Silent Spring

186

Silent Spring’ – the Hidden Life of Americans

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

As humans attempt to control nature, their very actions lead to immense consequences for themselves and the environment. Rachel Carson, an American author and scientist, details the harm of pesticides and the impact of humans on the environment in her nonfiction novel Silent Spring. Her purpose is to persuade her readers to learn about the problems of insecticides and to be more environmentally aware. Carson effectively presents her purpose through an appeal to emotion and diction in the first two chapters of Silent Spring.

Carson begins the first chapter by describing a fictional, picturesque town in America that is suddenly afflicted by a mysterious sickness. The town deteriorates from its former self, with people sick and animals dying. The author reveals that the “people had done it themselves” and that the same situation is already occurring in many places across the country. The second chapter shifts to explaining that the changes in the environment have “been relatively slight” and that only humans have the power to drastically alter their surroundings. Carson points out that mankind’s advancement over the past few centuries has led to “the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials” . She then provides reasons why pesticides are ineffective, such as “destructive insects often undergo a ‘flareback,’ or resurgence, after spraying, in numbers greater than before”. The author explains various factors that prevent alternate solutions from being effective at controlling insects. The chapter ends with Carson addressing her audience to educate themselves on the environment and to seek out information to preserve Earth’s future.

The author utilizes emotional appeal to achieve her purpose in Silent Spring that insecticides are problematic. Carson describes the chemicals as powerful enough “to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish into streams”. Her description of what pesticides threaten highlights how much harm the chemicals bring. By pointing out that even “good” and “bad” things are affected, the author’s words appeal to the audience’s integrity as humans often avoid harming organisms that are beneficial to them. She states that solutions must be found so that the chemicals “do not destroy us along with the insects”. Her exaggeration of being “destroyed” by the pesticides fuels fear in the audience as her statement suggests that the pesticides may bring humans to their demise.

Carson employs selective word choice to urge her readers to care about the Earth’s environment. She states that the governments subject people to the chemicals without their “consent” and “knowledge” and feed the public “little tranquilizing pills of half truth” . The lack of attention and care over the public’s health suggests that the government feels that the people do not need to know if they are being impacted by insecticides. These words infuriate the readers as no one likes being kept away from the truth, increasing the audience’s desire to understand more about the situation. She also includes the pronouns “we” and “us” when discussing the government’s attitude towards citizens. By referring to “we” and “us”, the words create a sense of unity and make the topic more personal to the readers as everyone is being affected. The author’s use of words makes the situation of the environment appear much more significant.

The author’s writing is successful at convincing readers to agree with her topic. Carson acknowledges that chemical insecticides are advantageous and should still be used. By acknowledging the counterargument for insecticides, Carson appears more credible and convincing as she displays that she has considered both sides of the argument before making her claim. She also provides clear reasons for why people started using pesticides and accepts that pesticides were necessary to achieve the current level of advancement humans have. As the author admits that a variety of factors led to the current state of the environment, her argument appears more understanding, making the writing more appealing to the audience.

Altogether, Carson’s rhetorical techniques effectively presents her purpose to the readers. Her use of emotional appeal and word choice helps to convey to the audience issues with pesticides and the value of being informed on nature’s state. The author’s inclusion of the counterargument strengthens her purpose and makes it more credible. Carson’s novel Silent Spring reminds the audience to care for the future of planet Earth and to take a stand for better treatment of the environment.

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157

Technological Progress and Its Effect in Silent Spring Novel

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Sacred Obligation: A Call to Action of Humans and Our Environment

Humans are the species that reign superior to this planet. Mankind has developed the power of our minds which has separated us from other species, thus creating our power and solidifying our rule. Our greatest advance forward was the industrial revolution, and since that time, we have been building our comfort and destroying our home: the ecosystem. In the novel Silent Spring—namely chapter 2 entitled The Obligation to Endure—Rachel Carson discusses just that: how something as insignificant as pesticides have begun to deteriorate and kill plants, animals, and ourselves. Carson’s zeal and sentiment towards this cause has since inspired other literary works such as David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance. Suzuki talks about his personal perspective on the issues of man and his environment and how it has led him to want to do more to fix this issue. The Obligation to Endure and The Sacred Balance were written in 1962 and 1997, respectively, and since then environmental issues have not changed, but worsened. Although these novels were written years apart, they bear similarities, not only in the topics they discuss, but in their findings and their own personal views on the issue and mankind as a whole. Suzuki and Carson use different forms of diction to connote the same motif of an ignorance and insatiability of mankind to endlessly use their power.

