Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was a landmark in the history of the environmental movement, not only for the quality of its scientific research but for the poignancy of its writing.
The book opens with a striking image of a typical American town, pictured as a visually appealing place with a classic small town feel. There is, however, something wrong with the town. It is silent, in so far as the normal natural sounds are not present. In the spring, one should hear insects buzzing and birds singing. Instead, this spring is ominously silent, with none of the normal sounds of natural life. In Carson's words:
There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example— where had they gone? ... The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. ... It was a spring without voices.
With this striking image, Carson then moves on to analysis of the effects of pesticides and insecticides, especially DDT, on birds and other wildlife. Her far-ranging analysis shows that to understand their effects, one must study ecosystems as a whole. Her book eventually led to a ban on DDT, and thus saved the towns of the sort she described from the fate of having silent springs.
"Silent Spring" gives an effective image of a lifeless body of water. It is meant to be a commentary on the effects of pesticides on our natural resources. Quite literally, fish will be poisoned, the water contaminated, therefore contaminating animals drinking from it as well. The term silent, therefore , is another way to say lifeless.
It is called "Silent Spring" because pesticides and other chemically altering substances could very well kill all the insects and other life forms hat bring songs of life to the planet. In Carson's vision, if the rate of chemical contamination continues, we would be faced with a silent world.