Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Rachel Carson: The Beauties and Mysteries of the Earth

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. 
— 

It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.

— 
In nature nothing exists alone.

Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.

— 

In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.

Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?

— 
A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”

— 

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.



Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost‘s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

— 

The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities… If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.

— 
It is not half so important to know as to feel.

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The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.

To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.

Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.

The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.

The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history… It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science.

Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is — whether its victim is human or animal — we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity.

A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.

For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it’s a pity we use it so little.

Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will ensure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.


These quotations are drawn from Rachel Carson‘s books Silent Spring, The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea and The Sense of Wonder.

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964) was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. She was born on a family farm near Springdale, Pennsylvania, just up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh.

One comment on “Rachel Carson: The Beauties and Mysteries of the Earth

  1. randomyriad
    May 27, 2019

    Reblogged this on Myriad Ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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