Welcome William Souder (Slate) (Twitter) and Host Will Potter (GreenIstheNewRed.com)

On A Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

“Environmentalism” and “going green” are so pervasive today it’s hard to imagine a time when those concepts were largely absent from popular discourse. When Rachel Carson released Silent Spring 50 years ago, it changed everything; not just for Carson, whose already-successful career took a dramatic turn, but for the emergence of the modern environmental movement.

William Souder’s insightful portrait of Carson, On a Farther Shore, is an account of her life and work, but it’s also a vital addition to our understanding of the current environmental crisis. Silent Spring is clearly situated in a specific time period in our history, and seemingly focused on a singular issue, the use of insecticides, but the work has proved timeless.

Carson’s shocking account forced the government to take action, despite the backlash (against the book and against Carson, personally) from the chemical industry. As Souder shows, even Carson’s life fit the archetype: an unassuming government worker turned muckraker. The tensions that support the book — industrialization vs. sustainability, the people and the planet vs. corporate power — have only become more taut with time.

As I read Souder’s work, I couldn’t help but wonder: Could Carson do this today? Or perhaps a more pressing question: Can we fill her shoes? Is climate change our current silent spring?

Carson’s work was released in a non-internet age when book publishing (and the printed word, more generally) had a different power. And as environmental issues have taken a place in the popular discourse like never before, they have also been watered down through corporate greenwashing and attempts to dilute the urgency in Carson’s call to action.

As Souder writes, Silent Spring was a “cleaving point.” The “gentle, optimistic proposition called ‘conservation’ began its transformation into the bitterly divisive idea that would come to be known as ‘environmentalism.’” Now that transformation is complete. Or is it? Where do we go from here?

I’m excited to join William Souder for a discussion of his thoughtful and beautifully-crafted narrative about the life of Rachel Carson. On a Farther Shore offers an opportunity to not only look back at Carson’s life and work in a new light, but to look forward at the increasingly dire environmental crisis we are facing, and how it can be addressed.

Will Potter is the author of Green Is the New Red: An insider’s account of a social movement under siege.(GreenIstheNewRed.com)

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

108 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes William Souder, On A Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson”

BevW May 5th, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Bill, Welcome to the Lake.

Will, Welcome back to the Lake, thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Hello Lakers.

BevW May 5th, 2013 at 1:56 pm
In response to William Souder @ 2

Bill, Welcome to the Lake.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Good Afternoon, It’s a beautiful book; thank you.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 1:59 pm
In response to RevBev @ 4

Thanks very much.

dakine01 May 5th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Bill and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon

Welcome back Will.

Bill, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in there but what did you discover about Ms Carson that most surprised you? Would you care to speculate as to where Ms Carson’s energies would be focused in today’s environmental nightmares (between fracking, tarsands pipelines, chemical poisons in the food and ground, climate change – unfortunately, there are a seemingly endless set of ‘options’ any one of which can kill us sooner rather than later)

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Welcome, Bill. And thank you, Bev.

Bill, to get us started could you tell us a bit about your motivations for writing the book? Particularly in regards to how you’ve situated Carson’s work (and emerging environmentalism) fit into the Cold War era?

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

There’s something about the book that is so sweet.

I’m also wondering what made you choose to write about Rachel Carson?

Elliott May 5th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Welcome to the Lake

What got you writing Ms Carson’s biography?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 6

Maybe what surprised me was the narrowness of her life. Carson’s interests were broad: Science. Literature. Music. But she was a person who stayed home…in Maryland and in the summers at her cottage in Maine…and worked. Her mother lived with her and they had cats and only a few close friends.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:11 pm
In response to Elliott @ 9

We’ve got several questions here about why I wrote this book. My interests are science, natural history, the environment, writing. Carson embodied all of those. So she was a natural fit for me. I also thought that, although Silent Spring is regarded as one of the most important books of the 20th century, many people today don’t know who she is. Finally, I wanted to look for the origins of the bitter debate we have around environmental issues. And I found them in the reaction to Silent Spring.

bluewombat May 5th, 2013 at 2:12 pm
In response to William Souder @ 2

The proper term is “Firepups” or “Firebaggers” (not quite sure why on that last one) — am a Knicks fan myself.

My feeling is that Carson was more effective then than she would be today because of increased corporatization of the media (and government) and splintering of the public’s attention. What say you?

