Rachel Carson

Categories: Silent Spring

Many people have helped planet Earth. There have been many environmentalists throughout history, each one contributing in their own unique way. For example, John Audubon painted beautiful pictures of most birds and mammals that exist (Strong 14). This helped greatly in the areas of animal identification. Erin Brockovich helped uncover the illegal dumping of chemicals in California. By doing this, she saved many people from cancer and other illnesses (Strong 13). Alan Chadwick introduced the French biodynamic systems of food and flower production to America.

He helped start many new farms and gardens with his innovation (Strong 20). All of these environmentalists are important. They all helped the world, but not on such a massive scale as Rachel Carson did. She affected the entire world. Rachel Carson, a twentieth century American author and scientist, prevented a potential global catastrophe by devoting her life to fighting against pollution. People with expertise in the area of environmentalism know exactly who Rachel Carson is. However, she may not be as well-known to the average person.

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Rachel Carson was born on a farm close to Springdale, Pennsylvania, on May 27, 1907. Her father was named Robert, and her mother was named Maria. After winning a writing contest at age ten, Rachel knew writing would be her forte. Throughout her high school years, her teachers encouraged her to become an author. She went on to college, where she majored in English. During her second year at Pennsylvania College for Women, Rachel took a biology course. It absolutely enchanted her, especially the area of marine biology.

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She liked it so much that she switched her major to science.

When asked about the drastic change in her education, Rachel stated, “Biology has given me something to write about. I will try in my writing to make animal in the woods or waters as alive to others as they are to me. ” Basically, she became a scientist with the pen of a poet (Sterling 67). After Carson finished college, she began her career. She took the civil service test for the position of junior aquatic biologist in 1936, and she received the top score. Naturally, she got the job. Carson was only the second woman to serve the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries in a position that was not secretarial.

Her job was officially that of a biologist. However, her job responsibilities allowed her to use her flair for writing quite often. She wrote numerous pamphlets on environmental conservation, as well as introductions to radio broadcasts on undersea life for the agency. This job stint lasted until 1949. For three of those years, Crson worked as the chief editor for all of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife publications. Carson ended up sending some of her writing from her job to Atlantic Monthly. They published her work, and it was noticed by Quincy Howe.

He was an editor with Simon and Schuster, a New York 1. publisher. Howe made the talented young writer an offer to write a book about the ocean (Sterling 69). Carson accepted the offer. Under the Sea-Wind was the title of her first book. It was published in 1941. According to Carson, the book was “a series of descriptive narratives unfolding successively the life of the shore, the open sea, and the sea bottom. ” The book was carefully written so that even people with no background on the subject of marine biology could understand and enjoy it. Many people did, in fact, enjoy it.

One reader said of the book, “This book gives the reader an appreciation and understanding of life around the sea. More importantly, it increased my situational awareness to some of the ocean’s less obvious life. ” Although well written and praised by the scientific communities, Under the Sea-Wind did not sell very well. It could not have been published at a worse time. The publishing date was two weeks before the United States entered World War II, so the attention of the public was concentrated elsewhere (Brooks 99). Despite the failure of her book, Carson still had a passion for writing about the sea.

In her words, “To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and the flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be” (Carson, xiii). Carson didn’t quit writing about the sea. In 1951, her hard work paid off. She released her second book about the sea. It was called The Sea Around Us. In the book, Carson described the hidden mountains and canyons of the ocean and how they are mapped.

She described the ceaseless power of the winds, waves, and currents. The meaning of the ocean to humanity and the heritage of the sea that we humans carry in our bodies were both points in her book. The riches to be found in every cubic mile of seawater ($93,000,000 in gold alone) were mentioned in The Sea Around Us (Carson 23). Carson’s book was an instant success. It dominated the New York Times best-seller list and sold over a million copies. It became internationally known, and was translated in over 30 languages. It won both the 1952 National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal.

Rachel Carson was now a household name (Lakewood). As Carson enjoyed royalties and recognition for her work, a sinister problem was brewing. Companies had started producing a new chemical called dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane, or DDT. This chemical is an organochlorine insecticide used mainly to control mosquito-borne malaria. DDT also killed lice and other pests. It 2. was also used on crops. DDT was available in several different forms: aerosols, dusty powders, emulsifiable concentrates, granules and wettable powders. Paul Miller, a Swiss scientist, was the one who discovered DDT.