Carson and Suzuki have the same desire to educate mankind about the detriments of exuding their power without proper education or consideration about the long-term effects of their decisions. Suzuki discusses his perspectives and his actions on the issue, but not before explaining the background of the topic, his reaction to Carson’s Silent Spring, and his experience interviewing others in Haida Gwaii about their own personal issues within their community. Suzuki intentionally has his story divided into subheadings, alluding to the steps necessary to repair our environment: “From Naked Ape to Superspecies” is realizing our power; “A Shattered World” is recognizing the issue; “The Growth of Environmentalism” is understanding the issue; “A Way Out” is using our resources to help better our understanding; and “Changing our Perspective” is putting our new knowledge and resources into action (428-33). Carson does not use allusion, but rather a cynical and condescending tone to show how ignorance is detrimental to the environment. While discussing the effects of using pesticides without knowledge of their impact upon the ecosystem, Carson criticizes those who have the most power above the powerful. Carson writes, “When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth” (Carson 425). Carson discussing this issue throughout this chapter has addressed mankind as a whole. As Carson explains more into the knowledge of the pesticide use, she addresses specifically the specialists who make and use the pesticides. As the public are the ones who are being affected by the use of pesticides, as well as witnessing firsthand the effects on the environment, it appears that the ones who are ignorant to the effects or choose to ignore them are the ones causing the death and disease. Carson and Suzuki have made it clear that ignorance is destructive to humans as well as our surroundings, and power is something that can also be malicious. Carson and Suzuki also describes humans and their rise to power similarly.

In both texts, Carson and Suzuki introduce their topic of environmental disaster by first introducing humans and their rise to power. Carson describes humans and their ascension with only a short paragraph, while Suzuki uses an entire subsection. Both do so in an interesting way, acknowledging what we used to be and showing where we are now. Carson writes, “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species—man—acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world. /During the past quarter century, this power has not only increased to one of disturbing magnitude but it has changed in character” (Carson 420). Suzuki writes “As we have shifted status to a superspecies, our ancient understanding of the exquisite interconnectivity of all life has been shattered” (Suzuki 429). Both authors have initially described humans as great people with great power. People who came from a simple start, and progress rapidly into their newfound power. However, immediately following the idea that humans are great. Carson and Suzuki destroy that idea and simultaneously introduce their topics. In Suzuki’s writing, he uses abstract diction, describing the ruin that humans and technology have brought our environment. Carson uses concrete diction and visual imagery, creating an image in the reader’s head of how heavily humans have impacted the environment. Carson uses words that dehumanize human actions which demonstrate her passion for the subject and create the sense of urgency. Carson’s work has influenced Suzuki, and his passion for the subject is shown through his urgency to learn more after reading Carson’s work. Both authors have set up the construct of time in their work and have made that time stand still. They have created the realities of the present and produced a picture of the future. Time, apparently, is a luxury that we cannot afford as both Carson and Suzuki warn about the danger of allowing such dangerous human actions to continue.

The Obligation to Endure and The Sacred Balance are call to action texts. Carson and Suzuki tell just how mankind’s use of power has created a world where ignorance is bliss and reality is a social construct. Although these works were written years 35 years apart, they have an impact on our environment now. A recent study published in May 2017 by Elena Saratovskikh has shown the effects of pesticides and their effect on the substances they are presented on. The results showed not only the effects of the pesticides on their surface, but how the chemical compounds effected other things around them. In the conclusion of her study, Saratovskikh writes, “Pesticides inhibit the biological activity of oxidizing enzymes…The sum of these effects is the cause of almost all diseases of modern man, including cancer” (Saratovskikh 2017). 55 years after the original works Silent Spring was published a study shows the same effects that Carson and Suzuki informed about in their work. Because there has been no change in the habits of humanity since 1962, obvious signs are continuing to be ignored and there are new developments being made to existing pesticides, without knowing their effects. It is evident that from ignoring the issue and not acquiring proper knowledge surrounding all aspects of the issue, that the predictions and worries of Carson and Suzuki have become real. An era of those with power are creating a future that makes everyone and everything weak. In a world where knowledge is no longer power, how long is it before humans lose control?

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256

Feminism in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Throughout time, becoming a respected ‘knowledge producer’ required certain aspects, for one was being a white male. During any part of history being a white male would give you more leverage than any other marginalized population, particularly women. Women were hardly accepted and embraced as producers of knowledge, especially in the scientific mainstream. So in the early 1960s, the question that surfaced was why women cannot take on a role in society outside of the home?

Second-wave feminism was believed to have started the tackling of issues like why were not women allowed to be included in: politics, economics and law making. This era also expanded the range of other issues including: sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, official legal inequalities, domestic violence, marital rape, engendered rape-crisis centers, women’s shelters, and brought about changes in custody laws and divorce law. Unknowingly, Rachel Carson would not know that this movement would help pave a road for her book, Silent Spring to be introduced into society. As a result of feminists owning bookstores and engaging in other roles of society it widening the “economic engines of the movement”, helping Carson sell her book which was hated widely among different roots of society. However, before Carson sold her first book she was first marginalized in the publication or newspaper industry because she was a woman.

