Carson uses fierce language to convey her message on pesticides to her audience. For instance, in Chapter two, she writes an analogy regarding pesticides and radiation. She states that pesticides are like atomic radiation, invisible, with deadly effects that often manifest themselves only after a long delay. This quote appears a few times throughout the book. She does, however, give a good somewhat scientific account on the outcome or risks to wildlife and humans exposed to pesticides. She describes why pesticides are harmful. She writes that they have become more lethal than previous chemicals used due to their greater potency, slower decomposition and tendency to concentrate in fatty tissue. From a reader point of view, this could be extremely useful information, especially for the reader that is not familiar with pesticides effects; however, a scientist may feel different. Scientist look to read primary literature that has been researched and peer reviewed. Carson did not conduct research on pesticides and come to these conclusions in a research laboratory. She reviewed isolated events and described their outcomes. These events can not be scientifically justified. It did however, open doors for conversationalists and government awareness for future industrial chemical policies. In another example, Carson describes how a toxin is not acutely dangerous, but can accumulate in living organisms and develop a chronic disease. These types of notions possibly lead scientists to begin creating theories and theses to research the effects of pesticides on humans and wildlife. (Carson 2001)
Times have changed since the release of this book in regard to pesticides and the environment. There are currently government policies and standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Federal, state and privately owned companies must follow protocols for the amount of chemicals released into the environment. For instance, sanitation districts must monitor the wastewater discharge they release into the ocean. The wastewater is continuously monitored for different chemicals, including pesticides. The amount of pesticides must also fall within a specific value per the EPA. With that being said, there has been an improvement in regard to monitoring the environment; however, the release and use of pesticides is still allowed. There needs to be stronger actions and policies set forth to withdraw the synthesis of pesticides in the chemical industry, especially since there has been numerous studies on pesticides and their effects on living organisms.
Carson also discusses how pests have evolved resistance to various chemicals that are being released. In Chapter 15, Nature Fights Back, she states that nature is not so easily molded and that the insects are finding ways to circumvent our chemical attacks on them. She gives an example of this resistance using the blackflies in Ontario, Canada. Chemical spray was used to kill the flies; however, there was a tremendous outbreak after the spraying then before. She then describes alternatives to pesticides, such as letting nature take its course. Carson suggests that the population of insects of controlled by nature, not by man. The populations are kept in check by resistance of the environment. For instance, amount of food supply, physical conditions, such as weather and climate, and basically survival of the fittest. (Carson 2001)
Carson specifically talks about the alternatives to pesticides as being biological solutions. She feels that an understanding of the biology of each insect is needed in order to control it. One technique Carson writes about is male sterilization. She describes how sterilizing males and releasing them into the environment leads to competition with other fertile males, which also leads to infertile eggs, resulting in a lower population. In addition, Carson also emphasizes the use of viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, microscopic worms and other organisms to aid in the control of insects. Carson puts forth numerous alternatives to insect control instead of creating more chemicals that can harm not only the insect population, but all living organisms. (Carson 2001)
DDT is one of the chemicals used in pesticides and is currently researched for effects in both terrestrial and aquatic organisms. The video clip on people exposed to DDT was astonishing. The chronic effects of this chemical is profound. The fact that people were allowed to be exposed to this chemical is torture. In addition, the fact that the individuals allowed themselves to be exposed is a concern. Perhaps the individuals were unaware of the numerous deleterious effects that long term and even short term exposure of DDT can cause. In addition, perhaps the scientists administering the pesticides were unsure of the inhumane effects of this chemical at the time of the research. Currently research on DDT is used on animals, such as fish, in order to research the effects, as it is now known to be lethal to living organisms. I do not think that the government would allow humans to be tested on any sort of chemical. There is so much research on chemical effects, especially in regard to cancer causing agents. No human should be allowed to undergo such research, especially with today’s advancement in technology and research. In fact, if humans aren’t allowed to be tested with chemicals, that should be an eye opener to our government policies. We know that these chemicals are cancer causing agents, but we still discharge the chemicals into our environment and put other living creatures at risk.
Bedbug infestation is a good example of alternative methods with an increasing insect problem in the US, particularly in New York City. It is currently theorized that the bed bug problem is caused by the reduction in the use of pesticides in hotels and homes due to government policies. If the City was mandated to allow hotels to spray monthly for bedbugs, as well as in homes with bedbug problems, I would not be in favor of that. As an individual who is aware of the effects of chemicals on the human body, I would not want my home sprayed continuously nor would I want public hotels to be sprayed with these types of chemicals. As Carson wrote in her book, pesticides can accumulate in the body and cause chronic illnesses. (Carson 2001) In addition, it is widely known that pesticides are possibly causing reproductive problems as well. There has been recent research in the news on sex reversal in fish exposed to chemicals. These chemicals are mimicking sex hormones and changing the sex of fish. If these chemicals can cause such harmful problems in fish, what can they do to a human? I for sure do not want to expose myself or the future generation to chemicals of any sort.
Our government is responsible for protecting the people. Our government is also extremely aware of the pesticide problems. The government has its own divisions of laboratory research. In fact, they probably know more than us. Why then, are these chemicals continuously developed and released into our natural environment, especially when there are many alternatives to using pesticides in our society? I believe that it comes down to capital. Where is the capital in using nature to fight nature? There would be no need for industries to produce and manufacture these chemicals, which results in no money.
I think Carson’s line in Chapter 17 sums up the use of pesticides perfect. She states “that it is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth”. It is our responsibility to protect our environment and protect all living things on Earth. The science and research in today’s society is so advanced and can be used to promote alternatives to pesticide production. Rachel Carson’s book was the beginning of this promotion and has led to many advances in the prevention of pesticides; however, this book was published n 1962. That is 40 years ago. Not until recently has our government really put forth any type of policy. With that said, it is up to the people to continue to strive for environmental and human health justice.
Carson, R. 2002 Silent Spring. [1st. Pub. Houghton Mifflin, 1962]. Mariner Books.