4 Responses

  1. Ed Darrell December 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

    In an otherwise good recounting of the facts, we find this:

    For such statements Carson was labelled a communist. She was not, but John Bellamy Foster has shown how she was influenced by several people who had wider left wing politics. One such influence was the British scientist Arthur Tansley who came up with the concept of the ecosystem. Tansley was a student of the zoologist E. Ray Lankester, a friend of Karl Marx and one of the few mourners at his funeral.

    She was more heavily influenced by the American capitalists and conservationists John James Audubon, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and Aldo Leopold — all of whom had more influence on her thought than any old British guy she never met who was, oh, about eight degrees of separation away from Karl Marx (you’re probably closer to Marx than Carson was). One can reasonably question whether the friendship Lankester had with Marx is relevant here — it appears from many views that Marx was interested in Lankester’s work, and not the other way around. Darwin directly rebuffed Marx’s request to discuss evolution; Lankester filled that biology counselor role.

    Carson was influenced heavily by Darwin’s hard scientific methods which let the facts speak without political bias. She relied heavily on agricultural researchers at Morell Act, Land Grant colleges, and other American colleges and universities. In 50 years since the publication of Silent Spring, not a single study she cited has been contradicted. Quite to the contrary, as Discover Magazine found in 2007, there have been more than 1,200 peer reviewed studies backing her claims and the research she cited.

    Carson held a masters degree in biology, and worked as a professional scientist. She knew what she was doing, she understood the research she cited, and she wrote wonderfully. That combination becomes political only if we do not wish to be ruled by the facts.

    1. Ian Angus December 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |

      The myth that Marx wrote to Darwin and was rebuffed has been repeatedly refuted by historians. It simply didn’t happen — Darwin didn’t reply because Marx never wrote to him. But the British evolutionist Ray Lankester’s connection with Marx is well-documented — he was a frequent visitor to Marx’s home, and wrote that to Marx that he was reading “your great work on Capital…with the greatest pleasure and profit.”

      No one has suggested Rachel Carson was a Marxist, but it’s simply wrong to suggest she she didn’t have left-wing views. She insisted that the principal causes of ecological degradation were “the gods of profit and production,” and that the chief obstacle protecting the environment was the fact that we live “in an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at any cost is seldom challenged.”

      For a more complete picture of Carson’s social views, see “Rachel Carson’s Ecological Critique” by John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark.

    2. Jeff_White December 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |

      I recommend reading John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark’s essay on Rachel Carson’s ecological critique, in which they demonstrate that the latter was far more influenced by her ecologist contemporaries, like Hermann J. Muller, Barry Commoner, and Robert Rudd than by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and other bourgeois “conservationists” — all old American guys she never met, who never uttered a word of criticism against the ecological destruction caused by the unfettered pursuit of profit.

      Carson’s critique “becomes political” precisely at the point where it runs up against powerful political forces that defend that pursuit of profit above all else.

      1. ConsumerTrap December 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

        This Ed Darrell guy is pretty interesting. Claims to be objective and scientific and all rationality. Lectures people (apparently wrongly) about false history. Take a look at his own blog. There’s a special page on “Flag Fly Days”! Ah, Texas…

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