Author to give Earth Day presentation on landmark environmental book, activist

April 15, 2013

Biographer William Souder will visit Indiana State University to give an Earth Day presentation on the landmark book and author who forever changed environmental advocacy.

Souder will discuss his book "On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson," on Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in the University Hall Theatre. Souder's book was published last fall, on the 50th anniversary of Carson's landmark book "Silent Spring," which was one of the first books documenting the harmful effects of the then-exploding use of insecticides and pesticides such as DDT. A relatively unknown biologist, her book ignited a flurry of critics and ultimately spurred government action, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the banning of several pesticides.

"She wrote ‘Silent Spring' to challenge everyone to view the natural world in a different way, that we're a part of it, and we're doing damage to the ecosystem," said Rusty Gonser, associate professor of biology at Indiana State who helped organize Souder's presentation. "She was the first one to call for policy changes to protect human health and the environment."

Souder's book "On a Farther Shore" details Carson's life, including the variety of responses that the general public had toward the person considered by some to be the founder of the environmental movement.

"This biography tells what she was up against back then and what she was going through," Gonser said, adding that Carson was "someone who became an advocate before advocacy was popular, let alone she was doing that back in the 60s and the gender politics in that time."

The principles included in "Silent Spring" are relevant even today, Gonser said, given the concerns that exist with such recent developments as genetically altered foods and new chemicals that have been created.

"... We could probably write the same book today, based on different things," he added.

Souder, who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his previous James Audubon biography "Under a Wild Sky," will have a reception and book signing following his presentation. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of "On a Farther Shore" will also be available for purchase.