Rachel Carson’s landmark book Silent Spring (1962) critically helped spark modern environmentalism. Even now, its fluid prose remains evocative. The vivid imagery coupled with scientific information was both persuasive and emotionally potent. Carson’s presentation drew on several themes. One was the balance of nature (1962/1987, pp. 6, 57, 66, 114, 246–248, 251). Through “eons” of history, she wrote, Earth’s “developing and evolving and diversifying life reached a state of adjustment and balance with its surroundings” (p. 6). However, Carson urged, the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides threatened that vital balance:

If organisms could not adapt to the “barrage of poisons” hurled recklessly “against the fabric of life,” the balance would be lost and, tragically, humans and other species would suffer a world made “unfit for all life” (pp. 8, 156, 279, 297).

Decades later, in 1992, Al Gore, too, appealed to balance in another important book for environmentalism, as its...

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