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Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is now 35 years old. Written over the years 1958 to 1962, it took a hard look at the effects of insecticides and pesticides on songbird populations throughout the United States, whose declining numbers yielded the silence to which her title attests. "What happens in nature is not allowed to happen in the modern, chemical-drenched world," she writes, "where spraying destroys not only the insects but also their principal enemy, the birds. When later there is a resurgence of the insect population, as almost always happens, the birds are not there to keep their numbers in check." The publication of her impeccably reported text helped change that trend by setting off a wave of environmental legislation and galvanizing the nascent ecological movement. It is justly considered a classic, and it is well worth rereading today.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
This new edition of Carson's classic features a new introduction by Vice President Al Gore. Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Rachel Carson sent tremors through American society with the publication of her 1962 book "Silent Spring." Carson, a marine biologist who died two years after publication of the book, wrote "Silent Spring" when she received a letter from a concerned citizen lamenting the mass death of birds after a DDT spraying. Carson continues to serve as a touchstone for both mainline and radical environmental groups, from the Sierra Club to Earth First!. It is not difficult to see why; Carson's call for active involvement in our environment is still an absolute necessity today as the industrial system continues its rapid march across the landscape. If we do not want our children born with gills and fins, keeping Carson in mind is important. Carson's analysis of DDT and other synthetic chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides resulted in a deeply ominous conclusion-pesticides destroy the environment and threaten everything within the ecological system. Carson examined the composition of pesticides, revealing that synthetic pesticides have the ability to not only kill their intended targets, but they also move right up the food chain, eventually reaching the human population. The pesticides then build up in the tissues of the body, rarely breaking down but often building in intensity through continued exposure or changing into forms that are even more toxic by interacting with other ingested chemicals. Even worse, these chemicals cause tremors, paralysis, cancer, and a host of other unpleasant ailments. Carson cites numerous stories about exposed people falling ill and dying shortly after spraying these toxic chemicals. Carson also shows the biological process these poisons take when they enter the body, when they cut off oxygen to the cells and raise the metabolic rate to unhealthy levels.Read more ›
Anyone who has read this book has easy reference to multiple studies that ALL show DDT is an entirely ineffective long-term solution to malaria. It isn't hard to miss the sexism in a lot of these comments, calling Carson out as "emotional" especially stands out-anyone who has actually read her book would struggle to find a trace of emotion as she describes case studies in depth. She loved nature, this is true, but the woman never made a single assertion that wasn't backed up by abundant research. The haters can call Carson names and accuse her of murder all day long, but the fact is there isn't a single study out there that gives any hope of DDT being a sustainable solution to malaria (or anything else, really. Does cancer count?). The only reason it is being sprayed in poor areas is because there is restricted funding for sustainable methods of mosquito-control, and DDT is well, cheap. But a cheap poison is still a poison, and at the end of the day none of the trolls on this page can produce any credible research to back up their opinionated claims. So they display this scientist, a woman who was never known to display anything other than calm composure, even when testifying in front of congress and the nation, as an overly-emotional wackjob who decided to rampage against toxic killers one day in the middle of a bad period. She was in fact, the exact opposite- a meticulous, exacting scientist who disliked open displays of emotion and cited all her assertions with plentiful evidence. Read this book, you won't regret it. Unless of course, you already hate facts- then join the trolls on this page!
Too many reviewers see only one thread of Carson's argument: that DDT and pesticides like it endanger the environment. The other thread is that DDT resistance in mosquitoes develops very quickly, and the more quickly the more it is used. Which leaves us right back where we started. Her argument is not that pesticides should not be used, but that they should be used intelligently. In this age, when antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming a very serious problem precisely because of antibiotic overuse (and not only in hospitals, but, most egregiously, as growth enhancers for livestock), this argument should be indisputable.
Every once in a while a book comes a long that has such a profound effect on society that it creates a movement for awareness and betterment. Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, is one of those. Silent Spring did for the environmental movement what Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did for the labor movement and Uncle Tom's Cabin did for the anti-slavery movement. Carson took a stand on environmental abuses, especially against the chemical industry in this work of social criticism. Carson opened the eyes of many and forced many to take responsibility for their actions, which sparked a modern environmental and awareness movement that is still active today. Silent Spring discusses the implications of using harmful chemicals to all life--plant, animal, human and the like. They cause negative cyclical reactions--the processes do not continue to work, so it is the harmful chemicals to the Earth are repeated year after year. Though the chemical industry would make you believe the levels in use are not harmful, that is a fallacy. They are extremely dangerous chemicals and poisons, which build up over time in one's body and in the Earth, over time make them lethal. Carson did well in creating a book that everyone, not just science and environmental enthusiasts could both read and understand. The information presented captures the urgent and sincere trouble that the United States was heading down during the time Silent Spring was written. The use of chemical insecticides and pesticides was going against nature and creating irreversible damage to all living things. The Earth and its facets have its own built-in system to correct problems and to make it work in harmony.Read more ›