The introductory chapter reinterprets Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) and its historiographical legacy. It begins with an exploration of lay and expert conceptualizations of the relationship between health and the environment in the United States in the pre-WWII period. It then situates health and environmentalism within both the broader political culture of liberal and progressive activism in the post-WWII period, and the legislative and regulatory trajectory of health and the environment. From these broader histories, the chapter argues that the widespread lionization of Carson’s work and person, by embracing an influential yet bounded reformism for which health was a matter of personal choice and individual boundaries, has impeded a more wide-ranging scholarly engagement with the centrality of health to environmental politics.
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