We have seen a diametrical change of mindset in our life time. We started off by thinking that Nature was huge, robust and inexhaustible, but today many people view Nature as fragile, sensitive, nearly exhausted and in need of protection. We can replace nature in the the previous sentence with Earth or Eco-System, if you like, and improve the accuracy of what has happened, but I think you see what I am driving at. And I recall it from my youth: if you protested against throwing garbage in the river next to our village and said something about pollution, you were laughed at. The whole idea seemed ridiculous, but today there are cleaning systems at work, huge fines for polluting and tremendous social control. It is the same river and it may even be cleaner than thirty years ago, but it is treated fundamentally differently.
Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring is frequently credited to have set this major shift in motion, or at least profoundly contributed to it. If you listen to Witness (BBC), you can hear one of last week's issues (that will soon be taken out of the feed, so hurry with download) that talks with Carson's adopted son and discusses the conception and reception of the work. Carson was among the first to warn the world for fatal pollution of the environment. She was ridiculed and attacked. Today nobody doubts that the environment can be fatally polluted and many think we are very close to doing so and in some realms already have passed that point.
If you look for 'Silent Spring' in iTunes you will find a number of lectures that bear that name and even though they do not directly relate to Carson or her book, they do relate to the subject of it: how pesticides cause irreversible damage to flora and fauna. You can find an old issue of Science & The City that reports how DDT (which Carson warned about) is returning to the scene in 2007 (feed). And in iTunesU is a series from Carnegie Mellon University called Interdisciplinary Collaboration Audio which contains a fine lecture by Tyrone Hayes about the devastating effect of pesticides on amphibians which is a very captivating listen. (feed)