Rachel Carson, the author of “Silent Spring”, had masters in zoology from John Hopkins University. After completion, she worked as an editor and writer for the “Fish and Wildlife service”. She also engaged in nature writing and published some writings on the subject. She later pursued research and writing, and she wrote several articles about pesticide use but got no attention. Despite the assurances from the chemical industry that pesticides were safe, Carson did her research and wrote the book Silent Spring demonstrating the harmful effects of pesticides.
The book describes how pesticides have killed so many organisms not only in the United States but also in other countries. Carson begins by explaining the different chemicals that have been used over time and their effects on specific life forms. The book explains the different methods used to apply the pesticide and how it ends up affecting other organisms. This book was authored at a time when the use and production of pesticides were growing at a high rate. Many people had forgotten the connection between humanity and nature. Fish and birds had been vulnerable to death due to the use of pesticides (Carson, 2002). However, man was not exempt from this menace. Carson was concerned with the long-term effects on the ecology and the humans caused by the continued use of pesticides. Body tissues in humans and other life forms have the capability to store the toxic substances and after accumulation can be lethal. In addition, such toxic substances can react with other substances to produce lethal chemicals.
The book describes the direct and indirect connection between pesticides and cancer. As described by Carson, carcinogens are capable of disturbing the cells respiratory system thus hindering the oxidation process. In ensuring the cells survive, the balance and cellular control get completely out of control. In such a case, other chemicals affect the normal liver functioning, which reduces the supply of B vitamins in the body (Carson, 2002). Lack of vitamin B escalates the body in the production of estrogens, which can cause cancer. Carson concentrated much on pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides as the most dangerous poisons. She portrayed the effects of relying on these chemicals or any other chemical substitutes. All over “Silent Spring”, she points to programs initiated and costs many millions yet failed. A good example is the gypsy-moth campaign, which killed fish, birds and crabs and the fire-ant program, which ended up killing cows and destroyed pheasants.
Carson cautions the humans concerning the chemicals that individuals have been applying in their farms. Such chemicals end up in water which human consume. Chemicals in farms and homes come back to haunt the human by causing problems. In fact, the book opens with a description of a place that was beautiful, but disease crept over the area and destroyed everything (Carson, 2002). This is what the chemicals are doing to nature and human lives. Later in the book, Carson explains how the chemicals are the major causes of the different environmental problems existing at the time. She poses strong accusations to the chemical industry and calls for an audit into how the use of these chemicals is causing irreversible damages to the environment.
Carson applied a critique nature in her book. She reviews the free market capitalism where chemical companies concentrate on their financial performance and persuade the big farmers and the government to spray the farms with persistent, costly, and highly toxic chemicals with barely visible risk warnings. Such companies could never fund research into the consequences of the chemicals since it would affect its’ sales and is of no benefit except to the consumer (Carson, 2002). The free market capitalism though meant to benefit the consumer, in this case, ends up being a tragedy.
The book is alarming, but it’s aim was not to cause shock rather remind the reader that humanity has won other battles such the 19th-century infectious diseases and can still win the war against chemicals. Carson never adopted a tone of defeat all through the book. She emphasizes the need for solutions not compatible with the ecological system are not viable solutions. The book is controlled, clear, and very authoritative. Carson writes about biology in a way that everybody can understand (Carson, 2002). She uses limited footnotes, the right voice, and very simple language creating a text that is understood by leaders with no knowledge of biology.
“Silent Spring” prose style is straightforward and rational. It has a deep emotional involvement, which permeates every chapter of the book with the scientific and factual facts in the text. Carson applies figurative comparisons occasionally to explore the emotional intensity in her writing. Her use of emotion and imagery is perfect, she never shows any anger, and she simply explains the tragedy awaiting humankind with the continued use of chemicals. She includes actual tragedies in her writing that require no comment; a good example is the tragedy of two children who repaid a swing using an empty bag, which had contained parathion (Carson, 2002). The two children later died, and three of their playmates got sick. Such a tragedy appeals to the emotions of the reader silently. Most of the time, Carson lets the information in her book do the work and includes poetic urges in headings.
Carson also employs the use of rhetorical questions in her quest to convince the reader that pesticides kill birds and other organisms and their use should be abolished. Her use of understatements and hyperboles makes the use of pesticides look useless in the mind of the reader. Her rhetorical questions point out how the pesticides affect not only the organisms and birds but also the human beings. Most of the rhetorical questions in the book are meant to appeal to the reader to stop using the chemicals (Carson, 2002). They bring into mind the different ways through which children and mature people can meet tragedy unknowingly. She also addresses the ethical question of the use of pesticides. As chemicals are causing animal genocides, the human beings are sitting aside watching and doing nothing. Carson appeals to the reader to embrace ethics and do something about the atrocity.
The significance of “Silent Spring” is evident today in the society. The use of chemicals in farms has been widely challenged by environmentalists all over the world. After the release of the book, the then President of the United States, President Kennedy asked the advisory committee on science to investigate Carson’s claims. The committee released a report in support of Carson’s claims. The environmentalist continued to pressure the government to regulate the manufacture and use of pesticides. In 1964, the federal law was amended to require manufacturers to prove that something was safe before selling it.
In 1972, due to increased public demand for clean air, water, and general environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created. Carson writing was very significant in shaping the way the environment is protected today. The book came at a time when manufacturers of these chemicals were expanding beyond borders, and Carson helped to tame the environmental effects that could have been caused by these chemicals. Today, the use of chemicals such as pesticides is under control of agencies, which tests and approves their use. Manufacturers do not just sell their products to the consumers without approval from relevant agencies.
“Silent Spring” was a revelation to the readers. Its’ simplicity allowed everybody to read and understand its contents. Its’ use of different literally features also appealed to the reader to understand the effects of the chemicals. Not only did it capture the attention of the President, but he also acted on the claims in the book. Had Carson not written the book, it is not known what would have happened to ecology and the environment? The harmful effects of the chemicals were evident from several programs as described by Carson. However, the government and the people were taking no interest in the issue until Carson pointed it out. Even after the chemical industry tried to assure the public that pesticides were safe, Carson went ahead, researched on them, and included her results in the book. Her efforts did not go unnoticed but shaped how chemicals are controlled and used to date.
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