62 of 76 people found the following review helpful
The Right to Know,
This review is from: Silent Spring (Paperback)
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. Industry, farmers, and others trying to self correct these--mainly by using large amounts of dangerous chemicals, upsets this balance and creates even more problems. It is a cyclical action where there is no positive end in sight.
The actual idea of a "silent spring" which Carson helps the reader visualize in chapter one is a dreary one. Carson goes on to describe specific chemicals (especially DDT), their make-up, and specific hazards they pose. Pesticides and insecticides are both broken down into the dangerous poisons that they are. Carson discusses how these poisons are passed through the food chain, therefore leaving every living thing at risk. Unhealthy consequences, such as disease often occurs, resulting in death if exposed heavily. It is important to understand that the use of these chemicals creates the decline of the Earth's natural defenses against insect populations. By understanding that these poisons exterminate insects only temporary, it's clear that most insects develop resistance to the chemicals rendering them useless. For example, once insects become resistant they can take over in even greater numbers.
Carson uses several chapters to focus on specific aspects of the Earth and how they are specifically affected by these poisons--water, soil, and plants are examined in detail. Carson goes into specific massive spraying campaigns that were used rigorously, but at the expense of the health of the planet and those inhabiting it. One in particular included the spraying in the Midwest for eliminating the Japanese beetle. The Japanese beetle became resistant to the chemicals and has now increased their population. The Midwest completely disregarded the fact that other parts of the United States had successfully used natural predators of the beetle. Again the "easier" and cheaper plan was used at the cost of much of the wildlife in that area.
There was much research and reference to the effect this all had on the bird populations in the United States. This is likely because birds were greatly affected, but also because Carson began this book project after hearing about her friend's experience--many birds died in this friend's hometown as a result of a spraying campaign of DDT. Since birds eat insects and worms (which feed on the insecticides and pesticides) they are extremely vulnerable to being poisoned. Birds were also greatly affected by the mass spraying of DDT for Dutch elm disease. The birds' natural habitat was once again being negatively harmed.
Rivers, streams, and lakes, along with the life that goes with it have also been greatly influenced. Groups of salmon were killed in the campaign against the spruce budworm in forests. Another forest campaign was against the gypsy moth--many people were affected by this (along with many other campaigns) as areas outside of the forest region were sprayed. This is not an uncommon occurrence though. There are few people in the world who do not carry residue from these chemical poisons in their body. Carson uses some of the last chapters to explain the human body's make-up and just how detrimental chemical insecticides and pesticides can be. This leads to diseases such as cancer and eventually death.
As far as some negatives of the book--obviously since the book was written in the early 1960's it is not all up-to-date and relevant. Also, Carson becomes repetitive throughout the book. Though it may not be specifically relevant, it did occur and therefore it affects us nowadays in some way. Not all has been resolved as well--we have a long way to go to become universally environmentally friendly. This book should be used as a tool to help present day and future generations learn from the mistakes of the past. Also, it is fairly one sided with the information. Carson is presenting her findings, but not exactly presenting valid counterarguments.
Carson does not just go over all that is wrong and leave it at that--she wraps up by explaining possible alternative methods of insect control, including some methods that have been tested and proven valid. These "biological" methods are based on understanding the living organism that needs to be controlled, as well as the environment surrounding it. Alternatives include the "male sterilization" technique, using natural enemies of the insects, creating weapons from the insects own life--understanding and then using the insects' venoms, attractants, repellants, and secretions against it. Also, sound repellent and the use of natural diseases of the insects and crops are also alternative ideas.
Overall, Silent Spring is an incredible wake-up call for the fragility of earth and for the dangerous "butterfly effect"--one mistake can set off a chain of events critical to all life as we know it. Silent Spring is a classic work of literature that should be read by school children and adults alike, as a reminder to how vital it is to respect our amazing planet. Because it is not just the birds in danger, it is all of nature and all of humanity.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 13, 2013 8:24:07 AM PDT
joseph r. deutsch says:
why was this called a critical review??
Posted on Nov 9, 2014 2:26:50 AM PST
Susan Fong says:
Why only a three-star rating?
Posted on Dec 13, 2014 4:00:50 PM PST
Jason Kirkfield says:
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2014 3:53:20 AM PST
D. Musicant says:
Indeed, why only 3 stars, you obviously see it as a 5 star book.
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