70 Saving the Planet 1962 RACHEL CARSON'S 1962 best-seller, Silent Spring, which jump-started the modern environmental movement, almost didn't happen. The self-effacing marine biologist wanted someone else to write about the dangers of pesticides. No one would, so Carson began the four-year project that Vice President Al Gore has said "changed the course of history."
The success of DDT during World War II prompted an American love affair with the pesticide. But its application killed fish and birds and put humans at risk of illness. "Every human being," Carson warned, "is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death." Her book, a passionate, meticulously researched argument for pesticide control, enlightened the public and toppled America's blind faith in science and industry. Change came quickly: 1970--the EPA, Earth Day, the Clean Air Act; 1972--the Clean Water Act, a ban on DDT; 1987--the first global environmental agreement to stop producing ozone-depleting chemicals. In 1992 the U.S. joined a U.N.-sponsored alliance to slow global warming. If not for Carson's descriptions of springs "without voices," we might still be ignoring the fact that "man, too, is part of this balance."