Since its publication in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring has often been celebrated as the catalyst that sparked an American environmental movement. Yet environmental consciousness and environmental protest in some regions of the United States date back to the nineteenth century, with the advent of industrial manufacturing and the consequent growth of cities. As these changes transformed people's lives, ordinary Americans came to recognize the connections between economic exploitation, social inequality, and environmental problems. As the modern age dawned, they turned to labor unions, sportsmen’s clubs, racial and ethnic organizations, and community groups to respond to such threats accordingly. The Myth of Silent Spring tells this story. By challenging the canonical “songbirds and suburbs” interpretation associated with Carson and her work, the book gives readers a more accurate sense of the past and better prepares them for thinking and acting in the present.
Chad Montrie is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is the author of several books, including A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States.
“The Myth of Silent Spring finds the origins of modern environmental consciousness in the history of the American worker—autoworker and farmworker, socialist and social worker, union rank-and-file and inner-city black—showing us a world not only unexplored, but largely unimagined by environmental historians. This book rewrites the history of environmentalism, infusing it with contemporary relevance.”—Richard W. Judd, author of Common Lands, Common People: The Origins of Conservation in Northern New England
“The Myth of Silent Spring successfully attacks the dominant narrative of the environmental movement’s origins. Importantly, author Chad Montrie deftly uncovers the pivotal importance of labor and the working class in environmental struggles since the late nineteenth century. His well-researched book deserves close attention by scholars, activists, and politicians alike.”—Elizabeth D. Blum, author of Love Canal Revisited: Race, Class, and Gender in Environmental Activism
“A much-needed synthesis of current scholarship on environmentalism ’from the bottom up’ Montrie introduces us to a whole host of forgotten working-class, Latino, African American, immigrant, and female green activists. In so doing, he shows us that environmentalism was always far more than simply a white suburban initiative.”—Colin Fisher, author of Urban Green: Nature, Recreation, and the Working Class in Industrial Chicago