Thursday, April 7, 2011

Silent Spring: A Book That Saved Lives

By Lindsey de Stefan 

Silent Spring, the 1962 book by marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson, was one of the first steps toward an environmental movement in our nation. Carson was one of the first to explore the effects of many man-made materials on humans, plants, animal life, and ecosystems. She was the first to alert the masses that there was a serious problem that, if not rectified, could have huge consequences for us and the planet we inhabit.

Carson’s main concern was the widespread and largely uncontrolled use of pesticides in many areas of the country, particularly DDT. In the 1960s, these chemicals, some of which were discovered as effective insect killers during World War II, were falsely thought to be harmful only to bugs, not to humans, plant life, or animals. Carson proved this to be false, citing many cases of accidental death due to exposure to these highly hazardous chemicals.

Carson also explained the scary truth that nearly everyone could be exposed to and potentially harmed by these chemicals, even if they had been nowhere near them, if they leak into our surface and ground water. Once these chemicals are in the water, there is apparently no effective way to get them out. And as many of us know, if you contaminate water in just one tiny area, it can spread through a far greater expanse.

Carson’s research and Silent Spring were certainly important to our current environmental and "green" movement. She pointed out the real dangers that pesticides hold which, for some decades before her work, had gone totally unnoticed. It is probably true that, had Carson not done what she did, someone eventually would have seen the hazards of these pesticides and their unrestricted use. But how many more people would have died? How damaged would our ecosystems have been by that point? How many fish would be floating dead in streams and ponds, and birds falling from the sky?

Carson was truly an instrumental individual in the movement that has largely rid our society of many, but not all of these hazards. Silent Spring could potentially be the savior of innumerable Americans who could have died if these dangers had not been brought to the attention of our nation.

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