Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening

Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening

by Douglas Brinkley
Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening

Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening

by Douglas Brinkley


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Acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley chronicles in vivid detail how the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — and Carson’s close partnership with President John F. Kennedy and his administration — launched the modern environmental movement. With Silent Spring Revolution, Brinkley thrillingly caps an arc of work exploring the 20th century histories of the Presidency and ecological awareness in the US, how we moved from the conservation imperatives of Theodore Roosevelt to today’s intentional activism is a twisty tale of fits and starts, politics, money, villains, and heroes.

New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed presidential historian Douglas Brinkley chronicles the rise of environmental activism during the Long Sixties (1960-1973), telling the story of an indomitable generation that saved the natural world under the leadership of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

With the detonation of the Trinity explosion in the New Mexico desert in 1945, the United States took control of Earth’s destiny for the first time. After the Truman administration dropped atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II, a grim new epoch had arrived. During the early Cold War years, the federal government routinely detonated nuclear devices in the Nevada desert and the Marshall Islands. Not only was nuclear fallout a public health menace, but entire ecosystems were contaminated with radioactive materials. During the 1950s, an unprecedented postwar economic boom took hold, with America becoming the world’s leading hyperindustrial and military giant. But with this historic prosperity came a heavy cost: oceans began to die, wilderness vanished, the insecticide DDT poisoned ecosystems, wildlife perished, and chronic smog blighted major cities.

In Silent Spring Revolution, Douglas Brinkley pays tribute to those who combated the mauling of the natural world in the Long Sixties: Rachel Carson (a marine biologist and author), David Brower (director of the Sierra Club), Barry Commoner (an environmental justice advocate), Coretta Scott King (an antinuclear activist), Stewart Udall (the secretary of the interior), William O. Douglas (Supreme Court justice), Cesar Chavez (a labor organizer), and other crusaders are profiled with verve and insight.

Carson’s book Silent Spring, published in 1962, depicted how detrimental DDT was to living creatures. The exposé launched an ecological revolution that inspired such landmark legislation as the Wilderness Act (1964), the Clean Air Acts (1963 and 1970), and the Endangered Species Acts (1966, 1969, and 1973). In intimate detail, Brinkley extrapolates on such epic events as the Donora (Pennsylvania) smog incident, JFK’s Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Great Lakes preservation, the Santa Barbara oil spill, and the first Earth Day.

With the United States grappling with climate change and resource exhaustion, Douglas Brinkley’s meticulously researched and deftly written Silent Spring Revolution reminds us that a new generation of twenty-first-century environmentalists can save the planet from ruin.

Silent Spring Revolution features two 8-page color photo inserts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780063212916
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 11/15/2022
Pages: 896
Sales rank: 120,890
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.60(h) x 2.40(d)

About the Author

Douglas Brinkley is the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University, presidential historian for the New-York Historical Society, trustee of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The Chicago Tribune dubbed him “America’s New Past Master.” He is the recipient of such distinguished environmental leadership prizes as the Frances K. Hutchison Medal (Garden Club of America), the Robin W. Winks Award for Enhancing Public Understanding of National Parks (National Parks Conservation Association), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lifetime Heritage Award. His book The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He was awarded a Grammy for Presidential Suite and is the recipient of seven honorary doctorates in American studies. His two-volume, annotated Nixon Tapes won the Arthur S. Link–Warren F. Kuehl Prize. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Part I Protoenvironmentalists (1945-1959)

Chapter 1 The Ebb and Flow of John F. Kennedy 3

Chapter 2 Harry Truman: Polluted and Radiated America 17

Chapter 3 Rachel Carson and the Shore of the Sea 43

Chapter 4 William O. Douglas and the Protoenvironmentalists 65

Chapter 5 Wilderness Politics, Dinosaur National Monument, and the Nature Conservancy 92

Chapter 6 Saving Shorelines 119

Chapter 7 Protesting Plastics, Nuclear Testing, and DDT 138

Part II John F. Kennedy's New Frontier (1961-1963)

Chapter 8 Forging the New Frontier: Stewart Udall and Lyndon Johnson 157

Chapter 9 Wallace Stegner's "Wilderness Letter" 183

Chapter 10 The Green Face of America 196

Chapter 11 Rachel Carson, the Laurance Rockefeller Report, and Kennedy's Science Curve 218

Chapter 12 The White House Conservation Conference (May 24-25, 1962) 234

Chapter 13 Rachel Carson's Alarm 252

Chapter 14 Point Reyes (California) and Padre Island (Texas) National Seashores 266

Chapter 15 Campaigns to Save the Hudson River and Bodega Bay 282

Chapter 16 The Tag Team of John F. Kennedy, Stewart Udall, and Rachel Carson 300

Chapter 17 The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 322

Part III The Environmentalism of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon (1964-1973)

Chapter 18 JFK's Last Conservation Journey 333

Chapter 19 The Mississippi Fish Kill, the Clean Air Act, and American Beautification 350

Chapter 20 The Great Society: Rachel Carson and Howard Zahniser's Legacies 366

Chapter 21 The Wilderness Act of 1964 389

Chapter 22 Ending the Bulldozing of America 408

Chapter 23 America's Natural Heritage: Cape Lookout, Big Bend, the Grand Canyon 435

Chapter 24 Defenders: Historical Preservation, Endangered Species, and Bedroll Scientists 457

Chapter 25 "Sue the Bastards!" and Environmental Justice 477

Chapter 26 The Unraveling of America, 1968 501

Chapter 27 Lyndon Johnson: Champion of Wild Rivers and National Scenic Trails (October 2, 1968) 526

Chapter 28 Taking Stock of New Conservation Wins 544

Chapter 29 Santa Barbara, the Cuyahoga River, and the National Environmental Policy Act 562

Chapter 30 Generation Earth Day, 1970-1971 592

Chapter 31 Nixon's Environmental Activism of 1972: The Great Lakes Protection, the DDT Ban, and the Stockholm Conference 629

Epilogue Last Leaves on the Tree 652

Acknowledgments 675

Appendix I National Wildlife Refuges 687

Appendix II National Parks 693

Appendix III Protection for Animals Initial Endangered Species List 1966-1967 701

Notes 705

Bibliography 807

Image Credits 821

Index 825

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