Sunday, April 28, 2013

Silent Spring: More Voices Needed Today

By Ashley Intveld

 Look around you. The wind rustles through each leaf on the trees, the sun permeates through spotty clouds, and the birds sing a sweet melody that's carried on that breeze. Now, imagine a world that Rachel Carson introduced to readers in her 1962 expose, Silent Spring. This world is barren, void of rustling trees and chirping birds. Instead, it is a vast, stark wasteland; a mere skeleton of a world that once was. 

This book served as an early warning of an imminent future should the use of harmful insecticides continue to be used. Not only would the world as we know it wilt and perish, but we too would cease to exist. The saying goes to "let nature run its course." Why, then, are chemical companies quickening the pace?

Carson writes about the dangerous impact insecticides have on wildlife. The chemicals seep into the fatty tissues of animals in which they are magnified. These chemicals then cause debilitating diseases including liver disease, and often death. When incorporated into the food chain, the presence of chemicals has a devastating effect on populations. Considering the fact that humans take part in this food chain, we too become susceptible to the harmful effects of insecticides. 

Water, an essential element to human survival, also becomes tainted with insecticide poisons. Chemicals wash into large bodies of water and groundwater. This mixture then seeps into our water supply, and thus, our water becomes dangerous for our consumption. Humans succumb to rare cancers, Downs Syndrome, and sometimes death as a result of these ailments.

While reading through this, haunting me in the back of my mind was a recurring question: why? Carson answered this question, however, it still racked my mind, for the answer was insufficient. Money? Large corporations put a price tag on human lives and the well being of the environment solely for the purpose to gain a paycheck. Their short-sightedness is quite problematic, considering the fact that their products are destroying the very products that make a profit, and are also killing off the primary clientele. Money runs short, especially when the demand is low. A low demand is inevitable because the people demanding the products are dying. Where is the sense in that?

Reiterating this point further, this linear approach to business cannot be maintained because the product is not efficient. True to theory of evolution, as pests are exposed to dangerous chemicals, they begin to adapt through breeding. That being said, the chemicals kill off the predators we need and the pests we originally tried to rid ourselves of will actually thrive. Again, I ask, where is the sense in continuing to produce a harmful product that isn't even efficient and needs constant tinkering?

Carson, in retrospect, is a hero of her time. She opened eyes and ears about an issue that could not be foreseen without her insights. In reading Silent Spring, I felt somewhat disenchanted that her words were heeded, but not enacted as fully as I think they should be. If anything, we have taken the quick-fix approach to insect killing and applied it to how we care for human ailments. 

We no longer diagnose; we prescribe. It's a quick fix, but not a permanent fix, and the issues remain unresolved. Issues will be solved when voices like Rachel Carson's begin to speak just a little louder, for everyone to hear.

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