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(From Guardian Unlimited)
Rachel Carson educated a planet: her book The Sea Around Us was a runaway bestseller from 1951, and I remember it affectionately as the beginning of my science instruction. You wouldn't consult it now: for her the planet was only 2.5bn years old and the moon was made of granite from the floor of what is now the Pacific Ocean, torn away from the molten, nascent Earth in some early tidal cataclysm.
At the time, exploration of the deep ocean had hardly begun. Scuba technology was in its infancy, the remotely operated submersible not even a fantasy. Space exploration was still a daydream; continental drift and sea-floor spreading a preposterous heresy. So her book was one of the goads that spurred on the next generation of oceanographers and marine biologists. In 1962, already dying of cancer, she published Silent Spring .
If you had to choose one text by one person as the cornerstone of the conservation movement, the signal for politically savvy environmental activism, and the beacon of worldwide lay awareness of ecological systems, Silent Spring would be most people's clear choice. Its impact was immediate, …