Rachel’s father and sister died leaving her as the main provider of her mother, niece and nephew; so, she had quit graduate school and got a temporary job as a writer of radio scripts for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries’ weekly educational broadcast: Romance Under the Waters, which was her commencement of “making a career of nature writing in the 1940s and 1950s” . Even though writing about nature was not a problem for Carson she was not left with a choice to write about much of anything else because most women had to publish their works “under androgynous or frankly male pseudonyms”. She was only able to have an easy breakthrough in the industry because women were allowed to partake in the “field by means of the categories… sf” or ‘soft-core,’ which draws upon the social sciences”, and at the time nature was a soft-core topic. Eventually, Rachel received a governmental job and was able to bring her family so some financial stability afterwards publishing her first three books.

The idea that Rachel Carson presented in her book Silent Spring is that we are creating resources like DDT that are destructive to us and the environment. We are supposed to take care of our home but instead we are permanently damaging our environment by using harmful insecticides to kill insects. She outlines how human actions have seriously impacted the planet affecting all organisms, starting this “man’s war against nature” and all of these chemicals that are being created to kill this “pests” such as “insects, weeds, rodents, and other organisms”. Man’s destruction against nature is taking in forms of contamination in the: air water, and ground by all types of pollution but Carson addresses the detrimental effects of “chemical contamination”. These pesticides are sold on the private market as “sprays, dusts, and aerosols” so that they can kill these pests indiscriminately. The term for insecticides should be “biocides” because these chemicals have the capability of killing anything on this plant and this “chemical war is never won, and all life is caught in its violent crossfire”. We are literally creating these massive amounts of pollution that is basically “irrecoverable” and “irreversible”.

Carson expressed how different people and children faced death in the US because of the spraying of DDT and its chemical kin: aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, parathion, heptachlor and etc. According to Carson, in Florida, two children died and three of their friends became ill after coming in contact with a “bag that had once contained an insecticide called parathion”. This widespread contamination that was occurring made it obvious to Carson that it “is not possible to add pesticides … anywhere without threatening the purity of” not only “water” but everything around us. The drift of DDT in the waters were effecting the fish allowing them to pass down the DDT “from generation to generation” but the same could occur with humans, mothers passing down DDT through pregnancy and breast milk . This wreaking havoc on life was “direct[ly] killing …birds, mammals, fishes, and indeed practically every form of wildlife” but some people not care. Areas that that water runoffs from excessive rain transmit that DDT so “the rains that rose from it return again in rivers”. One thing that people have always wondered is “that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life”. Some reasons why Rachel Carson was severely attacked was not because she was a woman but because she attacked a chemical industry and its associates, directly threatening this technology that was once praised for its usage during WWII.

Since DDT was placed into the private sector to continue the manufactures profitability, taking it off the market would mean a great deal of losses. A pesticide maker, Velsicol Chemical, threatened to sue the publication of Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin, to change the alleged inaccuracies if they were not corrected but, there were no changes were made and the company did not sue. Instead, Velsicol Chemical “launched a $250,000 publicity campaign” to degrade “Carson and her science” and then marginalized her for being an unmarried woman who is “hysterical and unscientific”. It was reasons like how “she kept cats and loved birds” that threw up red flags. This former US secretary of agriculture was identified to the public as this “‘spinster with no children was so interested in genetics’. Her unpardonable offence was that she had overstepped her place as a woman”. Carson received public backlash in the 1960s since DDT was recognized for its utility and safety by mainstream scientific and public health communities which dramatically reduced the transmission of diseases like malaria in developing countries. A great portion of people have accused her for the causation of the deaths of millions of people in these countries from malaria and other infectious diseases in the tropics but t became controversial to blame Carson. As a result of the launch of DDT to eradicate disease like the malaria eradication project, people were reporting the bug resistance to DDT rapidly after six months of spraying. This project instantly became an issue because people would lose their immunity and when the mosquitos come back they could have no immunity putting their risk of dying from the disease higher.

