Category Archives: Rachel Carson

Derivatives Of Nature

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring illustrates a necessity of consistent understanding among the ways in which we effect the environment as well as its subsequent effect on us, thereafter. Most importantly, with regards to chemicals such as DDT and other ‘advances’ which humanity has made so as to increase its agri-business’s cost-efficiency with little-to-no regard for it’s long-term ramifications upon the earth and it’s inhabitants. Shortsightedly concerned merely with that which will fit regulations and legalities of the present moment, in conjunction with the propagation of paychecks, humanity isn’t leveraging its’ concern for itself with its concern for all other living things on the planet, and almost every trend followable points towards a near & ominous ending, after accounting for our misgivings as a species.

“As we have seen, soil and the living things in and upon it exist in a relation of interdependence and mutual benefit. Presumably the weed is taking something from the soil; perhaps, it is also contributing something to it.” (Carson, 78)

This quote touches upon exactly that quality which humanity has overlooked in terms of its’ relationship with the more than human world: these notions of interdependence and mutual benefit. The particularly operative word here being ‘mutual’. In this quote’s acknowledgement of the potential for duality within living organisms’ functions, it illustrates the piece which humanity has omitted from its own equation; that of understanding both nature’s ebbs as well as it’s flows, its’ generalities in tandem with it’s idiosyncrasies. There’s a reason there’s an ethos of ‘balance’ associated with nature; all of it’s inhabitants boast some kind of inherent dualism which characterizes it as member of that domain. This inherent dualism illustrates the kind of fluidity of thought which must go into attempting to truly understand the natural world, as well as work it to ones (and simultaneously, its own) advantage. It’s this understanding of those processes which might turn out favorably for all involved as well as humanity’s imperative acknowledgement of its’ own incomplete perspective that might be able to provide some clarity as to how to go about solving the issues that plague our environment.

It strikes me as strange that in it’s search for productivity, humanity’s nature has seemingly rendered it incapable of forecasting the possibility that the most productive process might also happen to be the most mutually beneficial process. We seem to have conflated one as the exact opposite of the other, when in actuality the two don’t seem to have any correlation whatsoever. Rachel Carson’s text underscores humanity’s hubris against a ticking-time-bomb of a backdrop, the former standing to perpetuate the latter at an alarming rate, taking care to illustrate potential sources of error across humanity as well as how to reverse engineer some of those errors so as to attempt to find a solution of some sorts. Humanity is so caught up in the logical differences between the singular concepts of ‘answer’ and ‘question’, it’s forgotten to stop and ask; what if one could be found within the other? This question of derivation …

 

The Dangers of DDT

In Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring she explains how DDT  was a chemical used in many pesticides. Even forty years later after it was banned in the U.S , we still live with its long lasting effects. One of the saddest and most brutal effects is the loss of ATP molecules in birds eggs because of the overwhelming application of DDT molecules. Baby chicks fail to develop because their fertilization process becomes interrupted by the poison of the DDT molecules. The baby chick eggs have to be able to produce ATP molecules to get the baby chicks to term and hatch. If the ATP molecules cannot reach the mitochondria within the cell then the cell cannot begin to divide and carry the embryo to produce a new born baby chick. The baby chick will die if the egg cells will not divide and produce enough cells. “The fires of life that flickered for a few days now extinguished” (Carson 206). It is so sad that the effects of DDT are damaging the beautiful life of our environment, leaving eggs of many types of bird eggs cold and lifeless. Farmers and gardeners need to stop using harmful pesticides that could spread and ruin the oxidation process of the baby chick eggs. “Knowing that DDT and other (perhaps all) chlorinated hydrocarbons stop the energy-producing cycle by inactivating a specific enzyme or uncoupling the energy-producing mechanism, it is hard to see how any egg so loaded with residues could complete process of development” (Carson 206). Knowing that the effects of DDT are able to end life, why do people in our society still use harmful pesticides? It will only be a matter of time before more species of animals experience a large impact on deaths at birth because of DDT. Not only animals, but humans will also suffer greatly if the spread of the poisons continues to spread. If we cannot stop using these harmful poisons on our environment, the cells could stop producing altogether and become malignant. We are at risk for causing damage to chromosomes and causing mutations to many species including our own. If our society does not find a new way to keep our environment free of harmful pesticides we will be forced deal with the life ending consequences. We must be able to come together and raise awareness of the many issues we have developed because of the use of DDT. Taking a look Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is the perfect way to understand the cause and effect of these issues, and how to take the best steps in preventing anymore long term damage to our environment.