At first, this chemical seemed to be wonderful. Entire cities in Italy were dusted to control the typhus carried by lice. DDT was responsible for eradicating malaria from Europe and North America. It reduced malaria mortality rates from 192 per 100,000 to a low of 7 per 100,000 people. Although DDT had a lot of benefits, it soon came to be that there were risks involved, as well (Ware 3). As previously mentioned, DDT was used over entire cities. Aerial spraying of this substance began on a small scale over farms and forests. There was development of new insecticides and the availability of planes from the war.

As a result, the sky almost literally turned into a shower of toxic chemicals. The justification behind the massive sprayings of the 1950s was to exterminate exotic species like the fire ant, and the gypsy moth. It also was extensively used during World War II. Allied troops and certain civilian populations to used it control insect typhus and malaria. The spraying was extremely careless. Consequently, heavily populated towns and cities were repeatedly being sprayed with DDT. Unfortunately, people and wildlife sprayed with DDT along with other chemicals had no warnings and had no way to protect themselves.

Nearly everyone was exposed to the effects of DDT, either directly or indirectly, from the extensive aerial spraying (Encyclopaedia Brittanica). Exposure to DDT can bring many ill effects. Although a single application of DDT would kill all insect pests, it would also kill off all the birds which would otherwise prey on those insects. As a consequence, DDT would increase yields in the short term, but decrease yields in the long term since pest insects were far more capable of recovering from the effects of DDT than were their natural predators.

In addition DDT is slow to decompose into less harmful compounds. Although it was banned by the early 1960s traces of this insecticide can still be found within the environment. This compound’s stability and persistence within food chains is blamed for the abrupt decline in osprey and bald eagle populations throughout the 1950s and 1960s. DDT also causes problems in humans. In a study in India, a group of men who worked with DDT were found to have decreased fertility and a significant increase in still births, neonatal deaths and congenital defects among their children.

Israeli men with unexplained fertility problem were also found to have high blood levels if DDT. This material also causes nervous system abnormalities, and is potentially carcinogenic (GPA). Although most effects of DDT are not immediately obvious, there were some that got attention. 3. It definitely got the attention of Olga Owens Huckins, Carson’s friend. Massachusetts had ordered a large scale aerial spraying of DDT in order to kill mosquitoes. Several of the birds in her private sanctuary were killed by the DDT. She was naturally very angry, so she wrote a letter critical of the pest control program to the Boston Herald:

The “harmless” shower bath killed seven of our lovely songbirds outright. We picked up three dead bodies the next morning right by the door… The next day three were scattered around the bird bath. (I had emptied it and scrubbed it after the spraying but YOU CAN NEVER KILL DDT. ) On the following day one robin dropped suddenly from a branch in our woods. We were too heartsick to hunt for other corpses. All of these birds died horribly, and in the same way, Their bills were gaping open, and their splayed claws were drawn up to their breasts in agony. ”

Several other animals were killed by the spraying in Massachusetts. Carson had already sent an article to Reader’s Digest, hoping they would address the issue. They ignored her. Huckins sent a copy of her letter to Carson, hoping to get results (Graham 149). This was exactly what was needed. Carson was on the case. She launched a broad search for evidence on the effects of pesticides. The more she learned, the more she realized that everything she held dear was being threatened (Brooks 233). Carson decided to write about her findings. Several magazines rejected her work.

However, she did not give up. “The more I learned about pesticides, the more appalled I became,” Carson later recalled. “I realized that here was the material for a book. ” Eventually, she did in fact turn it into a book. She made sure that her book was based on the soundest scientific evidence. She gathered information from every possible source. She talked to experts in the medical agricultural, and other professional fields, and also to independent scientists. Altogether, the finished product, Silent Spring, took five years to complete.

Finally, in 1962, Carson sent her finished manuscript to William Shawn, editor of the New Yorker magazine. He loved it, and immediately began to serialize Silent Spring on June 16, 1962 (Sterling 102). Carson brought a rare trio of assets to this work: scientific training, dedication to research, and literary flair. Silent Spring portrayed a dismal world that had been devastated by DDT. The book starts with a fable of a lovely rural town that suddenly suffers blight, sickness, and death. People in the book finally realized they had unwittingly poisoned themselves.

Carson then presented scientific evidence that this was happening all over the country. She explained in plain terms how the strongest bugs survive, making stronger pesticides necessary, and that DDT, 4. though scarce in the water, becomes concentrated as it works its way up the food chain — from plankton to fish to birds and so on. Carson argued that those chemicals used were more dangerous than radiation and that for the first time in history, humans were exposed to chemicals that stayed in their systems from birth to death.

