Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Silent Spring: 60's Book Raises Universal Concerns

By Tara Glickman

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was a book that came out in the sixties concerning the environmental damage that pesticides effect on the environment. Specifically, DDT made bird shells so weak they would break, leading to massive population drops in birds. This effect was like mercury poisoning, and it got more pronounced as it moved up the food chain. 

This book was able to exemplify a few things for me: For one, her words brought a relatively obscure and underappreciated issue into the mainstream, which gave people an emotional connection to the natural world. Secondly, I think it was admirable that Carson was essentially saying, “The problem is so great but the solution is within reach.” One concern I have about the book is how effective it is now for introducing environmentalism, and our connection to the natural world, into the public consciousness and influencing others to act. I am not sure what we can acquire from Rachel Carson’s work.

Above all else, I thought this book was beautifully written with methodically sourced facts. Also her sound analysis was a very powerful argument. With its scientific sound, this book exposed the effects of industrial revolution on species diversity and the natural world in general. Carson told the truth in an unalloyed fashion about the imminent dangers of the industrial world. From this we can learn that it is important to tell the truth, and stand up for the facts.

Although this book is quite outdated and not all major concerns have been spoken about, it is important to understand how long a time frame has to intervene before such matters of a truly disastrous nature follows the process of scientific suspicion, investigation, verification, then the slow seepage into public consciousness, then the denialism and finally the first baby steps of public policy. I believe reading the book after a long period of time, its audience is intended to go beyond the book and apply the current issues that we face. It is not the facts or the issues that are important, it is the attitude that Carson conveys. 

It’s just impossible not to be mesmerized by the tone of Carson’s sentences. She presents her arguments with such a magnetic persuasion, I can’t help but to be convinced of their justice. Although I am not an environmentalist, her descriptions of cell life, soil creatures, and beetles truly gave me chills. Her words about pesticides are chilling, and after reading her book, I have been finding myself wanting to know more and researching things I can do to help the environment. There were a few times I had to take a break from her book because the truth of what is happening in our world is mind blowing and sad. 

What also makes this book absolutely wonderful is its universalness. Carson focuses on the consequences of the use of chemicals in agricultural production but its thesis can be applied at any time or situation. In fact, as technological developments increase exponentially, it becomes questionable as to how this affects the environment, plants, animals, and even humans in both the short and long terms.
Its mind blowing that we are still using some of the chemicals she shows so much evidence against using. Her well documented atrocities that our government has perpetrated against us are chilling. I never trusted the government to begin with, but now I don’t trust them even more so.

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