Pollution and Environment Essay - Silent Spring, How Rachel Carson Changed the World

Pollution and Environment Essay - Silent Spring, How Rachel Carson Changed the World
On September 27, 1962 Rachel Carson released her sixth book, Silent Spring. On publication day, the advance sales of Silent Spring totaled 40,000 copies and another 150 copies were sent to the Book of the Month Club (Frontline: Fooling With Nature, 1998). Silent Spring remained on the bestseller list for almost a year. The world was beginning to take notice. Countless experts and organizations have proclaimed Rachel Carsonâs book the starting point of the environmental movement. Carson described numerous case studies where the use of hazardous pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals led to environmental problems all over the world. Whether directly or indirectly, everything in the environment is connected and affected by each other. Silent Spring describes, in depth, the harmful effects that chemical control has placed on all components of the environment. They include: air, water, land, wildlife, plant life, and humans. I will discuss each of these categories as examined in Silent Spring along with my personal analysis.
First I will discuss the damage from chemicals released in the air. Aerial spraying of pesticides, mostly ddt, began on a small scale over farms and forests. With the development of new insecticides and the availability of planes from the war, the sky almost literally turned into a shower of toxic chemicals. The justification behind the massive sprayings of the 1950âs was to exterminate exotic species like the fire ant, and the gypsy moth. The spraying was extremely careless, and resulted in heavily populated towns and cities repeatedly being sprayed with ddt (Carson, 1962).

Unfortunately, people and wildlife sprayed with ddt along with other chemicals had no warnings and no way to protect themselves. The government, without consent of those affected, risked the health of those exposed to the pesticides and the quality of the environment. Nearly everyone was exposed to the risks, in a direct or indirect way, from the extensive aerial spraying.

As described in the book, the gypsy moth is not a native of the United States. It had persisted in the U.S. for a great number of years without any need for extensive control measures. Carson states, ãYet drastic action was suddenly taken against them under the end-justifies-the-means philosophyä (Carson, 1962, p.156). Therefore, unnecessary health risks and damage to the environment were considered acceptable in order to eliminate the gypsy moth, which has repeatedly been unsuccessful. One reason the gypsy moth still thrives is because, like many insects, they have developed resistance to the chemicals targeted against them. Even as the gypsy moth and other targeted insects continue to be less affected by chemical control, large scale aerial spraying still continues. This only results in further environmental damage. Clearly, new ideas for controlling the insects should be examined and tested; the spraying of ddt and other unsuccessful chemicals should be immediately halted throughout the world.

Our water resources may be one of the greatest victims of pesticide and insecticide use. Carson identifies the pollution sources: ãradioactive wastes from reactors, laboratories, and hospitals; fallout from nuclear explosions; domestic wastes from cities and towns; chemical wastes from factories; gardens, forests and fieldsä (Carson, 1962, p.39). Our rivers, streams, lakes, and groundwater sources have become virtual melting pots for hazardous chemicals and pesticides. When these dangerous substances are combined with each other, entire ecosystems can be harmed. Researchers and scientists should have anticipated this type of pollution. Unfortunately, pesticides donât just disappear. They collect themselves, eventually absorbing into the soil through natural processes like erosion, runoff, and decaying animals and plant life. Since we canât predict the reactions between these chemicals when they are exposed to each other, the outcome can be disastrous.

Water is absolutely essential for all living things. Human beings are stewards of this life-giving resource and are completely responsible for its protection as well as contamination. The lack of respect for nature has led to the devastating reality that we are severely and possibly irreversibly poisoning our water resources. As Rachel Carson observed, ãIn an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifferenceä (Carson, 1962, p.39). Clearly, men and women need to put aside their desires for convenience and self-centered objectives. Focus should be directed towards sustainable resources for all natural and living things. Lack of clean water could become a life or death situation for the entire human race. Sadly, for some people and animal species, this has already become a horrible reality.

