Those of you who are above a certain age will certainly know what 'Silent Spring' means; for you, this post is more a refresher, but for the for the younger set it may be educational. Silent Spring should actually be written Silent Spring, because it is a book by author Rachel Carson. I am not old enough to remember the book, but I am old enough to benefit from the consequences of the book. Let me explain.
One of the classes I am taking this term is Pesticides. Pesticides, as defined by the New Illustrated Webster Dictionary*Thesaurus, J.G. Ferguson Publishing, 1992, are: "A chemical or other substance effective in the destruction of such plant and animal pests as fungi, bacteria, insects and the like." That is a very broad definition. I always thought pesticides were products used to kill insects. But pesticides cover: rodenticides, herbicides, fungicides, mitacides AND insecticides. Wow.
I had never heard of Silent Spring before taking this class. Jim, the instructor is very knowledgeable and enhances his student's learning with companion videos. Jim showed the class a video on Rachel Carson and her book. All through history, books have been instrumental in changing societal concerns and consciousness. Just think Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle (still on my read list but a difficult book to find), or Harriet Beecher Stowe's book Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Jungle served to change conditions in stockyards and Uncle Tom's Cabin helped to spur the north to change its attitude toward slavery. Silent Spring changed the country's opinion concerning the use of pesticides. The specific pesticide the book addresses is DDT.
Silent Spring was published in 1962. Jim says you can look at the history of pesticides in two periods, prior to Silent Spring, and after Silent Spring. Indiscriminate use of pesticides prior to 1962 caused major fatalities in the natural world of living things. Not only were insects killed, but the birds and fish which feed upon the insects were also killed. After 1962, the government got involved with regulating the chemical companies; which were making millions of dollars from selling pesticides, including DDT. Ultimately, Silent Spring led to the banning of DDT.
DDT was marketed to target certain insects considered pests. The problem with DDT was it didn't stop at only killing pests. It killed just about every living thing in its path, and had long range consequences by upsetting nature's perfect balance. You see, when you kill everything, both the bad and the good insects are killed. Good insects are the ones which prey on the bad insects. Nature has established a predator and prey system of pest control. The environmentally friendly way of controlling pests (prey) is to encourage the good insects (predator).
When insects were poisoned then eaten by birds and fish, the birds and fish then also became poisoned and perished. Can you imagine a silent spring? One devoid of the singing of the birds or the trilling of the frogs or the chirping of the insects? I can't, and thankfully I don't have to thanks in part to Rachel Carson's book. Her book led to stricter environmental laws regarding the use of pesticides in the environment.
Thanks in part to Rachel Carson's book our country established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is a governmental agency charged with enacting and enforcing environmental laws. Additionally, states have laws that govern the use of pesticides within their jurisdiction. Today the indiscriminate use of pesticides is highly regulated and controlled. No longer would we as a society or an individual tolerate mass spraying of our homes, parks, gardens, fields and cities with potent chemicals all in the name of killing a bug or a weed. Thank goodness. Countless generations have Rachel Carson, a very brave woman, and her book Silent Spring to thank for the regulation and concern for the natural order of our world.
Rachel Carson was a very courageous woman who was willing to take on the giant chemical companies for one sole purpose, to educate the public about the dangers of pesticides; all while battling breast cancer. Rachel Carson can truly be called a hero. Her life was short, just 56 years but she made a lasting impact on today's society with her book. For more information on Rachel Carson and her books visit http://www.rachelcarson.org/?v1=none.
The picture is of Ricinus communis, aka castor beans. I didn't realize how ideal this picture was when I added it to this entry, but the fact castor beans are poisonous ties in with this post. The nerve gas Ricin is derived from castor beans. These castor beans are growing in my very good friend Gerianne's garden. Be careful if you plant these and make sure no living thing (like pets or children) eats the beans or any part of the plant.
in the garden....not using pesticides.