Author: Rachael Carson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company in 1962
Silent Spring is a book that explains the environmental and human dangers of uncritical use of pesticides, leading to new changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. It also looks at the effects of insecticides and pesticides on songbird populations throughout the United States, whose declining numbers generated the silence to which her title refers. I began this book on October 12th, and completed reading on November 30th. This book was by no means an easy read, as it was 400 pages, but was interesting as the author (Carson) posed many ideas about the effects of pesticides on bird populations and our environment in general.
Entry #1: October 12th, pages 1-38 (chapters 1-3)
The book opens up explaining that there was a town in America where all living things existed in harmony. It explains how the town was always beautiful as it went through the seasons of spring, summer, winter, and fall. For example, prospering farms surrounded the town and every spring there were many fruits and flowers. Then all of the sudden, something happened to make everything start to die. No one could explain the strange kinds of symptoms people, birds, and animals started showing. Many creatures died. Questions that I asked myself while reading this were “What is going on? Where in America is this place? Why is this happening?” The people in the book wondered what had happened to the birds, as the birds that remained were often too sick to fly. The countryside that was once beautiful now looked dry and weakened. People noticed a white dust over leaves and in the gutters of their houses. It is then realized that the problem with the land has been caused by the humans living within the town themselves. They are to blame for the downfall of the life within the community, as they have contaminated the environment with dangerous and deadly chemicals. Chapters two and three include many facts about chemicals and how they affect the development of our environment. DDT, (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloror-ethane) was first created in 1874, but an insecticide until 1939. Today, it is used so much and carelessly, most people are starting to think its safe. One interesting fact that I learned in this chapter was that in the 1800s, soldiers and prisoners were dusted with DDT to kill their lice. They didn’t get sick immediately, so it was believed that they would never get sick and that DDT was harmless to people. However, Carson explained that DDT would be definitely toxic if dissolved in oil. I also found it interesting that our body stores DDT in its fat cells and in our organs. There are also problems against how weeds are killed brought about in these chapters. Herbicides are the chemicals that are used to kill weeds. Herbicides are toxic to plants and also affect animal tissue. One weed killer is arsenic. Arsenic has made water unfitting for swimming or fishing. Another kind of herbicide is a group of chemicals called dinitro compounds. They are some of the most dangerous in use in the U.S. They are a strong metabolic stimulant. It is explained that several people died from it. Another one is called Pentachlorophenol, and it is used as a weed killer. It has killed people who handle it. One of the more safe-sounding weed killers is called Aminotriazole or amitrol. It is used very widely, but has been shown to cause malignant tumors of the thyroid. It is further explained that some herbicides are classified as mutagens. They cause problems in the next generations of organisms that are exposed to them. There is a lot of information given in the opening chapters of the book, but I think the author does a good job informing the reader about what we humans are doing to harm our environment. I have already a lot learned about the many harmful chemicals/insecticides in our world.
Entry #2 October 19th,...