 

 

To Ignore All Else

When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with diabetes. In case you’ve never been diabetic, Type 1 diabetes means having to check your blood sugar every time you eat and taking an injection after every single meal/snack. I’ve  been diabetic for a while now so I can easily say that diabetes can be extremely inconvenient at times. Taking care of it can be more of a hassle than anything, and every three months I have a checkup with my doctor just for her to say, “you should be checking your blood sugar more” or “you need to take more insulin,” “this is slowly destroying your body.” But every time, it goes in one ear and out the other.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the blood most immediately. From there, the blood touches every organ in the body. So when my blood has too much sugar, it taints every organ it touches with sugar. This doesn’t happen quickly. In fact, I never notice anything happening unless it’s my immediate low or high blood sugar symptoms, but every time I go to the doctor, they make sure to check my kidneys and liver. They’re always okay, but diabetes does affect my organs even if I don’t notice it.

Taking care of my diabetes has always been one of my last priorities, but since it deals with my health, it should probably be first. Drastic complications could lead to coma or  poor circulation could lead to amputation. I know the facts, but I just can’t bring myself to do anything about it. It makes me think about other issues in the world that are ignored just like how I ignore my own health. And more than that, why do we ignore such big problems that are literally life or death?

Rachel Carson brings up a good point in her book Silent Spring, when she says:

We are accustomed to look for the gross and immediate effect and to ignore all else. Unless this appears promptly and in such obvious form that it cannot be ignored, we deny the existence of hazard – Carson 190

What Carson is saying is that we naturally look for immediate affects, and I completely agree. If it’s not a bloody nose, a leg cramp, or a bad tummy ache, we choose to ignore it, even if it’s slowly harming us. I do that with my blood sugar. I can immediately tell when my blood sugar is low, but it’s harder when it’s high. So if I can’t feel it, I leave it, and let it slowly affect me. Another way to put it is, if it’s not physically in front of me, I can’t see it.

Of course, Carson isn’t talking about diabetes when she mentions this. In fact, she’s talking about the growing use of chemicals in the world and how it’s affecting our entire ecosystem. Plants, animals, and people are all being poisoned by pesticides and weed killers, but it’s happening so slowly, we don’t really care. In Silent Spring, chapter 13, Carson explains the metaphor of a narrow window. She quotes biologist, George Wald’s description:

A very narrow window though which at a distance one can see only a crack of light. As one comes closer the view grows wider and wider, until finally through this same narrow window one is looking at the universe.  – Carson p. 199

Carson goes on to elaborate on Wald’s point by saying that the only way for people to really understand what’s happening to their bodies from all these chemicals is to take a look even closer at a molecular level. She continues the chapter explaining the affects of chemicals on ATP and how it affects different beings. For example, mosquitos exposed to DDT for generations have been affected by becoming part male and part female.

One of the reasons Silent Spring is so impactful is because Carson goes deeper into the issue than most other authors. She mentions how chemicals affect the human body and explains the process of DDT going through the ecosystems. In addition, she breaks down the science of how these chemicals are created so it makes more sense to the general public for example, Chapter 3, “Elixirs of Death.” Bringing all of this into an understandable viewpoint brings us closer to the problem, thus opening the window that was once so narrow.

