I first read Dune in 1971 or ’72, when I borrowed it from a university friend, but as you can see, I have re-read it many times since. Not only is story just as compelling as it was all those years ago, it also brings to light something new with each re-reading. I guess it’s time to re-read Dune again because I was not consciously aware of its environmental credentials. Oh I knew and loved the whole desert environment and the small scale terraforming the inhabitants were attempting, but it was not until I read this commemorative article in Flavourwire this morning that I realised Dune’s connection to Silent Spring:
I highly recommend reading the article as it points out some rather interesting facts, facts I have never known, such as:
- Fact 1, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in 1962.
- Fact 2, Silent Spring was instrumental in the banning of DDT, but it did not touch the awareness of the masses in the way that Dune did.
Published just three years after Silent Spring in 1965, Dune has been re-printed many times. It has also spawned more than one movie version, all of which have kept the level of public awareness ticking along for 50 years. In fact, I personally know of one, highly popular group on Goodreads that is dedicated to discussions about Dune.
Nevertheless, I believe Dune’s greatest contribution to environmental awareness has come about indirectly, via the novels and movies that owe some part of their creation to the concepts popularized by Frank Herbert’s master work.
Novels have power. Great novels change the world. I wish Frank Herbert were still around to see the fruits of his labours. Or maybe not. I fear he might be disappointed.