My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In Al Gore’s introduction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring he wrote, “Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history.
Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all.”
In “And No Birds Sing” Carson began making clear connections with the use of pesticides and insecticides and the hazardous effects they have on birds.
In 1954 spraying for Dutch elm disease on the Michigan State University campus began and “soon it became evident that something was wrong. Dead and dying robins began to appear on the campus” (106).
Carson went on to include other species, writing:
“Mammals, also, may easily be involved in the cycle, directly or indirectly” (110).
Direct poisoning was no longer the only act to consider in the destruction of the Earth and its species, but indirect or secondary poisoning was belonging to the threat as well.
Carson further cites research after research article which began to draw a morbid picture of how pesticides/insecticides did more harm than good in both the United States and England.
At the end of the chapter, Carson asks, “Who has made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings, this ever-widening wave of death that spreads out, like ripples when a pebble is dropped into a still pond” (127)?
In “Rivers of Death” Carson continues the onslaught of scientific facts which illustrate how pesticides and insecticides not only destroy the land but how they also contaminate water supplies, indirectly poisoning human beings.
Spraying of forests led to the toxins entering into the water supply, either by rainfall or by an underground source, which then in turn poisoned the fish, and when birds and humans ate the fish, they too were poisoned.
In addition, the poisoned waters would also find their way into the drinking water, poisoning more and more humans.
The chain which linked the initial spraying of chemicals apparently did not end with the designated targets. In efforts to save trees, humanity was finding, as Carson notes, that a cycle of life was becoming broken and species were dying in the hundreds of thousands, and in some cases in the millions.
Carson ends the chapter with a warning as much as a reminder:
“The fisheries of fresh and salt water are a resource of great importance, involving the interests and the welfare of a very large number of people. That they are now seriously threatened by the chemicals entering our waters can no longer be doubted” (152).
Carson makes it clear that if one unit of the whole is contaminated then all parts of the whole, in some form or manner, also become contaminated, seriously jeopardizing everything.
Carson’s jeremiad, as Al Gore noted, “brought us back to a fundamental idea lost to an amazing degree in modern civilization: the interconnection of human beings and the natural environment. This book was a shaft of light that for the first time illuminated what is arguably the most important issue of our era.”
Silent Spring woke a sleeping nation up, and the world, angering belligerent chemical producing companies, to the deadly possibilities and truths which had long been over-looked, even blatantly ignored, in efforts to maximize profits, but in the end did more harm than good.
I recommend reading Silent Spring and more about this remarkable woman that helped to make the world a better and safer place.
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can also follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 400,000+ followers