Knowing these risks, some people still don’t react, and Rachel Carson brings up a good point about why some people are still ignoring these factors. At the bottom of page 31, she explains Malathion, which is like DDT used by gardeners. She says, “It is considered the least toxic of this group of chemicals and many people assume they may use it freely and without fear of harm. Commercial advertising encourages this comfortable attitude,” (Carson 31). So not only are people ignoring big factors, but advertisements are downplaying the affects that chemicals can have.

Unlike the back of a cigarette box, Rachel Carson explains the worst case scenarios that have really happened in great detail. If sprayed on the ground, air, or water, DDT can go into the soil where the worms are affected. Then animals that eat the worms are affected, like birds. Turkeys are eaten by humans or other animals and it goes into their systems. Not only does she explain the worst case scenarios within the human body, but she also starts off the book with an image of a worst case scenario about an imaginary place that used to be so beautiful:

Then a strange blight crept over the sea and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community: mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens; the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was a shadow of death.                                                                                                                               -Carson p. 2

Carson says this place she describes doesn’t exist, but it actually sounds like the direction our world is going in if people continue to ignore these issues; the same way my body could go downhill if I ignore my diabetes. It’s difficult to see something that’s not in front of us, and it’s not natural either. But reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson seems like a good place to start.

Reaching a Larger Audience: A Reflection on “Silent Spring”

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” is addresses scientific views of the human relationship with nature. The way in which she conveys the historical and technical information about man’s use of chemicals on our planet is both anecdotal and poetic. Carson creates empathy in her readers for the subject matter of this book. The way the information in this novel is constructed is genius. She takes a topic, environmental consciousness–and more specifically, consciousness about the use of harmful, yet convenient chemicals–and makes it not only accessible to a wide audience, but beautiful and poignant to read. Writing in this way can be difficult when the subject is fictional or generally more accessible to a wide audience. However, when writing on a subject that not only can be hard to understand, but can be a controversial political topic, it is even more difficult to convey information in a way that is appealing to a general audience.

“As man proceeds toward his announced goal of the conquest of the nature, he has written a a depressing record of destruction, directed not only against the earth he inhabits, but against the life that shares it with him” (Carson 85).

In this quote, Carson displays the eloquence that it takes to transform this information into a more personal issue for all people to grasp and connect with. By addressing the issue of our environment as a social one, as well as a scientific one, it opens the conversation to people who are not as informed on the subject matter as others might be. It is very rare that such a scientific issue as this one can be accessible to all. Most books or articles written by an expert in that subject are written specifically for other experts looking for sources or to further their knowledge in their field. However, by addressing this as a human issue and involving everyone in the conversation it opens the topic up. It also enforces the idea that we are all responsible–as a part of nature, and not as being removed from it–for our world. Because it is our world, no matter how much we may think that we are above it.

Is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring Still Relevant In Today’s Society?

Published in 1962, Silent Spring was Rachel Carson’s endeavor to eliminate man-made pesticides that were destroying the natural environment. One of the first environmental works of its kind since the writings of Henry David Thoreau in the nineteenth century, Silent Spring helped to launch the environmentalism movement. Carson’s work further inspired government action and intervention to prevent further chemical damage to the environment.

Carson’s well-known book helped to establish the organic food movement, the elimination of BPA from plastic food and drinking containers, the founding of the EPA, as well as numerous other scientific and societal changes to improve the environment. By any standard, Rachel Carson can be considered an environmental crusader; however, are the environmental concerns she expressed in the 1960s still relevant in the twenty-first century?

Rachel Carson was born in 1907-World War II did not begin until the 1940s. This year marks Carson’s one hundred and tenth birthday. The natural and political environments were very different in the beginning of the twentieth century than they are in 2017. Yet, the impact from Carson’s book is still noticeable in this century and continues to have an impact on environmental awareness.

In the later half of Silent Spring, Carson adds a more poignant chapter entitled, “One in Every Four”. In her later years, Rachel Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is interesting that she relates chemical pollution to cancer in the fourteenth chapter of her book. Carson writes, “As the tide of chemicals born of the Industrial Age has arisen to engulf our environment, a drastic change has come about in the nature of the most serious public health problems” (Carson, 187). This relationship adds a more sympathetic view to her work that appeals to a greater audience and inspires them to change.

