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By Diana Boidyo
| | Rachel Louise Carson was born in 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. She graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women in 1929, becoming a marine biologist as well as a nature writer. She is the author of The Sea Around Us, The Edge of The Sea, Under the Sea Wind and, The Silent Spring. With the release of the Silent Spring in 1962, Rachel Carson established a worldwide movement against the use of chemical pesticides in farms. Silent Spring was an important work of literature that opened the eyes of the World to the dangers of toxic chemical pollutants in the environment. In her book, Rachel Carson cleverly integrated the concerns of urban and industrial reformers with the greater ecological issues of the day - still relevant 50 years on .
Rachel was disturbed by the increasing use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II. From being a biologist Rachel shifted her focus to the environmental hazards which were caused by the use of the harmful chemicals and pesticides. Therefore she wrote Silent Spring where she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the U.S.A. government, and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world. What Rachel tried to tell us through the book in 1962, was that we live in a ‘Closed Environment’ if we turn it into a sewer we will be living in a sewer. But if the sewer we create is not compatible to the environment, we are all doomed. In the book Rachel tells us about how the chemical compounds which are emitted out of the harmful pesticides work their way up in the food chain and how it affects the flora and fauna around us. Basically she describes the spring season which would be all silent because there would be no birds to add color to the season. The reason being the pesticides which would prove to be so harmful that birds would no longer exist in this planet.
Rachel’s witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.
THE SILENT SPRING
Author : Rachel Louise Carson
Published By : Houghton Mifflin
Year : 1962
Price : U.S. $:6.50 (Rs. 312/-)
Number of pages : 148
One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself,
What if I had never seen this before?
What if I knew I would never see it again?
Rachel Carson was then accused by the chemical industry and the government said that the facts stated in her book were based on unscientific resources. But she clearly stated that we humans are a vulnerable part of the natural world and any kind of change or damage to the earth caused would be our responsibility. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment.
After reading The Silent Spring, environmentalist and ex-US Vice-President, Al Gore said, “Despite the power of Carson's argument, despite actions like the banning of DDT in the United States, the environmental crisis has grown worse, not better. Perhaps the rate at which the disaster is increasing has been slowed, but that itself is a disturbing thought. Since the publication of Silent Spring, pesticide use on farms alone has doubled to 1.1 billion tons a year, and production of these dangerous chemicals has increased by 400 percent. We have banned certain pesticides at home, but we still produce them and export them to other countries. This not only involves a readiness to profit by selling others a hazard we will not accept for ourselves; it also reflects an elemental failure to comprehend that the laws of science do not observe the boundaries of politics. Poisoning the food chain anywhere ultimately poisons the food chain everywhere.”
With the release of the Silent Spring it was revealed to the world the devastating impacts of uncontrolled and unregulated pesticide use. But Rachel Carson also discovered the historical background of pesticides, which told us as to why pesticides like DDT became so popular, so quickly. It was seen that the increasing use of the pesticide went up after the Second World War. It was seen that after the War sustaining agricultural food production as well as the continuous threat of insect vectors pushed DDT to widespread use in 1945 even before it was properly tested for toxicity. After which Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, by then more than 188 million pounds of DDT had been produced. In 1962, which was even before the book was published Carson found herself surrounded by a lot of controversies. According to the Time magazine “Carson was violently assailed by threats of lawsuits and derision, including suggestions that this meticulous scientist was a hysterical woman unqualified to write such a book”. The chemical industry as well as the Agriculture Department opposed the book. According to my research, even though Rachel got into a lot of controversies after the release of the book the U.S. government took a stand and ordered a complete review of the pesticide policy. The eventual banning of DDT in 1972 was a direct result of Carson's work.
The Silent Spring had a profound impact on people as well as the U.S. government at that time. The book is one of the reasons that everyone became conscious of the environment and were searching for ways as to how to deal with the environmental issues. Carson has as much or more effect on today’s reader as any other environmental book written today. It was called the “Best” book of the last century, and the book has given us some really fundamental and timeless truths Rachel’s witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.
Worth a read, if only to see beyond the technological “environmentalism” we have around us…