In The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson combines two lifelong passions—literature and biology—and tells the epic story of earth’s oceans in a poetic style that blends imagination and expertise.
One of the most influential books about the natural world, the prize-winning and best-selling work (published 1951) covers everything from centuries-long rain to epic battles between sperm whales and giant squids to the destructive power of tsunamis. All of this is brought to life as Carson leads readers through hundreds of millions of years of geological history.
“Okay, so the book is awesome and won lots of awards. But that was back in 1951! Why should we be reconsidering this classic [see what I did there] today?”
That’s a fair question, voice in my head. The book didn’t just win awards and sell like we wish items in the TIP Store would. It made a generation of readers fall in love with science and care more deeply about our planet. That appreciation for scientific literacy, that passion for the natural world, is something that we could really use right now.
The “climate crisis” is nothing new; scientists have been warning us for decades about how humans are altering the planet in troubling ways. But we’re starting to see its effects in our news cycle on a daily basis. Just last week, we learned that Antarctica logged its hottest temperature ever.
The vast, overwhelming majority of scientists agree on its validity and seriousness, and they’re calling it the biggest threat our world faces right now.
It’s clear that Carson shared our concerns about the planet’s wellbeing. She went on to publish Silent Spring, which laid out environmental concerns, in 1961, after a decade of work in environmental conservatism and research on pesticides, in particular.
Now, no one is saying that Rachel Carson’s writings or David Attenborough’s voice is going to save us from climate change. But works like The Sea Around (and endless contemporaries that can now be found on streaming platforms) allow scientists to wrap the hard truths about the earth’s changing climate in the captivating, digestible packaging of creative storytelling.
And while it’s easy to beat people over the head (metaphorically, of course) with data from climate studies, that just isn’t going to work for everyone. If the world is going to get on the same page when it comes to tackling climate change, it’s going to take more Rachel Carson’s—people willing to use their creative talents to help nurture a wonder for the natural world and an appreciation for the science that helps us understand it.
Luckily, science writers and educators all over the world are continuing the work that Carson championed. This, coupled with what we see on a daily basis from TIPsters, gives us lots of hope.