About the exhibition

In this virtual exhibition, historian Donald Worster explains how human relations with other animals, wild and domestic, is at the core of a majority of epidemics. In the face of the current coronavirus crisis, he argues that an exclusive focus on human life and economy will keep neither the planet nor ourselves healthy. We must decide “whether we humans can or want to restore and protect the health, not just of ourselves, but also of the planet.”

This essay is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International by Donald Worster. For the images, individual licenses apply (click on an image for more information).

The author wishes to thank Professor Shen Hou of Renmin University of China for editorial advice and publication help, including translation into Mandarin of an earlier version, published in 中華讀書報 (China Reading Weekly).

About the author

Donald Worster is one of the founders of, and leading figures in, the field of environmental history. He is currently Distinguished Foreign Expert and senior professor in the School of History of Renmin University of China. Before coming to Beijing, Worster held the position of Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas from 1989 until his retirement.

Worster has been active in environmental history since the early 1970s, in the United States and other parts of the world. In 1971, he completed his Ph.D. at Yale University, where he studied the history of ecology, environmental literature, intellectual history, and the history of the American West. Formerly the president of the American Society for Environmental History, Worster has served on a number of editorial boards, and, for more than two decades, has been founding editor for the Environment and History book series published by Cambridge University Press. He is an elected member of the Society of American Historians and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2011 and 2013 he was a Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at LMU Munich.

Worster’s books include Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas; Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s; Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West; A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell; and A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir; along with several books of collected essays including The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination. His current research focuses on two projects: Darwinian and post-Darwinian science and the concept of adaptation as theoretical bases for environmental history, and the twin, competing themes of natural abundance and scarcity in American and modern world history.

How to cite:

Worster, Donald. “Another Silent Spring.” Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2020, no. 1 (22 April 2020). Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. doi.org/10.5282/rcc/9028.

The Environment & Society Portal’s Pandemics in Context page offers a growing collection of open-access resources (analyses, primary sources, and digital resources) that help put pandemics in ecological and environmental humanities contexts. The gallery below highlights open-access multimedia resources for reading, learning, listening, and viewing.