Saint Francis of Assisi
Rachel Carson
  Dorothy Day
  Mohandas Gandhi
  Jiddu Krishnamurti
  Dalai Lama
  Martin Luther King
  Nelson Mandela
  Anita Roddick
  Eleanor Roosevelt
  Albert Schweitzer
  Mother Teresa
  Desmund Tutu
Chair in Ethical Management
HEC Montreal


A brave prophet for life

"The beauty of the living world I was trying to save has always been uppermost in my mind — that, and anger at the senseless, brutish things that were being done. I have felt bound by a solemn obligation to do what I could — if I didn't at least try I could never be happy again in nature. But now I can believe that I have at least helped a little. It would be unrealistic to believe one book could bring a complete change."
Rachel Carson, from a letter to a friend, 1962.

For more than fifty years, Rachel Carson has been an inspiration for people of all ages interested in the beauty of nature and in its preservation. Many consider her as the mother of modern ecology; the strong will that gave life to a new spur of conservationist movements around the world.
Rachel Carson was not a born leader. She showed none of the usual qualities of leadership; on the contrary, she was shy, unsociable, and secretive. However, throughout her life, she was persistent at following and re-enacting her passion, talents and commitments—a deep reverence for nature, an intense desire to share knowledge about life, some exquisite powers of observation, and an expressive pen.
Her first national success as a writer came with the publication of The Sea Around Us in 1951 which topped the best seller list for 86 weeks. In this fresh poetic view of nature she opened up scientific knowledge about the oceans to the layperson. Her four books all became best sellers, and she won virtually every prestigious literary award. She was elected as one of the fifty members of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Rachel Carson published her famous book Silent Spring in 1962. This clear, evocative and rigorous criticism of our blind faith in technological ‘elixirs of death’ to control nature to our advantage touched the heart and mind of the public. Despite attacks from the chemical industry questioning her credibility and sanity, and a cancer that would take her life some months later, she never turned her back on her mission. She left behind a world where pesticides would no more be considered harmless to human and animal life: a few years later after Silent Spring, DDT was banned as well as a “dirty dozen” pesticides, and prospective pesticides had to be thoroughly tested for their toxicological effects before going to the market.
A stream of unprecedented environmental policies followed that profoundly changed the social and political landscape of America and most Western countries. The chemical industry – including giants like Monsanto, which was actively involved in discrediting Rachel Carson in 1962 - has since integrated environmental issues into their strategic planning.
Rachel Carson was a lady of deep vision, of sincere respect for all life forms, and of indomitable dedication to preserve and share the beauty of nature. Her short passage among us has raised the spirits of many and helped create a better world for us and for future generations to live in.

Quotes from Rachel Carson

To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feelthe 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 year, 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.”
“I believe that whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man's spiritual growth.”
“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.”
“The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important.”
“Understanding comes only when, standing on a beach, we can sense the long rhythms of sea and earth that sculpted its land forms and produced the rock and sand of which it is composed; when we can sense with the eye and ear of the mind the surge of life beating always at its shores—blindly, inexorably pressing for a foothold.”
“In the truest sense, there is no separate literature of biology or of any science. Knowledge of the facts of science is not a prerogative of a small number of men, isolated in their laboratories, but belongs to all men, for the realities of science are the realities of life itself.”
“I hope we can establish an awareness of a dynamic process that is never completed, a sequence of events in time and space that is full of meaning for us living creatures.”
“We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven’t become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a very tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Now I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we’re challenged, as mankind has never been challenged before, to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature but of ourselves.”

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Key documents

Rachel Carson: The Writer at Work

by Paul Brooks, Paul. Sierra Books, 1998. Formerly known as--The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1972


The Sense of Wonder

by Rachel Carson, photographs by Charles Pratt
New York, Harper & Row (posthumous, 1965)


Under the Sea-Wind

by Rachel Carson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1941


The Sea Around Us

by Rachel Carson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.


The Edge of the Sea.

by Rachel Carson, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1955.


Silent Spring.

by Rachel Carson, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962.

Carson, Rachel. Papers 1928-1932, 50 items. Johns Hopkins University, Milton S. Eisenhower Library. Baltimore, Maryland.

Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman

by Martha Freeman, 1952-1964. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995.


Hynes, H. Patricia. The Recurring Silent Spring. New York: Pergamon Press, 1989.

Gino J. Marco, Robert M. Hollingworth, and William Durham. Silent Spring Revisited. Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society, 1987.


Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature.

by Linda Lear, New York, Henry Holt & Co., 1997.


Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson.

by Linda Lear. Boston, Beacon Press, 1998.


And No Birds Sing. Rhetorical Analyses of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Edited by Craig Waddell. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

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Key Websites on Rachel Carson

1. The 100 top leaders of the 20th century by Time Magazine:

2. Rachel Carson. org , a web site dedicated to the life and legacy of Rachel Carson.

3. National Women Hall of Fame

4. Ecology Hall of Fame

5. Rachel Carson Council

6. Rachel Carson at Pennsylvania Hall of Fame

7. The Rachel Carson Homestead

8. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

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