Rachel Carson’s Legacy: Finding the Wisdom and Insight for Global Environmental Citizenship

Date & Time

Wed, 12/05/2012


The second forum of the Ethics Center’s Silent Spring series stressed the duty and obligation of citizens in responding to environmental problems. Dr. Mitchell Thomashow, who assists colleges in promoting sustainability on their campuses as Director of the Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program, led the forum on December 5th.

The forum began with an exploration of Rachel Carson’s journey as a female biologist during an era when knowledge about the benefits and detriments of the environment were largely unknown. Many even believed that DDT, an insecticide, was good for us. In an effort to reverse these misconceptions, Carson was determined to make known the reality of anthropogenic damages to the environment. As a woman in a male-dominated field, she fought criticism to impart revolutionary environmental knowledge through her books Under the Sea Wind (1941), and Silent Spring (1962).

Furthermore, Dr. Thomashow addressed the issue of Carson’s terminal disease: Carson had been battling breast cancer as she took a stand for environmental consciousness and her battle had to be fought silently. He argued that if Carson’s illness had been publicly known, it could have been used to portray Carson as resentful, and only looking for a scapegoat for her illness. This was not the case.

To read more, please click here.

To view a recording of this event, please click here.

Read the Voice of San Diego Op-Ed on this program:
The Safety of Science – Who Can You Trust? (Op-Ed)


Mitchell Thomashow
Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program

Dr. Mitchell Thomashow is Director of the Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program, designed to assist the executive leadership of colleges and universities in promoting a comprehensive sustainability agenda on their campuses.

Previously (2006-2011) Thomashow was the president of Unity College in Maine where he integrated concepts of sustainability, participatory governance, and community service into all aspects of college life. Thomashow was the Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Antioch University New England (1976-2006) where he founded an interdisciplinary environmental studies doctoral program.

Thomashow serves as co-chair of the board for the Coalition on Environmental and Jewish Life (COEJL) and is on the board of Orion Magazine. He is a founding member of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD). He provides ongoing consultation to the Billion Dollar Green Challenge program on financing sustainability. He is the author of two books. Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist (The MIT Press, 1995) offers an approach to teaching environmental education based on reflective practice. Bringing the Biosphere Home, (The MIT Press, 2001) is a guide for learning how to perceive global environmental change.

His current project, The Nine Elements of A Sustainable Culture provides a framework for advancing sustainable living and teaching in a variety of campus environments. This will be published by The MIT Press in 2013.

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