As backlash occurred from the chemical company, Carson was backed into a political field accused of being associated with “‘sinister parties’”. The proposition that Carson’s goal was to destabilize American agriculture and free enterprise in the “interests of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites” was an outrageous thought that was highly considered. During the high tensions of the Cold War, claiming that Carson was a communist was a great opportunity to try and take her down; explanations like her physical attraction and her being unmarried for some unknown reason were reasons to speculate. Rachel Carson’s secret that she kept away from the public and possibly from being married was that she was diagnosed of cancer and her health was deteriorating. Nevertheless, The Kennedy Administration authorized a scientific panel to investigate her findings and accusations on the possible long-term effects of DDT and other pesticides which the majority was proven correct; later the other tenacious pesticides were eliminated as well, being replaced by less harsh pesticides “that have a higher acute toxicity for humans”. Later, Carson appeared in front of Congress on two separate occasions; She testified before Senate committees holding hearings on the pesticide-related issues before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee of Government Operations and then before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce. Seven years later her request for a department to study man’s effect on the ecology was fulfilled with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lastly, farmers and different organizations detested Carson because they wanted to use DDT to utilize to “increase their crop yield manifold” and only a few saw that eradicating DDT was saving their lives and the lives of their families. According to Carson, these poisons are extremely lethal and it they come in contact with your skin it can kill you within forty minutes. Entities other than farmers like the Federal Aviation Agency and Detroit Department of Parks & Recreation were affected as well because it left them with the ethical decision of whether or not DDT should be investigated and still dumped off of planes which contaminate nearly everything. Even the Agriculture Department did not agree with Carson “brushing away all evidence of damage as exaggerated and misleading”. What people seemed to mistake about Carson was that she never opposed pest control; she had rather people use integrated pest control programs some which were “developed by some California entomologists”. Using different approaches to keeping pests in check while minimalizing collateral damage to the environment and non-targeted species. Those who extoled Rachel for her impact were organizations and people like the state conservation departments, national conservation agencies, ecologists, biologists and even entomologists. When CBS reporter, Eric Severeid interviewed Carson for CBS Reports in 1963, this hour long broadcast that was seen all over the country leaving a heavy impact on those who were not aware of the issues occurring. A man Robert White-Stevens, spokesman for the agricultural chemical industry tried to say that Carson was exaggerating these claims which were “gross distortions of the actual facts, completely unsupported by scientific, experimental evidence, and general practical experience in the field”. Nonetheless, this “documentary came just six weeks before the report of Kennedy’s advisors effectively substantiated the main claims of Silent Spring”. Most importantly Carson had gained a larger public audience who appreciated her work of exposing the threats that were made towards families and children and bringing this awareness of environmental contamination that people lacked.

To conclude this essay Rachel Carson’s prolific Silent Spring was a masterpiece of the century that should be forever recognized and cherished. This knowledge producer embraced the scientific mainstream of her time and even created a whole new social movement that continues till this day in the United States. People who marginalized and suppressed Rachel Carson did not reciprocate anything from doing so. Companies and people who enjoyed tormenting Carson ended up receiving backfire because it left companies to have to figure out an alternative of how to prevent ‘pests’ from attacking the agriculture and Rachel ended up leaving a great environmental impact. Carson’s legacy left us with questions on whether or not were leading a sustainable lifestyle and how could we improve these efforts.

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205

The Importance of Context and Perception in Silent Spring

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

During the 1920s in the United States, farmers were suffering a depression due to the debt caused by overproduction of many crops during World War I. This depression continued into the 1930s as the Great Depression destroyed America’s economy and was eventually halted by World War II when the agriculture industry was heavily relied on again to supply for the war. It is during this time – in 1939 – that Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT was found to be an effective pesticide in preventing insect borne diseases and crop damage. Its use spread rapidly for several decades until it was found to be detrimental to the environment. Most of this knowledge came to light thanks to Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, released in 1962. Now, 55 years later, many people wonder what direct effects Silent Spring had on the growth of the environmental movement in the United States. It is commonly thought that Silent Spring led to concerns about the America’s use of pesticides, especially DDT. It also helped to introduce the environmental movement to America by eliciting policy reform surrounding humans’ interactions with the natural world.

Farmers have used different forms of pesticides to boost plant growth for centuries and they fall into four main categories: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. With the discovery of DDT as an insecticide in 1939, the use of pesticides in the US grew exponentially. DDT was first synthesized in 1873 but didn’t have a use for almost 70 years until Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller realized that it could be an effective pesticide. For his accomplishments he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and DDT was available for sale in the United States starting in 1945.

By 1957, 4.9 million acres of land were being sprayed by DDT each year. It became integrated into the lives of Americans and no one suspected that any harm could come of it. Families would set off DDT bombs in their homes, children would run after machines spraying it in the streets and it was well loved for its effectiveness as well as its relatively low cost. Initially DDT was used to target gypsy moths but once its versatility was realized, it was commissioned for many other uses. It was especially popular during World War II to rid the Allies soldiers of lice. In its powder form, DDT is credited with saving millions of lives from typhus and other bacterial diseases. Its power was so widespread that it started becoming known as the “killer of all killers” and during its 30 years of production 1,350,000,000 pounds were used in America alone. The country also began exporting DDT across the world, especially to Africa to combat malaria. The Agency for International Development and the United Nations bought large quantities of DDT from the United States in an attempt to control insect-borne diseases. Exports of DDT rose from 12% in 1950 to 67% in 1969. Initially the benefits of pesticide use outweighed the problems but the opposite soon came to pass.

When Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was released in 1962, there was immediately an uproar about its implications. 500,000 people read the book and another 10-15 million watched a CBS broadcast of Carson explaining its meaning and connection to society as a whole. The first chapter, aptly named A Fable for Tomorrow, tells a tale of an American town that is like any other but pesticides have killed all of the people and animals living there. Carson admits that the effects of pesticides may not show up for several generations but emphasizes that the threat still exists. This silent town described is the namesake of the book and also serves as the ultimate pathos as it taps into the emotions of readers imagining themselves and their children growing up in that world. In Silent Spring Carson references pesticide spraying as a “chain of evil” and explains that when plants are sprayed, anything other organism that eats those plants or the infected insects will also become poisoned. She expressed the belief that man-made chemicals and radiation were tampering with the natural state of the earth and that this human activity could have deadly consequences. These beliefs were backed by evidence suggesting that few tests had been done to discover the true effects of DDT in the environment despite the claims from the Stauffer Chemical Company (the nation’s largest producer of DDT in 1962).

Despite strong support of Silent Spring from environmentalists, others worried about the toxicity of pesticides in the human body, the book received national criticism for being very one-sided. Critics argued that Carson was ignoring the benefits of DDT and pesticides in general. The Manufacturing Chemists’ Association called the entire thing a “disappointment” and argued that Carson was misrepresenting their industry.

In defense of her ideas and the environment, Carson testified before Congress in 1963 that pesticides affected the air, soil, water, and vegetation of Earth and that it was humans’ duty to protect it. She acknowledged that pesticides had some benefits to humans but cautioned that they should be used in moderation. By this point there were numerous studies emerging that showed the negative effects of DDT and more people were speaking out for the protection of the environment. An especially disheartening discovery was that of DDT-resistant mosquitoes in Greece in 1949, three years after spraying had started there. In 1956 there were five species of mosquito around the world that were resistant to DDT and by 1960 that number had risen to 28 species.

In response to growing public concern, Congress started a plan to phase out the use of DDT in agriculture. The 4.9 million acres sprayed in 1957 became just under 100,000 acres in 1967 and zero acres in 1968. To continue this regulation of pesticides, Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA conducted thorough tests of common American pesticides and began their work of protecting the natural beauty and diversity of the country. As well as the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972, they launched an annual Earth Day, garnering the support of 20 million people in the first year alone. The creation and exportation of DDT was banned completely in the US in 1972 due to concern over its environmental impact, the existence of new, safer pesticides, and the increased resistance of insects to the toxins.

More controversy ensued following this ban as many people blamed Carson and Silent Spring for the deaths of millions of African children due to malaria. Without the American exports of DDT, there were increased outbreaks of insect-borne diseases, causing as many as 300 million illnesses and one million deaths each year. Counterarguments were formed citing evidence that pesticides themselves did as much damage, poisoning over a million people each year as well as millions of other species. New evidence supported these claims, showing a correlation between working with pesticides and the development of acute toxicity or other nervous system damage. It was also discovered that evidence of pesticides could even be found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, and environmentalists blamed DDT use for up to 15% of the infant mortality rate during the years it was in use. Along with the discovery of toxic dumps from chemical companies in 1980, the EPA and the country as a whole began to see pesticides in a new, negative light.

The Stockholm Convention treaty was signed by 151 countries – not including the United States – in an attempt to eliminate the creation and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), leaving the Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. of India as the sole producer of DDT in the world (MacGillivray 2011, 116). They produce approximately 10,000 tons per year for domestic use and exportation. While there may be efforts in place to limit pesticide use, there are still 17,000 legal pesticide products registered in the US and 834 billion pounds are released into the environment each year. Three fourths of American households still use some type of pesticide and the US spends $11 billion dollars each year on the manufacture and distribution of these products. After a 2003 study in the United Kingdom revealed that 99% of adults still contain traces of DDT or related chemicals in their bodies and that 192 different pesticides are used on 46 different types of fruit and vegetables, many consumers started searching for an alternative to pesticide use.

One popular option is organic farming – with product sales growing at a rate of 22% for ten years – but this method is not nearly as efficient as farming with chemicals. Crop losses due to pests and insects can be as high as 40% of the total production so it is not possible to sustain a country on the food produced organically. Another option comes in the form of recent scientific advances that have allowed for the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Scientists have the ability to change the DNA of organisms to promote pest resistance, but many people believe that this method is unethical. This current farming debate will continue as the US population grows and requires higher amounts of produce to sustain it.

