Rachel Carson

 (56)
1 h 53 min201613+
Rachel Carson provides an illuminating and inspiring portrait of a seminal figure whose writings changed the course of our nation and are still highly relevant today.
Directors
Michelle Ferrari
Starring
Oliver PlattMary-Louise Parker
Genres
Documentary
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Producers
Mark SamelsRafael De La UzMichelle FerrariSusan BellowsVanessa Ruiz
Studio
PBS
Content advisory
Foul languageviolence
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

56 global ratings

  1. 84% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 4% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 4% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

John P. Jones IIIReviewed in the United States on November 5, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
DDT and “Better Living Through Chemistry”…
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…as Ronald Reagan once proclaimed was readily possible, when he was a spokesperson for a major chemical company. And it IS possible. But one must sure be wary of all the “unintended consequences," and even more so, our willingness to blindly ignore them, as bothersome impediments to “enhanced shareholder value.”

I first read “The Sea Around Us” when I was early on in college, and would subsequently read “Silent Spring” while still wearing that yoke. Rachel Carson’s works were (are) seminal, raising the alarm that there could be a downside to the promised “Better Living.” I’ve been seriously considering re-reading both, as part of an on-going program of evaluating the books of my youth, half a century on. But I realized I knew very little about the author, and so this documentary was a “must-see. Michelle Ferrari, the director released the movie in 2017. The narrator is Oliver Platt.

“DDT was up there with the A-Bomb for winning the Second World War in the Pacific.” More soldiers were sidelined by malaria than were wounded in combat. McArthur said that for every three division, he had one in the front, one in reserve, and one in the hospital with malaria. I found that to be true in the Vietnam War as well. After the Allies captured Naples, DDT was used to combat the typhus epidemic there. And it should be remembered that malaria was once prevalent in the United States, which is why many a southern planter favored Ashville, NC in the summer, for the gin and tonics, with quinine, that helped combat the malaria once it was contracted. It was only in 1951 that malaria was finally eliminated from the USA, by the use of DDT. So, there was a considerable upside to the chemical.

Rachel Carson grew up near Pittsburgh, in a home without central heat or running water, during the Great Depression. She had wanted to be a writer, but also needed to support the family. Through those essential traits of grit and determination, she got through college, with a biology major, and landed a job at Woods Hole in MA. She would use only her initials in her first scientific papers, so that the reader might assume she was a man, and therefore place more credence to the article. Such were the times. Her lucky break was having chapters of “The Sea Around Us” serialized in “The New Yorker.” When the book was released, it was on top of the best seller list for 33 weeks. She would buy a cottage on the coast of Maine from the profits, and loved to explore, in particular, the intertidal zone, and would develop a long term friendship with a neighbor.

“Silent Spring” was her effort to document the downside of “wonder chemicals” like DDT. She raised the issue of the animals and insects that were killed, just so much “collateral damage.” Naturally the big chemical companies attack her personally, and her findings. Eric Sevareid, the CBS news commentator, would do a special on this book in 1963.

Meanwhile, Carson had been diagnosed with cancer in 1960, but the information was withheld from her by the doctors (see above: such were the times). She would die in April, 1964 at the age of 56, bequeathing a legacy of skepticism regarding technological advances and helping start the environmental movement.

This documentary helped push a re-read of “Silent Spring” a few notches higher on my list. 5-stars.
6 people found this helpful
Steven K.Reviewed in the United States on April 23, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
A wonderful person, and a great story.
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I had in illustrated version of the Sea Around Us that I wish I could find. In a way, this book is timeless. I seldom tire of her insights. When she wrote Silent Spring, she sent criticism of the chemical industry to the elevated status it deserves today. If you are for or against the use of chemicals and pesticides (esp. the latter), I think this documentary describes her as the person that defined the debate.
3 people found this helpful
SueReviewed in the United States on October 18, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Inspiring
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Rachel Carlson a brave, unselfish woman - sole financial support of her family, raising her relatives' children when they died; caring for her mother; warning against DDT when powerful forces arrayed against her. As a child, my playmates and I ran through the DDT mister as it traversed our city streets eradicating mosquitos. No thought given to possible long term harm. Rachel Carlson a forerunner of the ones warning about global warming. This documentary encouraged me to get two of her books on audio tape. Really worthwhile to watch this.
Anne S. HallReviewed in the United States on April 19, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Well compiled
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Documentary about Rachel Carson's work for environmental preservation and responsibility by the marketed industries and the governments need to regulate these chemicals and their uses gives example to the many problems that still exist in American culture with big pharma and corporations that need to be regulated and held accountable for their actions or dissolved in order to allow for smaller local businesses to operate ethically within their regions.
SusanReviewed in the United States on September 13, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Respect for nature - the message endures on in her beautiful work
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I recall growing up as a child amongst this controversy. What I recall some adult at our kitchen table saying is "Everything causes cancer." and my father saying "...well...just everything man creates." So true, although we have served well in the reduction of suffering by our amended versions on natures work yet we do not master it. We are observers in the wonderment of the miracle of nature and its perfection; should we disrespect it we will learn from this too if we are able to survive our relentless curiosity.
SaguaroGeorgeReviewed in the United States on August 11, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
Much much much too long
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Rachel Carson is an important contributor to science communication. Her knowledge of biology, of nature, and in her last years of the dangers of pesticides, is invaluable. But her childhood, her personal life, is of much less interest. Yet this documentary spends more time on her personal life than on her science or her writing. If half the length, this documentary would be twice as good.
JazzbeaReviewed in the United States on August 25, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Documentary of Rachel Carson lost me at Maine
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I thought this documentary would be much more lively. Carson's vision was spot on concerning poisoning our planet with chemicals. But when I learned she loved Maine, I couldn't take anymore.

Carson's life sounds depressing, and the documentary became too dry for my taste.
Teazley Nielsen-KirbyReviewed in the United States on March 17, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Thank you for this
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Rachel's comments on the expansiveness of time give me calm. Things happen on scales of millions of years so we don't have to solve all the problems right now. I need to hear that sometimes. It's okay to step away and come back tomorrow. It's what life on earth has been doing for millions of years.
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