Can You Imagine a World without Birdsong? | National Humanities Center

Humanities Moments

Can You Imagine a World without Birdsong?

July 17, 2020

Williams, Terry Tempest (Author, Conservationist, Activist)

Environmentalism; Metaphor; Humanities; Environmental Conservation; Activism; Environmental Justice;

In this video recollection, author and conservation activist Terry Tempest Williams describes her first encounter with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the ethical questions shared by her grandmother about taking personal responsibility for the natural world. As she says of this moment, “On that day, I became an environmentalist.”

In discussing Carson’s influence as a writer and activist, Williams notes the use of metaphor—the absence of bird song—as a means of conveying the profound impact of the widespread use of pesticides.

She further goes on to describe Carson’s ongoing influence on her own work as a writer and activist: “Her synthesis of science and art and lyrical language… she really set the bar for me as one who could never reconcile my love of the sciences and the humanities, and what Rachel Carson showed us is there is no separation.”


Environment and Nature / Literature / Environmentalism / Metaphor / Humanities / Environmental Conservation / Activism / Environmental Justice /

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