From the moment of its release in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring caused an uproar in society as it shifted the world’s view of pesticides and caused major policy changes in America in response to the growing environmental movement. While Silent Spring may have initiated changes in the United States’ view of DDT, it did not halt the growth of the pesticide industry. The controversy surrounding pesticides continues to this day as new positive and negative impacts are explored.

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Carson, Rachel. Statement before Congress in 1973. June 4th, 1963. .

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. New York City: Houghton Mifflin Publishing, 1962. “DDT Regulatory History: A Brief Survey (to 1975).” EPA. September 14, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2017. https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/ddt-regulatory-history-brief-survey-1975.html.

Lee, John. ‘Silent Spring’ Is Now Noisy Summer. The New York Times, July 22nd, 1962, 1 and 11.

Secondary Sources:

MacGillivray, Alex. Words that Changed the World: Understanding Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. New York City: Rosen Publishing, 2011.

Landau, Jennifer. Incredibly Disgusting Environments: Pesticides and Your Body. New York City: Rosen Publishing, 2013.

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307

Researching Silent Spring: Context and Reception

July 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

During the 1920s in the United States, farmers were suffering a depression due to the debt caused by overproduction of many crops during World War I. This depression continued into the 1930s as the Great Depression destroyed America’s economy and was eventually halted by World War II when the agriculture industry was heavily relied on again to supply for the war. It is during this time – in 1939 – that Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT was found to be an effective pesticide in preventing insect borne diseases and crop damage. Its use spread rapidly for several decades until it was found to be detrimental to the environment. Most of this knowledge came to light thanks to Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, released in 1962. Now, 55 years later, many people wonder what direct effects Silent Spring had on the growth of the environmental movement in the United States. It is commonly thought that Silent Spring led to concerns about the America’s use of pesticides, especially DDT. It also helped to introduce the environmental movement to America by eliciting policy reform surrounding humans’ interactions with the natural world.

Farmers have used different forms of pesticides to boost plant growth for centuries and they fall into four main categories: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. With the discovery of DDT as an insecticide in 1939, the use of pesticides in the US grew exponentially. DDT was first synthesized in 1873 but didn’t have a use for almost 70 years until Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller realized that it could be an effective pesticide. For his accomplishments he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and DDT was available for sale in the United States starting in 1945.

By 1957, 4.9 million acres of land were being sprayed by DDT each year. It became integrated into the lives of Americans and no one suspected that any harm could come of it. Families would set off DDT bombs in their homes, children would run after machines spraying it in the streets and it was well loved for its effectiveness as well as its relatively low cost. Initially DDT was used to target gypsy moths but once its versatility was realized, it was commissioned for many other uses. It was especially popular during World War II to rid the Allies soldiers of lice. In its powder form, DDT is credited with saving millions of lives from typhus and other bacterial diseases. Its power was so widespread that it started becoming known as the “killer of all killers” and during its 30 years of production 1,350,000,000 pounds were used in America alone. The country also began exporting DDT across the world, especially to Africa to combat malaria. The Agency for International Development and the United Nations bought large quantities of DDT from the United States in an attempt to control insect-borne diseases. Exports of DDT rose from 12% in 1950 to 67% in 1969. Initially the benefits of pesticide use outweighed the problems but the opposite soon came to pass.

When Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was released in 1962, there was immediately an uproar about its implications. 500,000 people read the book and another 10-15 million watched a CBS broadcast of Carson explaining its meaning and connection to society as a whole. The first chapter, aptly named A Fable for Tomorrow, tells a tale of an American town that is like any other but pesticides have killed all of the people and animals living there. Carson admits that the effects of pesticides may not show up for several generations but emphasizes that the threat still exists. This silent town described is the namesake of the book and also serves as the ultimate pathos as it taps into the emotions of readers imagining themselves and their children growing up in that world. In Silent Spring Carson references pesticide spraying as a “chain of evil” and explains that when plants are sprayed, anything other organism that eats those plants or the infected insects will also become poisoned. She expressed the belief that man-made chemicals and radiation were tampering with the natural state of the earth and that this human activity could have deadly consequences. These beliefs were backed by evidence suggesting that few tests had been done to discover the true effects of DDT in the environment despite the claims from the Stauffer Chemical Company (the nation’s largest producer of DDT in 1962).

Despite strong support of Silent Spring from environmentalists, others worried about the toxicity of pesticides in the human body, the book received national criticism for being very one-sided. Critics argued that Carson was ignoring the benefits of DDT and pesticides in general. The Manufacturing Chemists’ Association called the entire thing a “disappointment” and argued that Carson was misrepresenting their industry.

