Thursday, April 8, 2010

Defending Silent Spring

By Karen Dougherty

On Silent Spring

Rachel, Rachel, we’ve been hearing,
All the dread words that you’ve said.
Were they true and Spring was silent,
Then I’m sure we’ll soon be dead.

Hunger, hunger, are you listening,
To the words from Rachel’s pen?
Words which taken at face value,
Place lives of birds ‘bove those of men.

Written by W.E. McCauley
Honorary member of the National Pest Control Association
September 1962

Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring was published in 1962. In July of the same year, a New York Times headline read, “Silent Spring is now noisy summer.” Carson’s book sparked a worldwide outcry and led to the idea of environmental awareness. Sadly, less than two years after its publication, Rachel Carson succumbed to breast cancer.

As illustrated by the poem above, not everyone embraced Rachel Carson’s message of environmental caution. I find the last line of the above poem very telling. What gives humans the right to inherently value ourselves above birds or any other creatures? True, there are creatures that cause harm to humans and must be controlled but the methods employed to do this must be used respectfully and responsibly. The chemical fiascos illustrated in Silent Spring show that, not only can these chemicals be harmful, they may be completely ineffectual. Whenever possible, the use of natural methods such as pest integration should be employed. Even then caution is warranted. Introducing non-native species as control agents can have disastrous effects on ecosystems and their native species.

Rachel Carson wasn’t “anti-chemicals,”even when it came to the use of toxic ones. She turned to the use of chemotherapy, toxic chemicals, to help eradicate her breast cancer, to no effect. Rachel Carson’s message is simply one of extreme caution. We should not be employing the use of dangerous chemicals until all other avenues have been explored. Even then, we must be cognizant of all the possible effects such methods may produce.

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