Her message was that humans cannot totally control nature, or eradicate species we don’t like — at least not without harmful side effects, came through clearly. She advocated integrated management: using a minimum of chemicals combined with biological and cultural controls (Carson 1-2). It is obvious from Carson’s proposed solutions that she knew everything in nature is connected. For example, she showed that although man is connected to water, we mistreat it. 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, “In 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 indifference” (Carson 39). 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 stressed all of these points in her book (Carson 51). Silent Spring was instantly successful. Advance sales for the book totaled 40,000 copies. After publication, the book remained on the bestseller list for almost a year. It was translated into several languages, including Swedish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese. As Esquire magazine wrote, Silent Spring “made people think about the environment in a way they never had before. One reader said, “Silent Spring is meticulously researched and accessible to the lay reader; its message is as clear as it is devastating: humans have willfully disturbed the whole web of life, the “intimate and essential relations” between the earth and all its passengers, animate and inanimate. Many people loved the book (Lear). However, not all of the feedback was positive for Silent Spring. In fact, the book created a huge controversy among the scientific world that persists in some quarters even today. One chemical company tried to stop publication of the book before it went to press, threatening a law suit over facts.

The publisher went ahead. The company did not sue, and in fact was found later to be one of the worst offenders in using and producing toxic 5. chemicals. Upon the book’s 1962 release, scientists were shocked by her findings and some claimed she was crazy (Novick 233). 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 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 never responded to critics; she simply let her work speak for itself. Whether people criticized or praised it, the book Silent Spring brought about a lot of change. In 1963 President Kennedy had a panel of scientists investigate what Carson claimed. She was found to be absolutely right. As a result of the various language translations, many foreign countries immediately enacted laws that banned use of DDT and other pesticides.

As for the United States, it took a little longer. The U. S. government took ten years to bring similar legislation into effect. In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency finally banned the use of DDT. The EPA was also created due to Carson, who felt that environmental issues should have their own department (Novick 230). Congress also passed the Toxic Substances Control Act four years later. This piece of legislation banned the use of many other pesticides. Rachel Carson’s voice was finally heard. Carson herself did not go unnoticed for her deeds. She received national recognition in many ays. Her name appears on several lists, including Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the Century, Women’s hall of fame, and Pittsburgh magazine’s “Pittsburghers of the Year” (Lear). Before her death, Carson received several top honors, including the National Wildlife Federation’s 1963 Conservationist of the year award.

She also received the National Audubon Society Medal. She was the first woman to be given this award. As Carson accepted the award, she offered a warning: “Conservation is a cause that has no end. There is no point at which we will say, ‘our work is finished. ” On top of all of these awards, the Department of the Interior revered Rachel Carson in the most honorable way. In 1969, five years after Carson’s death, the U. S. government changed the name of the Coastal Maine Refuge to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (Brooks 94). Even though Carson’s life ended in 1964, her legacy lives on. People are now aware of the dangers of pesticides. The government now has more consideration for the environment. Not only that, but there are now organizations that help provide information for the public. One such organization is the Rachel Carson Council.

This 6. organization is a clearinghouse and library with information at both scientific and layperson levels on pesticide-related issues, which provides answers to the public, produces various publications clarifying pesticide dangers, brings alternative pest controls to the public’s attention, and presents conferences and workshops for the public and the scientific community. The Rachel Carson Council seeks to inform and advise the public about the effects of pesticides that threaten the health, welfare, and survival of living organisms and biological systems.

The Council promotes alternative, environmentally benign pest management strategies to encourage healthier, sustainable living. None of this would be possible without Rachel Carson’s brave actions (Lakewood). Even though much has been done due to Carson, the fight against chemical pollution is far from over. Large amounts of harmful chemicals are still produced and used around the world. Many of them are even radioactive. There is no solution to these problems as of yet. In fact, the damage being done by poison chemicals today is far worse than it was when Silent Spring was written.

Today, there are even problems such as ozone depletion and global warming that have arisen due to pollution. Moreover, many developing countries do not have pollution regulation at all. Even with the United States, the strict regulations often go without being enforced (GPA). Many animals still suffer. The environment is still in trouble. The fight against pollution seems to be an uphill battle. Still, it is a battle that could already be lost without Rachel Carson. In conclusion, Rachel Carson changed the world with Silent Spring.

She brought awareness to the eople 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. By writing about the sea, Carson showed the interdependence of all things in nature, including humans. Silent Spring helped to launch a new environmental awareness. Carson showed how the future is affected by actions that are taken today.

Cite this page

Rachel Carson. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/rachel-carson-new-essay

Rachel Carson

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