In defense of her ideas and the environment, Carson testified before Congress in 1963 that pesticides affected the air, soil, water, and vegetation of Earth and that it was humans’ duty to protect it. She acknowledged that pesticides had some benefits to humans but cautioned that they should be used in moderation. By this point there were numerous studies emerging that showed the negative effects of DDT and more people were speaking out for the protection of the environment. An especially disheartening discovery was that of DDT-resistant mosquitoes in Greece in 1949, three years after spraying had started there. In 1956 there were five species of mosquito around the world that were resistant to DDT and by 1960 that number had risen to 28 species.

In response to growing public concern, Congress started a plan to phase out the use of DDT in agriculture. The 4.9 million acres sprayed in 1957 became just under 100,000 acres in 1967 and zero acres in 1968. To continue this regulation of pesticides, Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA conducted thorough tests of common American pesticides and began their work of protecting the natural beauty and diversity of the country. As well as the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972, they launched an annual Earth Day, garnering the support of 20 million people in the first year alone. The creation and exportation of DDT was banned completely in the US in 1972 due to concern over its environmental impact, the existence of new, safer pesticides, and the increased resistance of insects to the toxins.

More controversy ensued following this ban as many people blamed Carson and Silent Spring for the deaths of millions of African children due to malaria. Without the American exports of DDT, there were increased outbreaks of insect-borne diseases, causing as many as 300 million illnesses and one million deaths each year. Counterarguments were formed citing evidence that pesticides themselves did as much damage, poisoning over a million people each year as well as millions of other species. New evidence supported these claims, showing a correlation between working with pesticides and the development of acute toxicity or other nervous system damage. It was also discovered that evidence of pesticides could even be found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, and environmentalists blamed DDT use for up to 15% of the infant mortality rate during the years it was in use. Along with the discovery of toxic dumps from chemical companies in 1980, the EPA and the country as a whole began to see pesticides in a new, negative light.

The Stockholm Convention treaty was signed by 151 countries – not including the United States – in an attempt to eliminate the creation and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), leaving the Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. of India as the sole producer of DDT in the world (MacGillivray 2011, 116). They produce approximately 10,000 tons per year for domestic use and exportation. While there may be efforts in place to limit pesticide use, there are still 17,000 legal pesticide products registered in the US and 834 billion pounds are released into the environment each year. Three fourths of American households still use some type of pesticide and the US spends $11 billion dollars each year on the manufacture and distribution of these products. After a 2003 study in the United Kingdom revealed that 99% of adults still contain traces of DDT or related chemicals in their bodies and that 192 different pesticides are used on 46 different types of fruit and vegetables, many consumers started searching for an alternative to pesticide use.

One popular option is organic farming – with product sales growing at a rate of 22% for ten years – but this method is not nearly as efficient as farming with chemicals. Crop losses due to pests and insects can be as high as 40% of the total production so it is not possible to sustain a country on the food produced organically. Another option comes in the form of recent scientific advances that have allowed for the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Scientists have the ability to change the DNA of organisms to promote pest resistance, but many people believe that this method is unethical. This current farming debate will continue as the US population grows and requires higher amounts of produce to sustain it.

From the moment of its release in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring caused an uproar in society as it shifted the world’s view of pesticides and caused major policy changes in America in response to the growing environmental movement. While Silent Spring may have initiated changes in the United States’ view of DDT, it did not halt the growth of the pesticide industry. The controversy surrounding pesticides continues to this day as new positive and negative impacts are explored.

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Carson, Rachel. Statement before Congress in 1973. June 4th, 1963. .

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. New York City: Houghton Mifflin Publishing, 1962. “DDT Regulatory History: A Brief Survey (to 1975).” EPA. September 14, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2017. https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/ddt-regulatory-history-brief-survey-1975.html.

Lee, John. ‘Silent Spring’ Is Now Noisy Summer. The New York Times, July 22nd, 1962, 1 and 11.

Secondary Sources:

MacGillivray, Alex. Words that Changed the World: Understanding Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. New York City: Rosen Publishing, 2011.

Landau, Jennifer. Incredibly Disgusting Environments: Pesticides and Your Body. New York City: Rosen Publishing, 2013.

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Rhetorical Analysis of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”

February 22, 2019 by Essay Writer

In September of 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published directly to alarm the public of the harmfulness of chemical pesticides. Those pesticides include DDT, dieldrin, chlordane, and more that were being used by a way of aerial spraying in an attempt to control insect populations on a very large scale. She goes on to say that they should not be called ‘insecticides’, but ‘biocides’ because they kill many living things good and bad. Silent Spring is an exposé because it calls out companies and many more to bring a call to action. Carson was a marine biologist which back then the position held very low esteem in the nuclear age, she wasn’t living up to the regular woman image. Having no affiliation with big institutions meaning she didn’t have a very big voice to be heard. Silent Spring lead to a huge global environmental movement that still today is taking place, over 55 years ago think about that. Carson uses plenty of rhetorical strategies throughout Silent Spring such as audience, style, language, tone, message, and more. The following rhetorical analysis will investigate Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and its use of rhetorical strategies and conventions.

