By Katie Attinello
Though nearly fifty-one years have passed since the first publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the ideas and stories included in its pages ring true for every year since. Even today there is little to make the severe precautions in her book outdated. On the contrary, the numerous toxins Carson names as infiltrators of our natural environment have only been—ironically—concentrated, if you will, to dangerously high levels. Our modern chemical practices and wasteful choices are blatant disregard for Carson’s written labor of love for the human race.
Even as a child, I can recall insecticides misting down over the river adjacent to our property on late spring evenings, a small plane skimming low on the water in hopes of eradicating the gnats eggs that would later swarm in a haze around residents working outdoors. And though the spraying has long since been suspended, it was my understanding that this choice was not out of heeding the mountains of research against these practices that Carson understood even before writing Silent Spring, but because the state funding had dried up. Oddly enough these years later, the gnat population seems to have done the same without any interference from man.
Yet was it the long-term effects of spraying that caused these gnats to never repopulate to their once unbearable numbers? As Carson so astutely points out at several moments in the text, the effects of our decisions over the course of time has been a subject of little importance. The mindset she warned against—to utilize a product with seemingly unmatchable strength without a thorough investigation of its effects over the course of time—can and does often lead to human and environmental harm of unanticipated proportions.
Her ideas and detailed explanations should serve as a model for the development of safer practices now. We cannot wait for “in the future” any longer. Scientists should not be developing alternative ways to protect crops to be implemented in the future. They should be working towards installing trial methods of new, environmentally conscious ways of farming, city planning, building infrastructure, etc. today. And while that is occurring in many places, it’s often by small operations.
Carson’s vision was for this earthly awareness she wanted all to understand to become the foundation for our whole way of existing—big businesses, small business, and citizens’ efforts altogether. It should be the mission of the next wave of young environmentalists to keep pushing this to become a reality.