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This introduction from the book Silent Spring at 50 describes the various contributors’ insights into Rachel Carson’s landmark work. The authors come from a variety of disciplines, including conservation biology, English, law, and economics, and offer critical assessments of Silent Spring and its legacy. The first part has three chapters that put the book into the context of its time, examining it in light of Carson’s previous books on the sea (Wallace Kaufman); the larger tradition of authors warning against human hubris in environmental matters (Pierre Desrochers & Hiroko Shimizu); and the contest between “environmental religion” and “economic religion” that shaped American political discourse in the 20th century (Robert Nelson). The second part examines Silent Spring in the context of the science of its time examining: evidence on bird populations (Desrochers and Shimizu); cancer (Roger Meiners); ecological science (Nathan Gregory); and the political struggles between USDA and FDA (Roger Meiners and Andrew Morriss). The third part examines the legacy in the policy arena on federalism (Jonathan Adler); the precautionary principle (Larry Katzenstein); and risk (Gary Marchant).

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Cato Institute

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Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson

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