Regardless of its publication in the late 1900s, Silent Spring remains relevant to current environmental issues since this text sparked environmentalism and offers readers important insight into the importance of respecting the natural world that took millenniums to develop. Should the U.S. government discard the Constitution merely because it was composed in 1787?No, the U.S. Constitution set important precedents of law that are vital to bind the country together. Silent Spring had the same effect on the environmental movement. In this book, Carson gives scientific evidence why mankind does not have the right to chemically destroy a planet that existed before humanity. Consequently, Carson’s environmental philosophy is still relevant to today’s society.

A Lesson Learned Time and Time Again

Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park said “Ian: Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” this is a pretty poignant thought and one that is incredibly relatable to not only Silent Spring but to the problems we are currently dealing with now. Carson begins her book with two quotes: the first from Keats gives the books its title, while the second quote comes from E. B. White who says: “I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively, instead of skeptically and dictatorially”. This quote as well as the one from Jurassic park both bring up the same idea, the idea that we often think more about how to do something or how to beat nature, though we don’t always think about the repercussions of our actions, we don’t think about the effects of beating nature into submission, we are too obsessed with results.

While Rachel Carson meant for this quote to be attributed to the spreading of DDT as a pesticide and the repercussions of its effects on other wildlife and humans as well it is one of those quotes that is timeless and follows us for the time to come. We are obsessed with the idea of controlling nature, the thought of it is even in our media, our superheroes control the elements, our Sci-Fi movies and shows have concepts like controlling gravity, our sci-fi novels talk of immortality and cheating nature of the certainty of death. It is something that has been shown time and time again, for instance in the movie Avatar by James Cameron the villain attempts to take over the planet and rob it of its resources in an attempt to make money, though by doing so they must destroy the area and mistreat the beings that live on the planet, they do not hesitate to do so. These are just a few choice examples of this phenomenon and they do not reflect all of our media but do represent a good portion of what we watch and what we read on a day to day basis. Some films such as Avatar itself as well as Wall-e follow the same path as Rachel Carson and try to warn us about what can happen when we try to control “beat nature into submission”, they do a good job at illustrating how the lifestyle we live can have adverse effects on the planet that we live on, and drive home the point that we cannot simply abandon our planet like they do in Wall-e, we only have one earth.

Examples of our attempts to control nature can be seen in a variety of different places across the globe, though for this argument it will mainly focus on America. To begin Las Vegas Nevada is a lush paradise akin to the Nile in which plants grow and fountains are everywhere, although like the Nile Vegas exists in the middle of a desert. We did not find Vegas this way, we made it this way by drawing in water from Lake Mead which was created after the creation of the Hoover Dam. Although Vegas has been running into a huge problem, they are losing water in Lake Mead rapidly, and as the city’s population grows and the use of water continues to climb it is only causing the lake to diminish faster and faster. According to the article “The Race to Stop Las Vegas from Running Dry” published in 2014 by The Telegraph and written by Nick Allen “Mr. Barnett [Tim Barnett, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography]  predicts it may be a “dead pool” that provides no water by about 2036”. This Lake not only benefits the humans of Las Vegas but the wildlife around the lake as well, when it drains it will not only affect those who live in Vegas but the animals who rely on this oasis in the desert as well. Another example of attempting to control nature is the settling and building of the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, both cities are near the San Andreas fault and both have experienced many earthquakes in the time since their founding. Many attempts to earthquake-proof homes and buildings have been made and a large amount of time and money has gone into research for solutions to homes being destroyed by earthquakes. Citizens know the threat that they are under but still continue to live their lives in their homes and in their area which is inevitably a ticking time bomb for a large earthquake.