Land is another often overlooked resource that is especially important to the existence of life. Furthermore, contamination of land, like contamination of water could threaten all forms of life. The land cannot give nutrients and strength to its inhabitants when it is contaminated with poisons. Carson stresses how important and complex the natural chemistry cycles of the soil are to the life of all plants, including trees, and insects that live in the soil (Carson, 1962). Many organisms contribute to the cycles of the soil. For instance, earthwormsâ ability to break down material is vital to soil health. Yet, because pesticides and insecticides are sprayed in order to kill unwanted pests, the soil, as well as living things in the soil, are damaged.

Unfortunately, there have been few studies or research to examine what level of chemicals are present in the soil and where the land is most in need of protection. Nothing can escape the exposure to pesticides and insecticides and clearly the land may be the most vulnerable. Carson explains the realities that exist and are born from tainted soil. She focuses on an accepted situation throughout the world, the spraying of fruit orchards. She reveals an otherwise overlooked environmental problem. Specifically, yet not exclusively, potato soils, corn soils, and soils from apple orchards contain threatening levels of ddt (Carson, 1962). Consequently, the soil and plants live off each other, and this places chemicals like ddt directly at the roots of the crops as well as exposure from the repeated sprayings. It doesnât seem possible that these crops would be safe for consumption. Yet nothing is being done to protect the soil. Carson often observes in Silent Spring the lack of research and studies focused on soil pollution and its sustainability. She directly challenges fellow scientists: ãChemical control of insects seem to have proceeded on the assumption that the soil could and would sustain any amount of insult via the introduction of poisons without striking back. The very nature of the world of the soil has been largely ignoredä (Carson, 1962, p.57).

Not surprisingly nearly all species of wildlife, domestic farm animals, and pets have been affected by the overwhelming amounts of poisonous pesticides and insecticides released into the environment. Wildlife is exposed to these poisons through point and non-point sources. Carson writes about an incident in Detroit, Michigan. The Japanese beetle had found its way to Detroit. Under laws in effect in 1959, citizens did not have to be notified or give consent to the spraying of pesticides that directly affected them. In fact, they were often advised to take no precautionary measures. A representative of the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation said, ãThe dust is harmless to humans and will not hurt plants or petsä (Carson, 1962, p.89). Sadly, within 3 days of the spraying over areas of Detroit, children were sick to their stomach; dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, and other wildlife were dead and lying in the streets. Many people reported to local agencies that they witnessed various animals dying by means of extreme shaking and of violent convulsions. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Carson describes many more situations where wildlife in rural and urban areas became victims of chemical control. Even in extremely rural areas, wildlife receive contamination through water and soil pollution, as well as from feeding off other contaminated wildlife. Clearly the chain of poisoning is never-ending.

The problem of outrageous methods used to attack a specific species, which in turn threaten other animal communities or human health, is inadequately regulated. In Detroit, citizens were misled and lied to by groups that they trusted. People should be educated about what exactly they, and their children are being exposed to. It is an insult to life itself, in all forms, to poison our environment without so much as asking for consent. Unfortunately, wildlife is unavoidably trapped by human actions, and violent, cruel deaths become their reality.

The environment has patterns and natural cycles. The air, water, land, and wildlife (insects included) work with the needs of each other. However, if man believes himself to be so powerful as to control nature beyond logical and healthy practices, then nature may never get its balance back. We must realize and act upon the fact that if we destroy nature, we will be destroyed.

ãAccording to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, an estimated 25 million agricultural workers in developing countries are seriously poisoned by pesticides each year, resulting in an estimated 220,000 deathsä (Miller, 1998, p.625). Humans have developed and encouraged the continued use of harmful chemicals to control unwanted insects. However, many humans are experiencing the consequences of these chemicals. Unfortunately, this usually isnât recognized until the damage is untreatable, resulting in numerous deaths. Almost incomprehensible is the simple realization that we are actually poisoning ourselves, and our children. ãA 1995 study found that children whose yards were treated with pesticides were four times more likely to suffer from cancers or muscle and connective tissues than children whose yards where not treatedä (Miller, 1998, p.625). Clearly, the dangers of these pesticides are unknown to many. If people knew that they were risking the lives of their children they wouldnât use these substances.

