Rachel Louise Carson (1907-64), was an American marine biologist, and author of widely read books on ecological themes. Carson was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, and educated at the former Pennsylvania College for Women and Johns Hopkins University. Rachel Carson taught Zoology at the University of Maryland from 1931 to 1936. She was an aquatic biologist at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and its successor, the Fish and Wildlife Service, from 1936 to 1952. Rachel Carson wrote 4 books including The Sea Around Us for which she was awarded the 1952 National Book Award for nonfiction. At the end of Rachel Carson’s career she wrote Silent Spring, which questioned the use of Chemical Pesticides and was responsible for arousing world wide concern for the preservation of the environment.
Silent Spring takes a hard look at the effects of the insecticides, weed killers and other common products as well as the use of sprays in agriculture. By introducing these deadly substances, we have poisoned or lakes and streams, or wild and domestic animals, and even ourselves. The book focuses on the importance of balance within the environment. Rachel Carson wrote…
“Where spraying destroys not only the insects but also their principle enemy, the birds. When later there is a resurgence in the insect population, as almost always happens, the birds are not there to keep their numbers in check.”
Carson examines the way dangerous chemicals have been used without sufficient research or regard for their potential harm to wildlife, water, soil, and humans, creating an evil chain of poisoning and death.
The over use of DDT, dieldrin and other pesticides eventually poisoned an entire world of living things. Silent Spring not only recognizes the severity of the chemicals usage but recognizes the effect of substance use on a community. It helped people to look at the whole picture, to look into the future instead of the now. Carson helps to change this way of thinking by offering solutions to the existing problems. She helps to show that nature will take care of nature. Many times the best solutions are the introduction of other plants or animals. For many thousands of years man has been battling nature, when if he took a step back, he would see that if he just worked with it his problems could be solved. Rachel Carson helped many people to see this ideal and is partly responsible for starting the environmental movement that has become so apparent in today’s society.
There are many people that do not support Rachel Carson’s findings about DDT. These people challenge her experiments and say that the results would have been worse had the controls not been manipulated. The direct effect of DDT may be different on all types of animals. What the people fail to notice that challenge her statements are the chemical bonds that are produced with DDT and other chemical substances. The significance of Rachel Carson’s book was not the scientific accuracy but instead the position it took on DDT. Why this book is so recognized has nothing to do with the actual data, it has to do with awareness and the beginning of global consciousness. Suddenly we are not just a species we are a planet. Carson helped us to realize that everything you do has a greater effect on something else.
The arguments of human death due to the banning of DDT are serious ones, and need to be addressed. Many critics say that in many ways Silent Spring has caused more death than it has prevented. In no way do i feel that, that was Rachel Carson’s intention. This book is merely a tool for awareness and offers solutions to specific agricultural problems. The critics of Carson are looking to this book, as an answer to all environmental questions instead of looking to it as a guide. I don’t feel that in any way Rachel Carson wrote this book for that reason.
There are two issues in which i do not feel have been addressed properly. The first is the relationship with government and big business and the second the issue of human survival from insect born diseases. There has been little mention about how the legislation would change the thinking. This book was released in the early 60’s and just recently have we been seeing changes with law and business practice. DDT was shown in Rachel Carson’s book to be the root of all evil. It failed to show the good it had done and the lives that it had actually saved. By avoiding both sides of the story she subjected herself to much criticism.
This book is a must if you are going into any environmental or biological field. I would highly recommend it to anyone with some college education. However, the book does get a little dull here and there. The most useful and interesting part were the alternative solution to previous chemically solved problems. The significance in this book is that it helped to turn around the attitude toward the environment. It also showed that there is no one single solution that should be applied throughout the world. It is too easy to look for one single answer to all of these problems. By banning DDT in some places we have made a healthier existence, by banning it in other we have lost thousands of lives. If you look at Rachel Carson’s masterpiece in literal terms there is no significance, If you look at it subjectively as a whole you see the significance of global thinking and the importance of awareness.
Carson, R. Silent Spring