Thursday, April 11, 2013

Natural Predators Better than Toxic Chemicals

By Nick Bower

In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson raises two primary points. The first is that there is always an alternative to using chemicals in the environment, and that the long-lasting effects of using those chemicals are worse than the initial reason of using them. Carson initially draws in the reader with the image of spring time in the near future that is void of any birds singing, because they have all been killed off. She argues that this is inevitable with the way civilization is going, and proceeds to show and explain how.

Carson then begins to prove how every aspect of the environment--wildlife, water, and soil--are harmed by the use of insecticides. Through extensive research, Carson explains how the chemicals infect the tissues of birds and other animals, remaining in the food chain. The soil, which is made from the bodies of wildlife, then becomes infected for years to come. The water is contaminated directly from the use of insecticides, explains Carson, which is the source of public water supplies.

Carson is able to ease the reader in this way because she doesn’t immediately predict doom and gloom. Instead, she starts off with effects to the environment, and once the reader settles in, she then introduces how insecticides affect people directly.

Chapter 11 is the start to Carson explaining how everyone on earth, no matter location, has some trace of DDT in their body.  Carson goes into detail of the make-up of the human body, and explains how over time it is negatively altered by being exposed to poisonings. Carson then references research that linked insecticide exposure to cancer, as well as other cell mutations, like Downs’ Syndrome.

A major theme throughout Silent Spring is that using insecticides not only is dangerous, but much of the time isn’t even effective. Carson is able to give numerous examples of the ineffectiveness of insecticides as well as give examples of natural alternatives that would have accomplished the job without the risk. Cases such as introducing natural predators to the Japanese beetle in the eastern United States proved Carson’s point. Using natural predators, Carson showed, not only effectively controls the desired target, but does not harm anything else.

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