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:13 pm
In response to William Souder @ 11

Can you tell us about the reaction to Silent Spring when it was published, both from the public and industry?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 12

I think it would be hard for any writer to have the kind of influence today that Carson had a half century ago…for the reasons Will stated in his introduction. We’ve also done a pretty good job of convincing people that reporters and the media generally are not to be trusted.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I was surprised to find that “Carson recognized an ‘exact and inescapable’ parallel between pesticides and radioactive fallout that had profound implications.

I had known about her work with pesticides, but didn’t know she was also concerned about radioactivity. Had you known that before you started working on the book?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:17 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 13

Generally the public was alarmed and many people demanded a government response. Meanwhile, the chemicals industry…and its allies in government…set out to discredit Carson and the book. The most conflicte response came from the Agriculture Department, and then-Secretary Orville Freeman, who was caught between the science and his farm constituency. He tried hard to play both sides…to prepare to either endorse Silent Spring or dispute it. He never did get it right.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

What a delightful book!

Part of Carson’s gift is the ability to make science not only understandable to non-scientists, but attractive and alluring. What this book did for me was to put her work in the context of her life and her era in a way I had not particularly seen before.

My family has a number of female scientists in it, who daily confront issues o sexism and regularly find themselves and their sisters in science outnumbered at meetings 5:1, 10:1, or worse by the men. Reading about Carson’s beginnings in the field and her ongoing work made me look at my relatives with even more admiration as they try to follow in her footsteps.

Thanks!

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 15

Yes…the parallel between pesticides and radiation was an important part of my book from the beginning. If you don’t know the history of the Cold War and the nuclear testing that was part of the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, you can never understand the origins of the modern environmental movement. Between 1945 and 1963, there were about 500 above-ground nuclear tests, and fallout from those explosions blanketed the world. Carson knew that the idea that chemicals might be hazadous was novel, but she also knew the fears people had about their exposure to radiation. By joining the two, she made a connection that helped people understand what has happening,

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to Peterr @ 17

Thanks…glad you liked the book. Sexism certainly affected Carson and her career…though she never complained about this. And it has to be said that publishing and science have always been more open to women than many other professions.

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to Peterr @ 17

Thank you Peterr. That’s a great point to discuss. Bill: Could you tell us a bit about Carson’s beginnings in the field? Would her work have been received differently if she were a man?

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

One quote from your book struck me in particular – “Our species, Carson reasoned, having evolved over thousands of millennia, was well adapted to the natural world but was biologically defenseless in an unnaturally altered one.”

That is such a profound statement. It underpins the dangers for all living things of being vital and healthy in the increasingly toxic soup we live in.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to William Souder @ 14

And neither is the government. Carson, as a former government employee, would be suspect on those grounds as well.

On the other hand, she could WRITE. Not just string subjects and verbs into sentences with a few adjectives and prepositional phrase to break things up, but write. She could — and did — tell stories that drew her readers in, sometimes so well that they didn’t see it coming.

I had not realized she entered college as an English major before later switching to biology, until reading this book. If more scientists and government bureaucrats could write well, the world would be a much different place.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:25 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 20

I think Carson’s books got fair treatment…though part of the attack on Silent Spring often included the coded insult that she was a “spinster.” Her biggest disadvantage may have been her education at an all-women’s college with a small, not very good biology department. When she got to graduate school, she found the men much better trained than she was. Fortunately, her talents were really elsewhere, outside the lab.

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

One area of your book that I found especially interesting, because of my own work, was the misinformation campaigns against Carson. What are some examples of how the chemical industry and its political allies set out to discredit her? Were there any you found particularly surprising?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to Peterr @ 22

Agree. Though I have met and am close to many scientists who ARE fine writers. Carson was in a league of her own, of course.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

One thing I love about your book is how accessible you’ve made Carson’s writings and ideas. A year or two ago, I bought “Silent Spring”, but I had a hard time enjoying the writing even though I’m very interested in the subject matter. So I’ve been delighted to have such a readable “translation” of her ideas and her work in “On A Farther Shore”. I’m also appreciating all the related events of the era you’ve brought in.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 24

It was all predictable from the vantage point we have now. One tactic the chemicals companies used was accusing Carson of being in league with “sinister influences in the Eastern bloc.” Meaning that she was a Communist or at least sympathetic, and that there was therefore something fundamentally leftist and un-American about Silent Spring.

