Sunday, April 28, 2013

Approaching a Silent Spring

By Alexa Rivera

DDT is the most hazardous man-made substance banned in most parts of the globe. In post World War II America, more than 600 million pounds of DDT a year was used to treat the country and rid it of “pests” such as mosquitoes that were carriers of the disease Malaria.

The debate between environmentalists and humanitarians and the chemical industry has been ongoing for more than 50 years. According to the humanitarians’ perspective, DDT help save the country and to ban it was a death sentence to humans.

At one point, DDT was thought to be a pesticide that could work miracles. It was used on over 300 agricultural products, from apples to walnuts, and by the late 1950’s over half a pound per person was sprayed in the United States.

Speculation was raised about harmful effects of the chemical when the book Silent Spring authored by Rachel Carson was published in 1962. The book discussed the detrimental effects that DDT had on humans, wildlife, and the environment around us.

Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some government officials who said that she was over-reacting and was “crazy” to think that this could harm humans.

In retrospect, Silent Spring got the public’s attention. Carson’s courageous efforts to warn the public about the long term effects of misusing pesticides was noble. She challenged the practice of agriculturalists and the government.

Carson’s writings were the best way to get people to rally against the use of this hazardous chemical. She began researching the use of this pesticide and found after keeping an organized log of the areas sprayed the wildlife was being affected.

The thesis of the book proposed that we as society had a fundamental right to a healthy environment. Before Silent Spring was published Carson tried to submit a number of articles to magazines like Reader’s Digest. The articles were rejected because these magazines would run the risk of losing money from advertisers of this product, according to a documentary aired on PBS called "The American Experience: Rachel Carson."

Over the years DDT and other pesticides were linked to deadly effects among wildlife. During this time Carson saw a rapid decline in eagles and falcons. She also noticed that after a helicopter would spray farms and homes the horses in the area that would drink the water were dead within a matter of 10 hours.

Ingesting DDT not only killed the wildlife, but had effects on humans.  Cancer and other diseases were linked to this chemical.

How could the government not see these effects given the research? Carson’s book made a huge impact on society’s views. Carson should be credited for the banning of DDT; it is because of her that these effects were noted.

A few years after the book was published, the public’s awareness of the dangers associated with this pesticide impelled them to start taking steps in diminishing the use of this chemical in their communities.

I firmly agree that the banning of DDT was an important decision made to help save the environment. Not only is the effects of the chemical horrible for humans, the wildlife important to our ecology has been impacted upon as well.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  This quote from Silent Spring defines the terrible danger that man has caused to the balance of nature.

If these chemicals were still being used in the amount they were before the publication of Silent Spring, than wildlife and nature as we know it would be weakened.

As society we must know that these pesticides cannot help us if at the same time they harm us.  I am happy to know that this chemical is banned in countries all over.

Although Carson’s strong-willed fight against the chemical industry has resulted in this ban, what can we do as a society to stop all the other harmful things man has created? In years to come,  who is to say that we will not be approaching a silent spring because of another dangerous poison invented to help us?

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