When biologist, naturalist, and writer Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in the early sixties, the attention it called to the hazardous use of pesticides sparked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. One early outcome was the inaugural celebration of Earth Day, which took place on the steps of The New York Public Library on April 22, 1970. Calling together authors, politicians, and activists—including Kurt Vonnegut and Mayor John Lindsay—it helped launch a movement of civic engagement and citizen-driven environmental advocacy that would pave the way for heroes like Greta Thunberg and triumphs like the Paris Agreement. Besides the half-century anniversary of Earth Day, 2020 marks the 125th anniversary of NYPL’s founding, which the library is celebrating with a reading list of 125 books that have shaped the modern mind, Silent Spring among them.
In honor of these coinciding commemorations, Brain Picking’s Maria Popova curates readings and performances of Silent Spring, as well as poetry and prose that highlight themes of ecology and nature, on the steps of the Library. The event will be accompanied by a display of items from the Library’s special collections that explore the environmental history of New York, including its advocacy and protection by pioneering journalist Rachel Carson and the inaugural Earth Day campaign.