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

@greenwarrior brings up something that I think really sets On a Farther Shore apart. Bill: what were some of Carson’s literary influences? And what were some of your own literary influences in your treatment of this book?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 26

Silent Spring is in some ways a period piece now…though much of it remains vital and relevant. It can be heavy going…it has chemical formulas in it! And it’s also frankly dismal..it was written to alarm and it did. But it is important and worth knowing.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I really liked the way-extensive-that you explored her relationships and tenacity with her editors and publishers. If I got it, she seemed not to back down even in the face of quite abit of pressure…that picture of standing her ground and not backing down.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Do you see a way to make headway today in protecting nature and the environment (and, ultimately, ourselves)?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 28

Carson was influenced by the English writers Richard Jefferies and Henry Williamson…especially Williamson, a prolific author with an unsavory political life. He admired Hitler and the Nazis, became a member of the British Union of Fascists until it was banned. But we was a superb writer, and his book Tarka the Otter directly inspired Carson’s first book. She also admired Ed Ricketts, the West Coast tidal-pool expert, and Henry Beston. If any of you haven’t read Beston’s The Outermost House, I recommend you do so at once. I didn’t know it before reading how much Carson liked it, and I can tell you it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I am a footnote junky, and was thrilled to see all the notes at the end describing not only where you found certain items but also the little asides, like the story of the search for an unredacted copy of the two page memo about FBI’s investigation into Carson as a potential communist, for example.

In the course of all your research, what interview, memo, or document grabbed you the hardest and made you step back and say “Wow! I never realized . . .”?

BearCountry May 5th, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hi. Thanks for this great topic. The book is now on my list. We have now had a number of books discussed here at the Lake concerning the environment. Two are Under the Surface about fracking and Foodopoly about the strangle hold big ag has on our society. Both show how govt is in the pocket of those groups. The govt being behind the chem industry and trying to suppress Rachel Carson fits right into the whole scheme. She would probably be screaming about monsatano and the whole round up ready attack on our food.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 31

I do. I think we have to believe that we can do better. At the same time, I think we’re in for a rough ride because it’s going to take extreme circumstances to get us moving on climate change, for example, which is surely our most pressing environmental issue. I think Sandy made a point that is likely to get made over and over again in the coming years, and we may find a more coherent and co-operative policy on fossil fuels begin to emerge. But it won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen without a high cost to the environment and to us.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:38 pm
In response to Peterr @ 33

Ha! I don’t have to even think. This is in the endnotes, too. Carson got a fan letter, via the New Yorker, about The Sea Around Us. It was from a young doctor in Michigan who wanted to know more about bathyspheres and deep diving. It was from Jack Kervorkian.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to William Souder @ 32

Let me recommend visiting Monterey, for the aquarium there and also Ed Ricketts’ home/lab. I didn’t realize the connection between Ricketts and Carson, but in retrospect I’m not at all surprised. If you can’t visit, at least read Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 34

She would indeed. We still have a pesticides problem…it’s pretty clear they are at least partially involved in bee colony collapse disorder. And we continue to get more evidence that heavy exposure to pesticides contributes to human disease and birth defects. But…and this is important…Carson always said we didn’t need to abolish pesticides completely. She wanted them used sparingly and with a clearer understanding of the consequences.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to Peterr @ 37

As it happens, my next book is going to be about John Steinbeck.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to William Souder @ 36

How did I miss that?!?!

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to William Souder @ 35

It seems that one one of the biggest obstacles in protecting the environment at the time of Silent Spring was a lack of information and research (and Carson of course stepping in to fill that need). Today, it seems that there is so much information at our fingertips and on our screens that it can be quite easy for many people to tune out. Is that fair to say? Or are we facing a similar challenge in terms of increasing awareness about climate change?

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to William Souder @ 39

When can we look forward to that?

(Bev, take note of the answer, please . . .)

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to William Souder @ 36

Wow, I didn’t see that one coming. I need to do a better job reading the footnotes! Thanks Bill and @BearCountry

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 41

I think the new challenge is that today ideology often trumps science. We se that around issues like evolution (Still!!!) and climate change. We have good science, we have good data..and yet many people decide to believe what serves their economic interest or their religion instead. It’s a free country, and sometimes a confused one.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to Peterr @ 42

No date yet. Very early stages.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

The book jacket affirms how “sensitively” you wrote about the relationship with Mrs. Freeman. Did you feel like you learned all you needed? Or, did you want to know &/or write more? And, specifically, was there much more that you learned about the reaction of Mr. Freeman?

