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Silent Spring summary

By gpfae085 May 20, 2014 684 Words
Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson, follows the effect widespread use of pesticides has on the environment. Published in 1962, it is based off of research Carson conducted during the 1950s. The book is widely credited for the start of the environmental movement, or green movement and for various changes in national policy, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Silent Spring has undoubtedly had one of the greatest impacts, in terms of changing social stigma and political policy, regarding the well being of the environment. The main theme throughout Silent Spring is the enormous detrimental impact humans can have on the environment, particularly through the use of pesticides, or as Carson calls them, biocides; arguing pesticides are not only killing the intended pests, but also harming various aspects of the environment. Carson explains that the overuse of pesticides can have various harmful effects. Among these harmful effects is bioaccumulation, where the presence of a pesticide steadily increases in presence within an organism and the build up of resistance to pesticides, which ultimately makes pesticides incapable of killing pests, causing more harm economically and in some cases medically. Overuse of pesticides strengthens the pests, making them immune to pesticides. Carson’s main point being that the rampant overuse of chemical pesticides that was taking place during the 1950s, was ultimately making our efforts useless, as well as destroying our means of combating pests in the future. Another point Carson highlighted, was the effect chemical pesticides had on things other than the targeted pests. She particularly focused on its effect on birds, claiming pesticides, such as DDT, were responsible for killing off huge amounts of the bird population. When the birds are all dead, they can no longer sing, creating a silent spring. This research lead to the eventual nation wide ban of DDT for agricultural purposes. Silent Spring also devotes a small section to the effect of chemical pesticides on human health. Carson explores the impact of DDT in relation to cancer. At the time the true carcinogenic effect of DDT was unclear, but is now known to be definite cause of cancer. At the time the book was published the Food and Drug Association, had only just started examining the effect of DDT on animal test subjects. Though there was no definitive proof at the time, she thought DDT could be justified to have some kind of carcinogenic effect. Carson also criticizes the chemical industry, for its role in the over use and public ignorance of the true effect of pesticides on the environment. She highlights the fact that chemical companies purposely misinformed the public on the proper use and the effects of pesticides. She is also highly critical that government officials easily and unquestioningly accepted this information as fact, putting the public and the environment in huge danger. Carson ends by calling for a biotic approach to eliminate pests rather than the use of pesticides. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in a form that not only informs the reader but also entertains. She explains facts that would otherwise bore the reader, in a manner that evokes emotion and vivid imagery. While writing about an extremely controversial subject, that would normally evoke extreme anger and send one on a dizzying frenzy of emotion, Carson remains level headed. She is fairly unbiased and even acknowledges the need and benefits pesticides pose to society, which is quite refreshing. It gives the reader the sense they are gaining the real truth about an environmental phenomenon, in a world where extremes from both sides of the spectrum are more commonly found. Rachel Carson lets the facts do the work for her, creating an extremely effective argument, without the need to sway the reader to one side, with the use of enraged and vilifying rants. She also presents the reader with an alternative to pesticide use, instead of giving the reader a problem with no apparent solution. She leaves the reader with a sense of the truth and a call to action; avoid complacency and question society and its effect on our surroundings. .

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