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How one scientist took on the chemical industry - Mark Lytle

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In 1958, after receiving a letter describing the deaths of songbirds due to the pesticide known as DDT, Rachel Carson began an investigation into the misuse of chemicals and their toll on nature. In 1962, she published her findings in “Silent Spring,” which immediately drew both applause and impassioned dissent. How did this biologist and writer ignite such controversy? Mark Lytle investigates.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Lytle Mark
  • Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Storyboard Artist Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Compositor Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Art Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Music Luke O'Malley
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Assistant Animation and Compositing Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Rachel Carson in her controversial book, Silent Spring, warned that the abuse of pesticides, especially DDT, threatened the natural systems on which all life depends. Her lyrical prose and sound science impressed her admirers, while her controversial ideas led her critics, mostly men, to dismiss her as a hysterical woman or even a Communist. Today most people recognize her as a founding spirit of the environmental movement.

Beginning in the 1990s, some conservatives led by Texas Congressman Tom DeLay and science fiction writer and physician Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), accused Rachel Carson of being a mass murderer. They built their case on the general ban on the use of DDT spraying in malarial areas. Malaria claimed millions of human lives each year. Children in Africa were especially vulnerable. These claims against Carson were laid out in Tina Rosenberg, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/11/magazine/what-t...

Kirsten Weir responded in Salon, September 2007, “Rachel Carson's birthday bashing”

The right has revved up its claim that the environmental pioneer who criticized DDT was responsible for the spread of malaria that killed millions. The facts say otherwise.
https://www.salon.com/2007/06/29/rachel_carson/

Another dissenting view of conservative claims is https://www.thenation.com/article/dont-blame-environmentalists-malaria/

Teachers’ Note: For a more in depth view of Carson see: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/rachel-carson/
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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Lytle Mark
  • Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Storyboard Artist Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Compositor Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Art Director Héloïse Dorsan Rachet
  • Music Luke O'Malley
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Assistant Animation and Compositing Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more