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to William Souder @ 44

Actually, the “ideology vs science” phrase sounds much like the battle Carson was fighting back then. Then, it was “we’ve got to kill off wolves and other big predators as well as prairie dogs and other vermin to make the land safe for farming and ranching” — and the pitfalls of this ideological mindset are things that science is still documenting. Similarly, Carson’s work at Plum Island came to mind. As I read your account of Carson and that mindset, I immediately thought of our present battles of corporate/private/parochial interests vs broader science.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:53 pm
In response to RevBev @ 46

I wish there was more in the record about Stan Freeman and how he felt about the relationship between Dorothy and Rachel. The three of them were close and there was tremendous mutual respect. I went into the book assuming that Rachel and Dorothy had a sexual relationship…and I changed my mind. I think Carson probably was a lesbian, but I also don’t think she ever had any kind of sex life, including with Dorothy. They certainly loved each other deeply and, in a hard to define sense, romantically. Some reviewer have felt that I ducked the reality…that CLEARLY this was a sexual affair. Well, we can never know for sure. But their letters tell what I think is a different story. I also got great insights from Stan Jr. and his daughter…Dorothy’s granddaughter…Martha Freeman. They were supportive of my book and helpful and never tried in any way to influence what I was going to write.

Crane-Station May 5th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I am looking forward to reading this, and am listening in (lurking) here. (Your previous work, A Plague of Frogs was both horrifying and fascinating, thank you for that as well)

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to Peterr @ 47

Ironically, the programs aimed at eradicating “problem” predators such as wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, etc. was thought by scientists and wildlife managers to be beneficial. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as actively involved. It took people like Aldo Leopold to change the mindset.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to William Souder @ 48

Thank you so much. That was exactly my query. I am sorry you couldn’t learn more about him, I guess, but I am really glad the question seems so settled for you. Thanks, again.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I had known about many of the ways used to kill the Indians, but hadn’t known the U.S. was killing the buffalo deliberately to starve the Indians.

Also, it was hard for me to read about the massive killing of coyotes back in the early 1900′s. I’ve really got a soft spot for coyotes.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to Crane-Station @ 49

Thanks. I was the Earth Day speaker down at Indiana State last week, and one of my frog-scientist pals is there. We went out to his study site at 2 a.m. in a downpour and tagged frogs. Now THAT’S living large…

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 52

Coyotes turn out to be a hardy and prolific species. We killed them by the thousands and never made a dent. And they continue to live in both rural and suburban environments today, and are not uncommon even in cities…even though many states have year-round open seasons on them. Coyotes are hear to stay.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to William Souder @ 54

“Here” to stay I meant.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Most fun line to read in the book -

You were writing about Carson’s bird watching and inventorying birding opportunities at the refuge at Plum Island.

“It was almost possible to hear the chafe of corduroy and the clank of binoculars between the lines.”

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to William Souder @ 48

“Hard to define” certainly fits with what I came away with after reading the book. Yes, there’s something very strong between the two of them, but you tried to be careful about what you could and could not claim beyond that based on the evidence before you. Though I want to know more, I’m grateful you would only go as far as you thought the evidence would take you.

I had the sense throughout the book that Carson was an introvert — much happier on her own than in the midst of a crowd, more delighted in having deep one-on-one conversations than in making grand public speeches, and more energized by quiet moments alone or with one or two others than loud and boisterous events with throngs of thousands.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 56

Yes. She was a serious birder. I used to live in Newburyport and have real affection for Plum Island.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 56

Agreed. I almost spilled the beverage at my elbow when I read that!

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:06 pm
In response to William Souder @ 54

I’m a city dweller with a house that backs up to an extensive greenbelt. I don’t have a back fence and often see them in my yard. Sometimes I see them when I’m walking on the trails in the greenbelt and I even saw one late at night in the street. I also frequently hear them howling at night.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to Peterr @ 57

I think you’ve got her exactly right. She certainly loved being a successful author and I don’t think she minded being famous…at least in the abstract. But she had zero interest in socializing with other writers, in being part of the literary scene…even though she was arguably the best-known and most-read author in America for a time. She didn’t like giving speeches, though she was a capable speaker when she had to be.

