In the book ‘Silent spring’ written by Rachael Carson we find a picture of Carson’s deep concept about the connection between nature’s equilibrium and the web of life that has been ruined by the uncontrolled use of insecticides which in turn affected the healthy livelihood of this earth’s creatures. Furthermore, she tells the readers of substitute techniques of achieving the same ends. The title of the book is enough to make us understand that it was a hint of a spring season with no bird songs painting our atmosphere meaning that all birds had vanished due to misuse of pesticides.
The book starts with a story of a town in America. Carson explains the town as being very beautiful and lively where the spring time is the most pleasant time of the year. However, this perfect scenario is soon destroyed as Carson tells “On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh”. This town has never really existed. Rather, it just portrays the present as well as future of other numerous towns of this world.
In order to stay alive we require taking from all portion of the environment to grant us with our essentials and hence, comes the interrelation between us and the environment. To indicate mainly it is us who have contaminated our own home, the earth. Carson clearly states “They should not be called ‘insecticides’, but ‘biocides’” as they are harmful for every life on this planet. According to her the chemicals are being used in the wrong way and by the wrong people.
The third chapter of Carson’s book explains in details the elixirs of death that is, what these chemicals such as DDT and arsenic are and how they eventually gain the magical powers of causing death by spreading through the entire food chain of our ecosystem and giving rise to many fatal diseases like cancer.
We all know how significant water – a resource- to us is. Then we should also know “It is not possible to add pesticides to water anywhere without threatening the purity of water everywhere”. Chemicals are washed from land to bodies of water which seep into ground water – the source of public water supplies. Once in the water, chemicals combine with other chemicals that have either been washed or deliberately dumped into the water. Ultimately no one can guess what the synergism will be in the coming days.
Our life is greatly dependant on the ecology of the soil. Carson states “We must not only be concerned with what is happening to the soil; we must wonder to what extent insecticides are absorbed from contaminated soils and introduced into plant tissues.”. Without the tiniest life that sustains inside it, the whole biogeochemical cycles are changed. Even if plants that have grown in the contaminated soil are removed, the soil will stay contaminated and continue to set birth to new contaminated plants. In Chapter 6 we come to know how the green segment of our earth connects all lives. Carson’s main focus was on the devastating change on life of animals linked to the destruction of weed and sage. Rachel Carson clarifies that it is an unnecessary chaos to promote massive insecticides spraying operations because this results in efficient killing of non-targeted plants and animals and inefficient killing of insects and pests. She points out that adequate research is needed before performing such campaigns.
“The early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.” The disappearance of the birds has been linked back to usage of insecticides again because birds are dependant on insects and worms for food. Alternative cheaper solutions are given by Carson in Chapter 8. “If we would divert to constructive research even a small fraction of the money spent each year on the development of ever more toxic sprays, we could find ways to use less dangerous materials and to keep poisons out of our waterways.” – Carson says this when mainly salmon fish and other aquatic animals are killed in mass numbers through spraying of DDT in an attempt to destroy certain spruce budworms in Miramichi River.
She tries to get across the fact that the aerial spraying campaigns to kill the gypsy moth in the northern states and the fire ant in the southern states were very much damaging, ineffective and also expensive. This incident had a chain reaction resulting in crop failure, hurting wildlife and also cattle products (such as milk) and vegetables were found having DDT and thus unhealthy for human consumption.
Carson lets us know that people are a victim to daily chemical poisoning in even minute doses. She goes into the very details of domestic appliances and necessities. Carson talks about many things that don’t seem to be much of a danger on a daily basis to a regular person. Things such as bug sprays, lotions, paints and varnishes, and even a pocket-sized insecticide dispenser are brought up to help demonstrate the everyday risks we encounter.
“Only yesterday mankind lived in fear of the scourges of smallpox, cholera, and plague………….. Today we are concerned with a different kind of hazard that lurks in our environment—a hazard we ourselves have introduced into our world as our modern way of life has evolved.” According to Carson we have given rise to a new range of health problems because the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and everything else in our environment is polluted. As a result the total ecology of our human body is badly affected.
Then she starts her discussion about what a cell is, how the organelle mitochondria inside our cells functions to produce energy and ends chapter 13 by informing us that radiations, and chemical poisoning affects this metabolism resulting in mutations.
“The battle of living things against cancer began so long ago that its origin is lost in time.” She says that cancer causing agents had already existed in the nature but not to the extent of causing cancer to the living organisms which the humans have already exceeded that particular level via the chemicals already discussed above.
Chemical control proponents overlook two key facts of nature. First, nature applies the most effective control of insects. Second, insects have an explosive capacity to reproduce once they have adapted to chemical control methods. Carson goes on and talks about human attempts to break the balance of nature. She gives example of the coyote, the deer predators, and insects. She talks about how at first the idea seemed to work, but in the end there was some kind of backfire that made every effort pointless. She believes that if people would just sit back and study what happens when nature takes care of itself, many of our problems would be solved.
Through the years of chemical spraying against insects, their species have ditched the weak and reproduced the strongest to become more powerful. Chemicals had to be altered every month to overcome the resistance.
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair”. In the last chapter Carson explains the alternate cheaper and effective methods to overcome the problems mentioned earlier. Carson says that biological controls are best of the two because they do not disrupt the equilibrium and system of nature. By using natural controls, such as predators, nothing in the environment is harmed.
Rachel Carson has done a huge contribution to our plant, the Earth, by creating environmental movements. Without her, the condition of our Earth could have been worse. Still, we can see uses of chemicals in an uncontrolled way around us because many people are not aware. People are being selfish in this case. They think it is for their own good. But the reality is reverse because every living and non-living component of this planet is connected either directly or indirectly. Humans are harming themselves as well as their own community through their activities. A lot can be learned from this book. A small initiative can make a big change. It is a must for us to keep our home, the Earth healthy and let others lead their healthy life.