The Legacy of Rachel Carson

Some implications for Engineers for Social Responsibility

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (first published in 1962) is an environmental science work that documents the harm caused by indiscriminate use of pesticides. The book  gathers research to show that once pesticides get into the food chain, they can have a harmful effect on the ecosystem as a whole, even to the point of leading to cancer in humans. In her investigations, Carson found the chemical industry to be actively spreading disinformation in contradiction of scientific knowledge; and public officials to be too readily and uncritically accepting of the industry's marketing claims. And so, the book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies – but yet swayed public opinion, leading to a reversal in U.S. pesticide policy; to a nationwide (and then international) ban on DDT for agricultural uses; and to the establishment of the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency.

With hindsight, this book is now generally regarded as marking the beginning of the modern international environmentalist movement. In Dr Howell’s presentation, Robert identifies implications in the legacy of Rachel’s “Silent Spring” that well resonate with the sentiments of Engineers for Social Responsibility.


Dr Robert Howell

Has an MA in philosophy and a PhD in health planning, with experience as a management consultant, a CEO, and as a university lecturer. Robert has been Chair of
the Council for Socially Responsible Investment (2003 – 2012) and is the founder of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility. He has authored two books:  Investing in People and the Planet, and Issues behind the News.

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