Sea and Earth Essay - Critical Context

Philip Sterling

Critical Context

Sea and Earth was published in 1970 as part of a biographical series recognizing the contributions of American women from various fields of endeavor. After the furor over civil rights issues of the 1960’s, a growing concern was being voiced about the dearth of female and minority role models in young adult literature. Recognition of this omission resulted in a number of collective and series biographies. The publication of Sea and Earth occurred at a fortuitous time when accomplishments by women were being recognized on the educational scene and the controversy surrounding Silent Spring’s message was ending with the imposition of restrictions on the use of pesticides. Carson had alerted the nation and the world to the dangers of DDT and related chemicals. Through her writing, Carson had made the world aware of the interrelationships between living things and of the threats to the human food supply.

For readers to understand Carson, they must understand the times in which she lived. Carson’s actions were shaped both by her character and by world events. Over her life span of fifty-five years, many environmental changes occurred. Countrysides gave way to cities, two world wars were fought, economic conditions worsened and improved, the world’s population exploded, and unplanned agricultural and industrial expansion led to environmental dangers. All these social and economic changes provide the setting for Carson’s crusade to protect the earth’s future and to recognize the interrelationship among all things on the planet. Carson was a modern-day hero who used her talents to safeguard, not to destroy, the environment.