Call it human perseverance or just plain ignorance trying to control nature has been a common practice in human history and will most likely remain so for quite some time. Though we need to ask ourselves a very simple question: How many times must we learn the lesson that nature cannot be controlled before it sticks? We need to look at ways to work with nature rather than beating it until it does what we want it to, if we work with nature the results could end up being more favorable than one might expect, after all, we figured out that we can make pesticides from things found in nature rather than relying on harsh chemicals manufactured by man.

Rachel Carson: Silent Spring

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is a globally famous book that has led the worldwide environmental moment further towards success.  During Carson’s lifetime Silent Spring had sold over 1 million copies before she died in 1964 at 56 years old. Rachel Carson was a originally an English major in her early college education; but her interest in the environment changed her focus to marine biology. It is evident through Silent Spring that Carson had a background in writing because of the exceptional level of flow and content within Silent Spring as well as it’s ability to be read and understood by all.

Silent Spring is an interesting title for a book about the detrimental uses of pesticides and other harmful chemicals in the environment. During one of last weeks class sessions we were discussing Silent Spring and what the title meant. Normally with the coming of Spring, transitioning from Winter, wherever one lives the sounds of migratory birds, the peeper frog, and other animal sounds can be heard.  These animal sounds we hear year and year again with the coming of Spring help us feel the transformation of the seasons. Silent Sping, as I have already stated, is a book about the use of dangerous chemicals in the environment. Carson states in Silent Sping that these inorganic chemicals such as arsenic, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and organophosphates; have contributed to killing many different species, other than the intended  “pests”, as well as posing extremely dangerous health risks for humans as well. The leaching of these chemicals into the soil, running off into water, and direct applications of the chemicals to plants and insects, have had many unwanted and overlooked responses. The input of dangerous pesticides into our environment has killed many species of birds, fish, and have also given humans horrific illnesses and diseases. These chemicals as well as killing many species of life have also made changes to species DNA creating dangerous and deadly mutations. Now going back to looking at the title Silent Spring; one could perceive Carson had this title in mind because dangerous pesticide chemicals would bring an end to the return of many species; as well as those migratory, and dormant creatures that we hear returning in the Spring time.

During the time of the release of this book (1962) many were outraged against Carson. Many scientists and individuals doubted the knowledge and truth of this female scientists claims within Silent Spring. The pesticide industry was very frustrated as well with Carson’s claims, all of these chemicals being released and inputted into the environment were making our Earth unfit for all types of life.

Within Silent Spring Carson also discusses the delicate balance in nature that has taken millions of years to form. “Given time – time not in years but in millennia – life adjusts, and a balance has been reached. For time is the essential ingredient; but in the modern world there is no time. The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature.” The process of evolution, as theorized by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species, takes millions of years to bring forth positive genetic change for species to adapt to their ever changing environment. The entire world, even though it is extremely diverse, has all worked together to form a delicate balance for all that reside within it. Man-kind’s intelligence has grown to a dangerous level that has allowed us to bring forth immense change to the natural world. With the increase in production and industrialization the natural world has suffered because of the inputs and alterations humans have made. Man-kind s growing at an alarming rate, and our planet eventually will not be able to sustain our projected population size in coming years. Carson’s quote that I have placed above does well in informing us that nature has taken so very long to find its perfect balance; and us humans who work at a “heedless pace” are not giving nature the time it requires to fall back into balance.

Although written a little less than half a century ago Silent Spring does well in addressing some of the biggest environmental problems that present day mankind has encountered. The issues within this book are all very real and ongoing today. Many disagreed with Carson’s viewpoints and statements but at the end of the day all of these problems affect every individual human and life form on our planet. Silent Spring has done well in kick starting the environmental movement by giving the audience important factual knowledge and speaking out against those that disagree with her own view points.

Cancerous Chemicals

“For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (15)

Rachel Carson has created a sentence that in just those few words make one sit in silence. Of course this may be exactly what she was intending for in her book, Silent Spring. The human body has the ability to store chemicals without causing serious amounts of harm but as the world seems to be evolving the chemicals are becoming too much to handle. Carson is consistently talking about the cause and effects of spraying no only on animals but on humans, these topics hit home and allowed me to focus in on the true impact that we are doing to ourselves.