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Biographical writing requires such an intensely personal relationship between the author and subject. Being so immersed in someone else’s life would undoubtedly lead to very strong personal feelings, both positive and negative — but your tone throughout the book never becomes effusive, even when your writing is lyrical.

Is this something you pay special attention to during the writing process?

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to William Souder @ 58

Did you go there often?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 60

Yes…they come into cities through greenbelts and along highways and railways, and plenty of them set up housekeeping in close proximity to humans. I live in the country outside the Twin Cities and they’re plentiful here. They drive my Lab crazy at night sometimes.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 62

Great question. I think a biographer has to like his or her subject, though that doesn’t mean the subject has to be perfect or can’t be difficult at times (Steinbeck!). But you have to let the fact speak, let the story tell itself. You’re striving for a sympathetic portrayal of a life that is at the same time balanced and objective. Everyone has personal strengths and faults. They’re all part of the picture. But you do get CLOSE to you subject. One thing a biographer does, in the course of piecing together a life and then writing and revising and editing that story, is live with his or her protagonist over and over again. I don’t know how many times I watched Rachel Carson get cancer and die. But it was a lot.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Bill, when I look at today’s political battles over science — like HHS and the approval of Plan B over the counter, or the NIH and the CDC and various AIDS debates and research on stem cells — what would be one or two lessons that today’s scientists in government could learn from Carson?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 63

Oh yes…of course. It is beautiful, even in the winter.

BearCountry May 5th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

What do you think Rachel Carson would say about the possible connection between Plum Island and such things as Lyme disease and West Nile virus?

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I do not recall if you noted this….How long did it take you to write the book? The events, history, and personalities were mostly portrayed with
great detail. Thanks, again.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Peterr @ 66

One lesson would be that we have a tendency to let technology get ahead of our ability to manage it. This cuts both ways. Something like Plan B confounds the abortion debate…its a genie out of the bottle. But here’s another lesson: Policy makers too often study a situation and then ignore the results.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:19 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 68

Don’t know about that one…is there a connection?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to RevBev @ 69

A little over two and a half years, plus another two months to do the endnotes…which I always do after a book is done. It’s good fact-checking.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Reading about Rachel Carson’s love of the sea and spending so much time at the sea has been poignant for me. I lived near Jones Beach growing up and, later, as a young adult, on the Mediterranean for many years. I miss that and reading the book has been a reminder for me to get back to the sea.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to William Souder @ 72

I am way more than impressed…you must work fast. She really was
right on the cusp of the women’s movement; that is also an interesting
facet, I think.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 73

I know what you mean. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and now live about as far from the ocean as you can get in North America. I miss it…and visit whenever I can.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
In response to RevBev @ 74

This is an old, but true maxim: You don’t have to write fast to write a book. You just have to write REGULARLY…

BearCountry May 5th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to William Souder @ 71

Plum Island has been the site of secret govt lab work. There is a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory, by Michael Carroll. The lab was (is?) not very safety conscious and many feel that several lab experiments escaped one way or another. Lyme disease and West Nile virus showed up in that area of CT first.

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I’m already excited about your book on Steinbeck!

After Under a Wild Sky and On a Farther Shore, I’m assuming it will continue your focus on environmental issues? Anything more you can share at this point about it?

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I’ll take you at your word. I was really thinking how immersed I was in
the book, so it seemed like it must have taken much longer to gather so
much information. Will look forward to Steinbeck.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 77

Different Plum Island.

That’s PI, New York, and this one is in Massachusetts.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:28 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 77

Oh…sorry. I believe you mean Plum Island, New York. The Plum Island Carson visited and wrote about, and which is near where I used to live, is on the north shore of Massachusetts, adjacent to the New Hampshire border.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to Peterr @ 80

Correct.

BearCountry May 5th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to Peterr @ 80

Thanks! A real big difference. ;)

BearCountry May 5th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I guess calling an island Plum Island is like calling a river Red River; they’re all over the place.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 83

Yeah — When I got to that part of the book, I did a double take, then a bit of Googling around to sort it out.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

What kind of response have you gotten from the MSM on the release of the book?

