent Spring is a compelling blend of stories, natural history, human values, and biological facts. In this essay we consider Carson’s attitude toward animals in Silent Spring and in other texts. Despite the facts that she was raised to love Nature and animals, little direct attention has been given to Carson’s views about our moral responsibilities to, and the moral standing of animals. Carson favored responsible stewardship, was more of an animal welfarist and environmentalist/conservation biologist who privileged ecosystems and species than an animal activist who privileged individuals, and she did not advocate an animal rights agenda. There is clear tension in Carson’s text. Often she seemed troubled by attempting to come across as a moderate and practical scientist and some of her words, when considered out of context, could lead one to label Carson as an animal rightist. While some of Carson’s text favors human-centered interests, she did not believe that only humans counted. Her warnings about silent springs — silent seasons — must be taken seriously, perhaps even more seriously than when they were penned more than four decades ago. Surely, on the other side of silence, await magic, awe, and Nature’s cacophony of sounds — along with a panoply of innumerable other sensory (visual and olfactory) experiences that help us to feel at one with all of Nature. We must be careful never to allow Nature to be silenced. Carson was a passionate and extremely influential activist, and there is no doubt that if there were a world of Rachel Carson’s in charge of our global environmental policies, we and our fellow animals would surely be in much better shape than we currently are.
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