Thursday, April 2, 2015

Silent Spring: Revealing Dangers of DDT

By Eric Christiansen

In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson presents a powerful argument for the preservation of our environment.  Her investigation into the effects of DDT on the ecosystem completely changed the face of the chemical as it came into widespread use.  Carson’s work during the late 1950’s and early 60’s revealed the potency and toxicity of DDT as it was already being used around the world to control insect populations and their detrimental effect on crops.  Her findings were shocking and downright scary.  The fact that this highly toxic chemical was allowed to be put into use on a global scale before the short and long-term effects to the ecosystem and human health were determined is startling. 

Carson found that weeks and even months after being applied, DDT was actively killing insects.  The implications of such long-term efficacy are impressive from the point of view of the people using DDT to control insect populations, but it is also scary from a human health and environmental standpoint.  If a chemical can remain potent enough to kill insects and other organisms in an environment for weeks and months at a time, its negative effects on the environment, on humans that come in contact with it, and on the crops it is designed to protect will also linger for weeks and months.  In fact, Carson found that DDT is so potent and hardy that it remained effective in its killing ability, as well as highly toxic, even after being diluted by rain water. 

DDT was used in massive quantities on a global scale for more than two decades before Carson completed Silent Spring and it continued being used after her book’s publication.  That’s more than twenty years of intense, purposeful contamination of the world’s ecosystem.  The result?  Carson claims that her findings point to irreversible harm inflicted on the planet’s bird and animal populations.  The chemical works its way quickly into the food chain, permanently damaging world’s food supply.  She claims that it stores in animals’ fatty tissue and lingers there, poisoning the organism and any other animal that may eat it.
This sort of environmental irresponsibility is not uncommon in the industrial world and, since DDT was used widely by the US military during and after World War II, the military.  Time and time again, our own government and American corporations cause irrevocable damage to the fragile ecosystem of our planet with gross abuse of power and lack of environmental awareness.  Some say this is simply one of the costs of maintaining industrial and economic relevance in world politics, but I say it is an unacceptable and entirely avoidable crime against humanity.  And until these behaviors are publicized and condemned by the citizens of all countries, they will continue to shape the growth of our planet.

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