In her meticulously researched book Silent Spring, Carson shows how chemicals in the soil, water, and air can have a devastating effect on the environment and move up the food chain to humans through the food we eat. She links environmental toxins to cancer, for example, a radical idea at the time.
The silent spring of the title refers to the time when humans will wake up and realize something is wrong because the pesticides in the environment have killed all the birds: there will be no birds left to sing in the spring. But what is silent is not only the birds: it is the quiet way pesticides act, harming the ecosystem before we are even aware it is happening.
Today, environmentalists and the green movement also argue that many silent chemical and radioactive toxins, as well as carbon emissions, pollute the earth, the effects of which we will not feel until it is too late and the damage has been done. We need to pay attention now, they say, or pay the price.
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was the one of the first major works to clearly show the public, outside of the scientific community,how the world's use of chemical pesticides could have effects beyond what was intended. It is largely due to her book that use of DDT was banned in most areas of the world. She is credited with starting the environmental movement. Although most of the information in her book was already known in scientific circles, she is the one who clearly communicated to non-scientists the dangers of pesticide use. She came under a great deal of attack by the chemical industry, but had been very careful in writing the book, and her point of view was upheld.