Silent Spring was my Classic Club Spin #7 book.
I had high hopes for this non-fiction classic – the book that changed a generation’s thinking about the environment, chemicals & pesticides.
According to the Daily Telegraph “Carson’s books brought ecology into popular consciousness” and Linda Lear said, “Very few books change the course of history. Those that have include…Silent Spring.”
Silent Spring was first published in 1962.
Rachel Carson graduated with a biology degree from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in 1929. She also completed an MA in marine zoology from John Hopkins University. Carson worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service from 1937-1952, until she resigned to take up her writing full-time. She died of cancer in 1964 aged 56.
For the modern reader, there is nothing new or startling in Carson’s book.
We now know about the effects that indiscriminate spraying has had on crops, wildlife, the water table, our food supply as well as on us.
We know of the links to our health – how these poisons have built up in our system over time, the rise of certain cancers, the risk of developing resistance and the unknown, unpredictable effects of combinations of poisons.
Carson provided lots of examples, mostly from the US that showed the effects on worms, birds, bees, fish, rivers, roadsides & wildflowers.
The incredibly frustrating thing about reading this book – this 52 year old book – is that almost nothing has changed.
We’ve had 50 years to come to terms with this information and we still blithely ignore it.
We have the bad habit of “eradicating any creature that may annoy or inconvenience us.“
We continue to use pesticides, gardens sprays & weed killers without regard.
We continue to search for the ‘cure’ for cancer that will
“fail because it leaves untouched the great reservoirs of carcinogenic agents which would continue to claim new victims faster than the yet elusive ‘cure’could allay the disease.“
In her afterword, Lear says that Carson
“intended her message to protect and conserve the whole fabric of life, to convince humankind to act with humility rather than arrogance towards the rest of nature, and to see themselves as an integral part of it.“
Sadly, humility is lacking from almost every single decision we make about our environment. Interdependence, sharing and caring are merely words to be bandied about as we go about doing exactly what suits us best in ‘our’ environment.
This article about ‘The buzz on keeping bees safe‘ simply highlights the ongoing problems and shows that nothing has really changed in 50 years. Big business interests come before everything else.
The lessons from Silent Spring have not be learnt. Carson’s message still goes unheeded. So much about how we live our lives is underpinned by the alarming philosophy “that nature exists for the convenience of man.“