Chapter 2 Summary

The author begins this chapter with a stunning observation. Within the past 100 years, man has gained the ability to alter the environment. Previously, the environment had a significant impact on plant and animal life, but there was no reciprocal ability for life forms to alter the Earth. Consequently, the human impact on the environment was relatively insignificant and benign.

Recently, humans have had an unquestionably malignant effect on the Earth, primarily through various forms of pollution and chemical contamination. Radiation, pesticides, and herbicides penetrate the soil, the water, the air, and human cells, prompting “irrecoverable” and “irreversible” changes in all forms of life on Earth. Apparently, though there are naturally occurring environmental contaminants and “hostile” elements that wreaked havoc over the course of time, they cannot compare to the scope and degree of damage caused by man-made elements.

In the natural environment, change takes place over the course of time, which allows plant and animal life to adapt, adjust, and find the means of survival. On the contrary, the human impact on the environment has recently become rapid and rampant. In this instance, nature has not been granted the time required to adjust to the changes. The time required for the environment to adequately and healthily absorb the “500 new chemicals” introduced into the environment each year can only be measured in generations. In short, these transformations are lasting and pervasive.

Pesticides are the primary source of these chemical threats. These pesticides are generally sold as “sprays, dusts, and aerosols.” Although they are applied with the sole purpose of destroying pests, these chemicals are often capable of destroying nearly all insects and plants. Therefore, rather than labeling the products insecticides, the author suggests using a broader term: biocides.

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(The entire section is 651 words.)