Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning from Silent Spring's Critique

By Jonathan Madden

I found Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, to be very informative. In her book she talks about many issues surrounding the use of pesticides and it’s harm to the environment. In one of her arguments she states that the use of DDT, perhaps one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides, was a direct threat specifically to birds as it was found to be the cause of thinner eggshells. But what I felt was her strongest argument was uncontrolled pesticide use was harming and possibly killing animals, birds, and humans.

In Carson’s eyes, the chemical companies producing insecticides are negligent for not specifically outlining the risks of using the chemicals, and our actions in general should be questioned for indiscriminately spraying DDT without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health.

Following the release of her book Silent Spring, Carson was greatly criticized for her claims against the chemical producing companies. According to Time Magazine, critiques included calling her a “hysterical woman” who was unqualified to write such a book. Other criticism from a biochemist and chemical industry spokesman stated, “If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson we would return to the Dark Ages and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.”

After reading Carson’s work, I highly respect her for her claims and feel that they are just. She is completely acting with in reason to claim that we have overused these chemicals without thinking about the consequences to the environment including our own well being. History shows how often we resort to the easiest solution when fixing a problem without thinking about any long-term ramifications, and indiscriminately spraying a harmful chemical such as DDT is just another example.

Carson’s claims about the lack of responsibility by pesticide producing companies in not properly informing the public about some of the risks involved with using chemicals, I feel is also just. For that very argument is why now in more recent times, on all cans of Raid and other insect killing chemicals, we see warning messages properly conveying to the user exactly what they need to know about the potential harmfulness of the substance they are using.

I felt I learned just as much in Carson’s book about people's disregard for the environment, as I learned from the criticism she faced after publishing it. The same attitude where humanity naturally seeks to solve all problems through the easiest solution with no regards to its consequences is what’s harming our environment now. If we all focused on how to solve problems in manners that are both effective and environmentally safe, perhaps we wouldn’t have many of the problems we face today.

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