Sunday, April 10, 2016

Witnessing What's Effecting the World

By Melanie Schuck

Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, essentially launched the modern environmental movement. First published in 1962, the book is still being reprinted and sold. I took out the fortieth anniversary edition from my town library, proving that the material of the book is still relevant to today’s world.  

In the chapter “Needless Havoc,” Carson discusses an intriguing concept: the witness. Carson points out that given the fact that two different entities can tell two different stories about the same event, it is important to have a witness. However, the creditability of the witness must be taken into consideration.

She notes that “the professional wildlife biologist on the scene is certainly best qualified to discover and interpret wildlife loss.” Meanwhile, other professionals might not be as qualified even if they are on the scene. Their specialty may lend them to be useful but ultimately they do not have the best qualifications to diagnose the entirety of the situation. Another point that Carson raises is that despite these extremely qualified witnesses in certain situations, federal and state agencies may still deny any and all evidence that the pesticides and insecticides are harming wildlife.

It is clear that even with blatant evidence in their faces, agencies will spin it to their liking. Carson wrote “on the one hand conservationists and many wildlife biologists assert that the losses have been severe and in some cases even catastrophic. On the other hand the control agencies tend to deny flatly and categorically that such losses have occurred, or that they are of any importance if they have. Which view are we to accept?”  

Which view do we accept? If we are to accept the wildlife biologists then we could be struck down by those that accept the federal agencies’ sides of the story and even the agencies themselves. If we are to accept the federal agencies spin on things then we would be lying to ourselves and doing a disservice to the planet, as well as humanity as a whole, since pesticides and insecticides will only continue to poison us.

Consider weed killers such as Roundup that is manufactured by agriculture giant Monsanto. In an effort to make our lawns and driveways look perfect and weed-free we risk poisoning ourselves and our children. Paul Tappenden, a forager who visited my Global Ethics class, told us a brief story about a man he saw spraying Roundup around his children’s playset to get rid of the weeds surrounding it. His response to this scene was his half-joking, half-serious remark that “if the weeds don’t attack the children, the toxins in the Roundup most certainly will.”

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