During the seventeen years she worked in the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Rachel Carson learned about the problems of pesticides. Undaunted by the chemical companies' hostility and by the public's high enthusiasm for pesticides, she wrote a book called Silent Spring, which caused a major shift in public consciousness about the environment.
The chemical industry would be jeopardized by her book.
Certainly a detailed expose on the harmful effects of the
highly successful pesticides would diminish the profits for
these powerful chemical interests. In 1958, the year Carson
began her book, almost 200 million dollars' worth of pesticides
was sold. Four years later, when the book appeared, almost half
a billion dollars' worth was sold.
In writing such a book, Rachel Carson expected a bellicose
reaction from the chemical industry. Even before the book was
published, officials were reluctant to provide information. One
denied serious losses to wildlife due to pesticides and asked:
"Because of your obviously intense interest in this subject, I
should appreciate knowing your affiliation in preparing your
Carson learned about other biologists' works showing the
harmful effects of pesticides. But the letters ended requesting
anonymity because the biologists were afraid of losing their
The Department of the Interior did not pay much attention to
the unknown dangers of pesticides. Natural resources were
basically looked upon in economic terms. The Bureau of Sport
Fisheries and Wildlife labeled critics "'subversives' hostile
to the spirit of free enterprise."2 Because the staff there believed that
there was over-population, they did not oppose the use of
pesticides to get rid of some fish. The US Department of
Agriculture insisted that DDT use, with precautions, would have
no adverse effects.
The medical field did not show much more promise. Of the
pamphlets produced by the American Medical Associations, Rachel
Carson wrote that the position of the AMA seemed ambiguous, and
she felt that the AMA would be on the fence or even on the
wrong side of the fence if they were asked to take a