Monday, April 29, 2013

Silent Spring: It's Not Just for the Birds

By Ben Reuter

This was the first time I have had the chance to read Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring and I must say I am taken away by it. Carson explains how absolutely terrifying and destructive our uses of pesticides and herbicides have been to our environment. 

The book explains and defines the differences between the hundreds of chemicals that have been used on our fields and crops and what distinguishes each chemical from the next. Even with the distinction between the confusing chemical names, all I began to do when a long fancy name popped up was just say ‘death’ instead of the name, because that is what Carson seems to say about each one no matter what they were used for.

Carson not only described the chemicals and what they were, but she even explained how the original production of most chemicals was derived from; they were produced as chemicals to be used during warfare. The most famous of these killers was Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War by the United States in an attempt to clear the Vietnamese Guerilla Fighters out of the dense jungle by having the chemical kill massive amounts of vegetation.

The US government realized that some of these chemicals they sprayed acted as amazing pesticides and herbicides on the battlefields. It took a smart, yet looking back very dumb, person to say, “Wow we can use these on our crops to kill off all the bugs that eat at the crops.” This realization, in my opinion, ended the natural crop era. From now on there were chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used on farms nationwide to supposedly help with crop production. It sounds fine and dandy until you look at the chemicals used and most contain various dioxins and poisons to kill off pests, but what are those poisons being sprayed on? OUR FOOD!
What could possibly happen to us if we spray this stuff to kill the bugs on our food? Then we eat that poisoned food? How does that make sense?
Carson explained how it wasn’t just the humans that were going to be affected; she also gave numerous accounts of wildlife that wasn’t targeted by the chemicals but were affected in the worst way. She explained how there were hundreds of accounts from bird watchers nationwide that migration patterns and population growth are almost nonexistent around areas where major spraying of fields had occurred. The causes of these extinctions and shifts in migration are linked to the poisons that are sprayed on the fields, consumed by various levels of the food chain, and ending up in the birds. 

The problem with this is the way that these poisons and chemicals are concentrated in animal life higher in the food chain. Birds who eat worms who live in the soil are liable to have hundreds or thousands of levels of concentration higher than the animals being directly sprayed without consuming food lower on the food chain.
Now you are thinking, “Oh, well, that’s just the birds.” Well, what happens when we humans consume the cattle that have been subject to poisoned grasses? The cow’s concentration is higher than the grasses, and then our concentration of poison will in turn be higher than the cow’s concentration, making us very sick with such high concentrations of poisons. This chain reaction is scary because I thought we were spraying to make our lives easier? Not to poison everyone who eats the food we are trying to save… Maybe we should look at ourselves and ask, “Why do we need to do this?” 

It seems to me that if we don’t want to destroy our food system then stop the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and any other spray that contains any amount of poisons because we realistically don’t know their effects on the world around us. We have been playing in the sandbox and destroying it slowly, now we must stop and start to fix our destruction.

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