Monday, April 8, 2013

Silent Spring's Legacy

By Jamie Bachar

When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, most of the country did not understand the harmful effects pesticides had on their bodies. In fact, the pesticide companies spent millions of dollars to convince the world that pesticides were not harmful and only positive. When the subject of DDT is introduced, many immediately think of the images of massive DDT spraying on children playing on the grass or eating lunch.

Silent Spring opens with “A Fable for Tomorrow,” a story about the disappearance of wildlife and the eerie silence this world might become if pesticides like DDT continue to be used. “No Witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves,” she wrote.

Before the publication of Silent Spring, millions of pesticides were released onto the ignorant public. Many of these pesticides had not been tested thoroughly enough to see what the long term effects might be for not just the environment but for humans. Carson found that farmers, spray-men, pilots, and others exposed to pesticides were becoming suddenly ill or dying.

Even those not directly exposed to pesticides are still in danger. Carson explains that the food chain creates a mass exposure to animals and humans alike. For instance, if pesticides run off into streams then the fish are exposed, people catch the fish and eat it and then that person is exposed. It goes even deeper than that, however, because our food that we eat everyday is doused in pesticides before appearing in the supermarket. These pesticides could have countless negative effects on the human body. It is nearly impossible to live completely pesticide-free because of the dependence this country has on pesticides and insecticides.

While the US Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization claim that some exposure to pesticides is mostly harmless, I feel it is only common sense to think, “If pesticides are designed to kill, what is stopping them from killing us?” Pesticides have been linked to cancers and have been found to be endocrine disruptors, affecting reproduction and the nervous system.

Agriculture is the biggest user of pesticides and while many people may never be near a farm, pesticides are spread all over the country--through the wind, the produce we eat, the animals we eat and the water we drink. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring altered the course of history. After its publication DDT was finally recognized as extremely harmful and taken off the market. New legislation was introduced to clean up our air and water and made the environment an important discussion. 

However, pesticides are being used haphazardly and many that are banned in Europe and Canada are still being sold in the U.S. Every decade since Silent Spring was published more and more research has shown the ill effects that pesticides have on humans. It is time for another revolution like the one Rachel Carson ignited in the 1960s to stop the sale and spread of harmful pesticides that are known carcinogens and known to cause a myriad of other diseases. 

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