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What exactly did Rachel Carson's Silent Spring say about pesticides?

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tourlay99 | Honors

Posted August 9, 2013 at 2:35 PM via web

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What exactly did Rachel Carson's Silent Spring say about pesticides?

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cp4000 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 9, 2013 at 3:01 PM (Answer #1)

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Rachel Carson wrote about the harmful effect of pesticides on the environment and its effect on people and animals, particularly birds.

The title Silent Spring is meant to evoke an emotional response from readers when they consider that if pesticides kill all the birds, there will be no more birds to sing, thus spring will be "silent" with no birds.

She became passionate about the cause when she received a letter from a friend who had observed a number of birds who had been killed when DDT had been sprayed as a pesticide.

Carson accused industries of spreading misinformation and she also accused public officials of believing industry claims without any proof.  She believed that uncontrolled use of pesticides was harming and even killing not only animals and birds, but also humans.

The book is famous for helping to launch the modern environmental movement.  In fact, "Silent Spring" instigated the ban of DDT for agricultural use in the early 1970's, and JFK started a government initiative after reading this book which led to more pesticide regulations in the USA.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 9, 2013 at 3:04 PM (Answer #2)

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Carson's work is so profound because it speaks to two specific realities within the culture of pesticide use.  The first one is biological.  Carson makes the argument that pesticide use is scientifically unsound because it relies on the premise of "Neanderthal science."  This approach is one that fails to understand the ecological balance disrupted with the use of pesticides.  This disruption is seen in both environmental and human biological forms of consciousness.  The use of pesticides disrupts chemical compounds in living organisms, proving to be destructive the biological formation and sustaining of life.  Carson's statement on the biological and ecological conditions of pesticides was groundbreaking for the time period and stands today as one of the most profound statements of environmental science.

Carson's work also speaks to the social culture that employs pesticides. In Carson's mind, the use of the pesticide is encouraged and fostered by a culture that embraces "total war" and "scorched earth" as a way to solve its problems.  Carson's statement indicts the Atomic Age.  It reveals that the culture of the time period was to not look for innovative approaches to nuanced problems.  Rather, it simply embraced the condition of destruction and obliteration as opposed to constructive problem solving.  The lack of insight into searching for safer "biotic" and ecologically sound approaches and the automatic capitulation to pesticide use is a reflection of a cultural approach to problems.  

Carson's work speaks to a cultural reality that embraces the use of pesticides.  The "Neanderthal science" approach that would sacrifice an entire biological and ecological reality to rid itself of insects is backwards thinking where the cure is actually worse than the disease.  The lack of insightful thinking becomes one of the most intense statements that Carson makes in her work.

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