[Cover Story] Silent Spring Turns 50. The Story Behind this Story.

Features - Cover Story

The story behind the story

September 28, 2012

Coverage includes:


Earlier this year, when PCT’s editorial staff discovered that 2012 would mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” we discussed at length how we would cover an event that was so closely tied to both the environmental movement and the pest management industry. We also wondered how many of today’s PMPs had actually read the five-decades-old book that launched the environmental movement, which ultimately led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

So PCT commissioned a survey via the research firm Insight Express in February. We asked our readers 10 questions about the book and its impact on the pest management industry. What we found was that a whopping 79 percent had not read the book. So now, in addition to determining how to cover the legacy of “Silent Spring,” we also had to figure how to put the book in proper historical context for many of our readers.

After conducting the survey — the results of which appear throughout the following editorial pages — we talked to various authors with specific expertise about “Silent Spring,” including Dr. Al Greene and Dr. Jerome Goddard, two well-known figures in the pest management industry. Greene is an entomologist and National IPM Coordinator for the General Services Administration in Washington, D.C. Goddard is an associate extension professor of medical and veterinary entomology in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University.

Because we wanted to “transport” our readers back in time, we also talked with two former NPMA presidents about their personnel recollections of the book and its impact on the pest control industry. They lived through the public outcry that followed publication of the book, and one of them — Hal Stein — even traveled to the White House to discuss environmental policy with the vice president of the United States at the height of the national debate surrounding the book.

To paraphrase contributing writer Al Greene, the 1960s were a time of social activism on many fronts. Ideological campaigns ranging from civil rights, consumer protection and women’s rights were “all the rage,” so it’s no surprise that “Silent Spring” generated some strong emotions at the time, as it does to this very day.

Finally, we included a transcript of an interview between Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, and Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group, about the book’s golden anniversary. Two very different organizations, one very interesting conversation.

Whatever you think of Rachel Carson and her message, her effect on history — and the environmental movement — is undeniable. Check out the following pages to learn more about how “Silent Spring” rocked our profession and the world.


— Jodi Dorsch, editor