For hundreds of years we have been spraying chemicals to try and get rid of certain pests that we don’t like and of course it is coming back to haunt every single one of us. Karma. As Carson was talking about the cancerous chemicals that are being tossed around our environment I made a serious connection. My father was diagnosed with cancer around six years ago (Multiple Myeloma) and I remember sitting in the hospital in Boston one day and listening to the doctors question his whole entire life. Everything he has ever done, where he has lived, what he lived next to, his eating styles, literally everything. All of these things that he has done is the probable cause to why he has cancer. I called him the other night and was telling him about Silent Spring when he said, “when I was little we used to run behind trucks that pumped out all of the chemicals… it was like running in a fog storm and we always loved it. Of course now I have cancer but at the time we had no idea that doing this would come back to bite us in the ass.” His statement is completely true. No one had any idea that what they were doing was going to kill them. Not being informed is just as deadly as a gun.

Carson states, “these natural cancer-causing agents are still a factor in producing malignant; however, they are few in number and they belong to that ancient array of forces to which life has been accustomed from the beginning.” The truth behind the scenes is that there always has and always will be cancer causing materials in our world, however, we are amplifying them. The human race is single handedly killing not only the world that we are lucky enough to live in but ourselves.

I struggle with understanding how we as humans can even live with ourselves knowing that we are destroying everything we have. The question behind the destruction is, do we actually know what we are doing? Sadly, most do not have a single clue, that even the tiniest of things are ruining the great place that we get to call home. It is very clear throughout Carson’s book that more people need to be informed about the issues with our environment and what we are doing internally to ourselves.

Although changing one’s whole life around to prevent environmental damage is difficult but one person can start the train of difference in the world and within ourselves.

Criticisms of Rachel Carson

We urgently need an end to false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand, ‘The obligation to endure gives us the right to know’” (13).

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a book that created controversy all over the world. Her work, now seen as an important footnote in environmentalist history, showed the world how harmful man-made pesticides truly are and yet, she was met with more criticism than can be imagined for someone devoting the last days of their life to looking out for the greater good of society. In her book, Carson combines creative writing with scientific thinking therefore creating a work that is not only beautifully written, but is also frightening in its enlightenment. Carson wanted the world to know the true risks of the chemicals that were then only beginning to weave their way into the daily lives of families and the environment, so she dedicated years of her life to researching this very issue. Today, some of the chemicals discussed in Silent Spring such as DDT have been banned in the U.S. entirely, so obviously her research was not too far off in predicting the very detrimental effects that man-made pesticides can have on the world. Why is it then that her book and her character were and still are being judged negatively years after her work was published? Were people threatened by her honesty or were they simply threatened by her?

In Frank Graham Jr’s article “Fifty Years After Silent Spring, Attacks on Science Continue” he looks into the negative reception that she received once the book was published and makes a distinct connection to the ways in which scientists researching climate change are now being belittled in similar ways compared to what Carson experienced. In Graham’s article he cites numerous quotes of people reacting to her book, and yet very few actually say anything about the contents of her research, rather they are attacking her as a person. One person from the Nutrition Foundation said that “publicists and the author’s adherents among the food faddists, health quacks and special interest groups are promoting her book as if it were scientifically irreproachable and written by a scientist.” While another from the Department of Agriculture wrote, “In any large scale pest program, we are immediately confronted with the objection of a vociferous, misinformed group of nature-balancing, organic gardening, bird-loving, unreasonable citizenry that has not been convinced of the important place of agricultural chemicals in our economy.” These are direct attacks on Carson herself, one basically denounces her as a scientist all together, while the other labels her a hippie, bird-lover who just needs to be put in her place. The fact that these very dense criticisms come from people in the field of agriculture and nutrition is more than dismaying. When Silent Spring was published, the U.S. was just entering into the second wave of feminism, and yet, by looking at these criticisms alone, it can be seen that women at this time, even a very well known and intelligent female scientist like Carson were still being looked down on for having valid thoughts and opinions. One critic from the Federal Pest Control Review Board who was cited in Graham’s article, even went as far as to say “I thought [Carson] was a spinster. What’s she so worried about genetics for?” Criticisms like this are not grounded in the world of science at all. They are direct attacks on Carson as a person, and furthermore, Carson as a woman, and they would not be considered valid in this day and age. To say that Carson has no right to explore the harmful effects of pesticides and inform the general public on her findings just because she did not have a husband or kids that could be impacted is no real reason why she should not explore the very real assault these chemicals had and continue to have on the natural world. Rachel Carson was, and is a hero of the environment, and it is because of her research and transcendent writing that people are even privy to the truths that she wanted to expose.

