By Bryan Walsh. When Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962, there was no Environmental Protection Agency, no Endangered Species Act, no Earth Day. Ecology was considered a second-class science, and most people thought of nature as something to defeat, not preserve. Corporations and governments alike had license to blanket the earth with toxic chemicals, all in the name of science and progress. And except for a few lone voices in the wilderness, we all thought this was normal. So much of that changed with Carson's book. The quietly relentless marine biologist showed conclusively that industrial chemicals were contaminating America — most notoriously the pesticide DDT. Carson's work would help lead to the ban of DDT in the U.S. as well as the creation of real legal protections for the environment. But its lasting impact was on the spirit of the American people: no longer would we passively accept being poisoned.Read TIME's profile on Rachel Carson.
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