Rachel Carson’s audience in Silent Spring is the American people and not just the government and scientist. She needed to reach every person of America and inform them on the harmfulness effects that pesticides could deal out to the environment. She brings a very strong inquiry throughout the first half of the writing but isn’t afraid to get right into it with the question “What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America?”(Carson 3). Carson then uses examples for simple people unlike scientists to understand what these detrimental chemicals were doing to them and the environment they live in. She also lets the people know that what they’re being told isn’t always right, “We are told that the enormous and expanding use of pesticides is necessary to maintain farm production. Yet is our real problem not one of overproduction?”(Carson 9). She later says that “man” has risked it’s own future just to control some pests, “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 this is precisely what we have done.”(Carson 8). Carson isn’t afraid to go ahead and get straight to the hard hitting facts and questions.

Silent Spring’s style of writing is informative and demanding but one that is easy for the general reader of the public. It starts off as kind of a story with her zooming in on this town that does not actually exist. She leaves all of her citations for later in the book so therefore the reader won’t get distracted. During the time after the book she was really kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place because she got ridiculed for her work so imagine if she didn’t have any scientific facts and citations within Silent Spring. Her writing overall brought a lot of attention to the harmfulness effects of chemical pesticides and started a movement.

Conventions of Silent Spring meaning which the way its done, Carson states what’s happening and then backs it up with facts. And within those facts she includes real known happenings like how our lakes, soil, and more are being contaminated. She states that “Every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”(Carson 15). In less than 20 years pesticides have been scattered so much that they’re now throughout the whole world. “Residues of these chemicals linger in soil to which they may have been applied a dozen years before. They have entered and lodged in the bodies offish, birds, reptiles, and domestic and wild animals so universally that scientists carrying on animal experiments find it almost impossible to locate subjects free from such contamination. They have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in soil, in the eggs of bird and in man himself.”(Carson 16). Now if that doesn’t persuade you to believe that their are some harmful effects in pesticides then I don’t know what will. Carson really does a great job by making you feel emotions while reading Silent Spring.

The formation of Silent Spring is split into two different parts through chapters 1 through 9, Carson is informing you of what’s going on within the pesticide world and what it is doing to man and the environment around it. Chapter 10 through the ending, Carson argues that we should think of easier and healthier ways of insect control than just chemical pesticides like bringing in pests to get rid of other insects, crop rotation, and more. She’s states that aerial spraying of pesticides has become to common and nobody really knows what goes into it. She then goes onto to use Dr. Edward Knipling as an example and his techniques of biological solutions as a safer way of insect control. A technique of his was “insect sterilization” where “sterilized males compete with the normal wild males so successfully that, after repeated releases, only infertile eggs would be produced and the population would die out.”(Carson 279). Carson really wants you to bring all the information in as one and take a call to action.

Carson uses two different types of languages throughout Silent Spring one formal diction and the other being informal diction. Formal diction meaning she’s very educated on her research and it may need a little more explaining to the average reader. Informal diction means it’s very understandable to the average reader. Some examples of formal diction would be when Carson uses the hydrogen atoms and carbon atoms and uses visual images, that’s a very scientific diction that the average reader wouldn’t get.

Rachel Carson’s tones in Silent Spring are scientific and anger. Her scientific tone gave off a vibe where you can tell she did her research and she lets the information do the work. She keeps her anger under control throughout the writing but you can tell she is angry with the outcomes of the harmful pesticides on humans and the environment. For example, she used a whole chapter to talk about the different types of pesticides and effects of them. “In Florida, two children found an empty bag and used it to repair a swing. Shortly thereafter both of them died and three of their playmates became ill. The bag had once contained an insecticide called parathion, one of the organic phosphates; tests established death by parathion poisoning.”(Carson 28). Throughout she gave more examples of humans dying and how the most harmful things go unnoticed.

Silent Spring’s mission, purpose, and message is to show the many examples of when insecticides produced deadly effects and that nature isn’t for the convenience of man and that it cannot be controlled by him. Carson also wants us to know that we have the right to know what is what. She states “It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.”(Carson 12).

All in all, what I’ve analyzed is that Rachel Carson wanted to inform people of the serious danger of this chemical threat. Carson was really looking out for everyone else’s well being. She argues that humans should learn to coexist with the environment, and not always try to dominate it. Her overall use of language and tone took over the book and empowered the message. She used pathos to spill emotions and get the message across which really made it persuasive. Carson did a great job by not involving herself in her rhetorical writing by not including her having cancer as a motivation for the piece as a whole. Therefore, nothing falls short throughout Silent Spring because it hits all the points and in the end it started a huge environmental movement that still exists today.

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