I can’t know for sure why people had such harmful opinions of Rachel Carson and her book. Maybe it was because she was a woman, after all, any woman in a position of power at this time was essentially laughed it. Maybe it was because she threatened the life-style of those who made a living in entomology and pest control. Or maybe they were threatened because Carson unearthed the ugly truth that no one was truly prepared to hear.

 

Disaster Filled Questions

“The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster.”

How far away is this disaster that Rachel Carson talks about in her book Silent Spring? This book is over fifty years old and not much progress has been made and unfortunately, we are still headed down the wrong road. The government reacted some, and there was a lot of fight about DDT and laws were made, but that isn’t enough. How has the environmentalism movement and writers like Carson not helped people see how important it is to change our ways? How are people still not able to see all the chemicals being put on our food and into it? Do people not care enough? Is the government not doing enough?

There are too many questions without answers; too many questions I don’t understand. It’s frustrating to have such little control and to read about all of these things I was so unaware of.

A discussion I had in class today with my peers and my professor about Silent Spring, left me inspired with more questions about the environment, but also society. Carson uses science, and examples to bring awareness to many environmental tragedies. She does so in a way that really intrigued me. She tells you a story and gives great details and descriptions of something like a robin, a salmon, or a process of the human body, and allows you to build a connection and a sense of trust in her as a writer. She then goes into the science of the destruction of this being you now feel for and persuades you to feel anger and frustration for their demise and the way humans have threatened them. She popularizes these situations and ideas to bring them to light and inspires change. It is similar to the way a politician invites you to like them so you’ll vote for them, or a professor gets you interested in a genre or topic within their class.

Being an English Education major, I am well aware of the impact books can have. I chose to follow becoming a teacher because of a novel (outside of my typical romance genre) that was presented to me. My teacher gave me a copy of The Giver and allowed me to take part in discussions about how the book affected me and what it would be like to live in a world like the one presented in the book. It was that step-out-of-your-own-shoes feeling that inspired me to follow in the past of my teacher do the same for others. She built a trust in me that allowed me to open to try something new, just as Carson did. One provoked thoughts of my future, the other provoked thoughts of what my place in the natural world in the future would look like.

The trigger to help change the way I think and the ways of mankind is developed through trust and persuasion. It is a powerful writing technique, and a powerful teaching technique I can adapt in my classroom. Humans have the need to connect and relate to things and once this connection is built an eagerness to put effort towards the idea or cause is set in motion. Those who can utilize the skill that Carson has developed in her book can do great things like bring awareness to the

“unseen and invisible.”

The attention drawn to things happening right under our noses that are putting us and the world around us in danger jolted an unsettling feeling. “How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?” Yet another troubling question without an answer. If someone can answer this question, I am not sure I would want to speak to that person because they would be troubled to think of an excuse or reason for this.

How would writers like Robert Frost react to Carson’s book?

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Would he encourage others to take this less traveled path? Would he feel the frustration Rachel Carson feels about the path to danger mankind is on? Without putting words in his mouth, I believe he would. His words resonate with many; this poem is one that echoes in many people’s head, just as it did for Carson. The power of literature is something to be celebrated, respected, and flaunted.