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:32 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 84

Yep…we have a Red River here in Minnesota.

Peterr May 5th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I’ve got to run, but before I go, I want to offer my thanks once more for this wonderful book!

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 86

Really good. The reviews have been, really almost without exception, wonderful and gratifying. And there were a number of stories about the 50-year anniversary of Silent Spring.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Peterr @ 88

Thank you…great chatting with you.

BearCountry May 5th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Peterr @ 88

I second that. Thanks for stopping by to both of you.

BevW May 5th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Did Rachel have any organizations helping her after the publication of the book, where are they today?

mafr May 5th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Very interesting subject, and discussion, thanks very much.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Carson was enthusiastically supported by the Audubon Society. And she had friends in her old government unit, the Fish and Wildlife Service. Stewart Udall, then Secretary of the Interior, was a supporter, as was Supreme Court Justice Willam O. Douglas.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In response to mafr @ 93

Happy to be here.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I do not recall if this was discussed in the book, particularly before she got sick….Do you think she struggled with depression much during her life? Obviously, she was very tenacious, but she had alot to overcome
in that era.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:43 pm
In response to William Souder @ 94

We could also add that Carson and Silent Spring got a solid endorsement from the special commission President Kennedy set up to investigate the pesticides question. And among the most ambitious, thorough, and penetrating reporting on Silent Spring was a brilliant series for Newsday done by a then-young reporter named Robert Caro…the very same Robert Caro who is still writing LBJ’s biography.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to RevBev @ 96

No I don’t. I think she was emotionally and mentally extraordinarily stable. She did confess that the nuclear age and the space age unnerved her…these were things that changed the world irrevocably in ways that she thought diminished what she valued. Carson thought it was great that we could explore the deep ocean, since the sea was the cradle of life. The thought humanity extending our reach in to space terrified her.

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Do you think it’s easier to write a biography of someone no longer alive? I wonder if people are more willing to share about the person.

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:49 pm
In response to William Souder @ 98

And to add one more point on Carson’s emotional make up: She was amazingly courageous and matter-of-fact about her cancer, even though her initial treatment and diagnosis was horrible mishandled. She felt fear and sadness, of course, but she didn’t dwell on these emotions. She was only 56 when she died, but felt she had accomplished what she wanted to in life, and told Dorothy how fortunate she felt to have succeeded in so many ways.

BevW May 5th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Bill, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and Rachel Carson’s life.

Will, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Bill’s book (On A Farther Shore) and Twitter

Will’s website and book (Green Is The New Red)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 99

It would depend on the subject, on whether it was an “authorized” biography, etc. My interest is in bringing new context to subjects who have been written about before, which is different in some important ways.

RevBev May 5th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Thank you again for such a beautiful and thoughtful book. And thank
you also for being such a great guest……We will definitely look
forward to Steinbeck…;)

William Souder May 5th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to BevW @ 101

Thanks everyone…and thank you FDL. I had fun.

Will Potter May 5th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thanks Bev for setting this up.

And thank you Bill for taking the time to chat with us.

I hope everyone reading this will pick up a copy of On a Farther Shore and support his excellent work.

And I hope Bill will be back to talk about Steinbeck!

Best,
Will

greenwarrior May 5th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thank you so much for your wonderful book and for the discussion today.

Elliott May 5th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thank you all so much — best of luck with this book – and the soon-to-be Steinbeck

ckr88 May 5th, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I’ve got this on my list and will bug the library if they don’t have it ordered yet.

It just seems the ‘rulership’ of the United States is impermeable and not influenceable though why more of the public doesn’t notice is a mystery (culture of non-nutritive filler entertainment distractions?). RC is idolized as having done something yet did it have an effect, seeing as the food supply was taken over by one sinister corporation and chemicals are still popped into use without testing, and this isn’t the case in other countries, whose countries actually retain a protective trait in their government? See: the full spectrum sunscreens that have been determined to be endocrine disruptors. See: bpa…I think even China outlaws this.

And somebody asked whether they thought RC would’ve had the same influence today as then; in today’s culture people have learned to shun those who bring up problems as ‘negative’. RC’s writing was very dour – it *was* negative. I have this tendency in what I say as well so I know what she would receive. That’s why now only comedians are speaking of the truth in their own way and that’s about all folks can handle. It’s rather sad.

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