Seeking to alert as many people as possible about how dangerous pesticides and insecticides are, Carsonâs book made a huge impact on the world. She brought about the realization that people are unconsciously exposing themselves, families, and all living creatures to hazards by using chemical control. Simply out of convenience and a need to uphold certain lifestyles and appearances, years may be taken off many lives. Carson implies that most consumers would be cautious when viewing a container with skulls and bones meaning death-dealing material (Carson, 1962, p.174). She writes that consumers are sent a message that insecticides are safe useful products. They are sold right in our grocery stores where they are displayed as ?homey and cheerful and with the pickles and olives across the aisle and the bath and laundry soaps adjoining, rows upon rows of insecticides are displayed? (Carson, 1962, p.174). Furthermore, at the time, the containers that held these deadly chemicals were made of glass, creating an added risk for high levels of exposure if dropped. Manufacturers of these products have no regard for the safety of the consumer. They are concerned about profit, even if that incidentally means harming the lives of their buyers.

Insecticides arenât the only toxic chemicals available at our fingertips. Many other unsuspecting products could be dangerous. In 1962 a common kitchen household cleaner known as chlordane was used in many households on a regular basis. This product was still being sold even though scientists at the federal Food and Drug Administration (fda) declared chlordane to be a great hazard (Carson, 1962). Kitchen shelf paper contained insecticides on both sides of do-it yourself booklets equipped with the dangerous chemical dieldrin, to use at your convenience. Even insect lotions and sprays that appear harmless can contribute to the build up of deadly chemicals in our bodies. Unfortunately, many people have paid the ultimate price in exchange for the convenience of pesticides and insecticides. They have died from cancer or other diseases as a result of chemical exposure.

Rachel Carson is undoubtedly one of the most influential and recognized woman in America. She was intelligent, confident, and assertive. Silent Spring speaks honestly and directly about actual situations and outcomes of pesticide and insecticide use. She was very courageous to expose state and federal governments and business associations for producing misleading and inaccurate information about the dangers of chemical control. This occurred partially because the representatives were uneducated about specific situations. This was a tragedy for the entire population as well as nature.

Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring to promote awareness and to help the world become educated about the serious health risks of pesticides. Some people are exposed to chemicals so that they are risking their lives, yet their occupation has placed them in this difficult situation. Carson brought illness and deaths as well as the impact on nature into the forefront, bringing new light to research alternative methods of pest control and eliminate the poisonous ones.

Not all of the response to Silent Spring was positive. In fact, the book created a huge controversy among the scientific world that persists in some quarters even today. ãDespite the fact that no honest scientists take Rachel Carsonâs 1962 Silent Spring seriously, her disciples are still preaching her Gospelä (The Rachel Carson Myth Lives On, On-Line). However, many scientists did take her seriously. Upon the bookâs 1962 release, scientists were shocked by her findings and some claimed she was crazy. Perhaps the fact that she was a woman and speaking out against the scientific world with such important information was terrifying to the men that dominate this field. Since women are considered to be more emotional and expressive of the their feelings than men are, this was a perfect opportunity for men to accuse Rachel Carson of being out of control and inaccurate. Because Silent Spring was so straightforward, examining case after case of environmental and health problems, it was threatening to the male dominated government and scientific world. Carson was very compassionate throughout the book, but the main focus was on the facts and case studies of damaged nature and living things.

Rachel Carson changed the world with Silent Spring. In 1972 the Environmental Protection Agency (epa) banned the use of ddt in the United States; the decision was the last in a chain of events that began with Carsonâs book. She brought awareness to the people that had otherwise no knowledge or ideas that the products they were using and being exposed to could be harmful to themselves or the environment. She deserves respect from communities across the world for her service to nature and human kind. She made a huge contribution to our planet with the launching of the environmental movement. Without her, the damage could have been more disastrous today. We must take a step back from our new technologies and look at what we should be sustaining instead of contaminating; this is essential to our survival. As Carson said, ãIn an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifferenceä (Carson, 1962, p.39). If we continue to destroy nature, we will destroy ourselves.

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