Tuesday, January 1, 2013

#35 Silent Spring

Silent SpringSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well written and for the most part avoids sensationalizing and speculation (there is some speculation, but it is made clear when this is the case). Puts forth solid, convincing arguments against unthinking overuse of pesticides. The main argument is that undiscriminating, mass spraying of pesticides is ineffective, damaging to the ecology, and often counter productive. The biggest outstanding question that I have is: how much better are we doing today than we were in 1962 when this was published? I hope that the answer is "a lot better," but then I remember the following incident from several years ago. I was leaving my house one morning on my way to school. As I mounted my bike I noticed a small airplane buzzing our neighborhood. Back and forth the plane went. As it passed over me I felt something hit my skin. It felt like tiny pellets that stung as they struck me. Then my eyes and lungs started to burn. I never did find out what I had been bombarded with, but incidents like these make me worry. Certainly Silent Spring is still worth reading and its warnings worth heeding.

One anecdote from the book that really stuck with me was the story of a woman who complained that spraying the prairies with herbicides would destroy the beautiful wildflowers. She was laughed at, her concerns ignored. Monetary benefits were put above the intangible benefits of nature. This is the sort of thing that I stand firmly against: we cannot trade that which is beautiful and good for cash.

It should be noted that never in the book does Carson advocate for totally abandoning pesticide use. Rather, she advocates for thoughtful, judicial use of pesticides. Cheaper, safer, and more effective means of pest control are often available, but the pesticide manufacturers stand to gain from mass use of their products. These manufacturers have had a large hand in promoting the overuse of pesticides.

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