By Deanna Dunsmuir
Rachel Carson begins her story “Silent Spring” with a cautionary tale of a suburban area turned to a land of destroyed life and resources.
“The countryside that once looked so pretty now looked dry and withered,” she wrote.
“People noticed a fine, white dust had settled all over the leaves and in the gutters of their houses. The problem with this land didn’t come from witchcraft, but from the people themselves.”
Carson’s words send a chill to the reader with a scene reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream’s conclusion to drug abuse. However, if such a desolate effect is not enough to motivate readers to pay attention to dangerous chemicals, than the rest of the book will surely sway their minds.
Chemicals mentioned include Strontium 90 and DDT, among many others. Such chemicals, she points out, cannot be removed from the Earth once they are put in it.
Turning a blind eye to such disastrous chemicals in the present may seem all too easy; however, seeing the repercussions will come at a time when it is all too late.
Insecticides or biocides, nuclear chemicals, and arsenic are mentioned to be used in a plethora of ways during the time of the author’s publication. Such chemicals were ingredients in weight loss drugs, government approved insecticide sprays and used during World War II.
Scarily, the effects of some of these chemicals are still yet to be known; as measuring how much is contaminated can only come through time.
“This problem of synthetic chemicals being released into the environment and then being transformed into other chemicals by the natural processes of air, light, and water on them is far reaching,” Carson writes, of the 2,4-D found in some farmer’s wells.
If the author’s point seems like an exaggerated account one only has to look to the Pompton Lakes area and the Dupont cleanup to see her words are right on the money. As of early March 50 residents filed a suit against Dupont claiming illness and unrest over the toxic chemicals leaked back in the 1920’s from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company’s toxic waste.
PHOTO SOURCE: DAVID BERGELAND staff photographer of The Record
Aside from presenting scientific research and projections the author also discusses alternatives to using dangerous chemicals.
“Another long-term solution would be to use a variety of trees instead of planting only one kind. That way, if something attacks one variety, it will be unlikely to wipe out all the landscaping trees of a town or city,” the author writes, as a strategy for limiting chemical spray affects.
As a first time reader of Silent Spring I can honestly say that I am deeply grateful for Carson and this stories’ publication. If nothing else is learned from this story citizens must realize that government does not typically set guidelines and regulations on themselves-it is done by force of the people.
The case Carson presents and the current case of DuPont/ Pompton Lakes residents calling for clean up of the dangerous chemical vapors seeping through their homes, connect in that chemicals were said to be safe by government until proven otherwise by side effects.
Thinking about what that time period must have been like, and if I were reading this book in 1962, I would have been terrified to have been a pioneer in the fight for chemical regulations.