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Book Review: Silent Spring

December 7, 2013

This is a book everyone should read. The relevance is outstanding considering it was written in 1962. The dangers of pesticides and herbicides cannot be overlooked in our current Monsanto based food system. Rachel Carson outlines the dangers of chemical warfare on our planet and how so called “safe for human” poisons often end up hurting people, animals, and the very plants they claim to protect. A common result of herbicides and pesticides is sterility. It has been documented hundreds of times in bird species. It is also well documented that these poisons build up in the body of all animals.

In the natural food chain the big fish eats the smaller fish and, along with it consumes the poisons carried by the smaller fish. The process repeats itself until the poisons build up to a fatal amount. At the top of the food chain, we should be very worried about this fact. But far before the toxins reach a lethal dose the poisons start affecting biological systems. One of the first affected is the reproductive system. Massive populations of birds across the country have been wiped out because they can no longer reproduce. It may be just a matter of time before these effects reach humans. The movie Children of Men is about an infertile world. After reading this book, the movie doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

The book gives examples of government supported programs that were supposed to kill bugs endangering a crop. After one program failed Rachel had this to say:

“It is an outstanding example of an ill-conceived, badly executed, and thoroughly detrimental experiment in the mass control of insects, an experiment so expensive in dollars, in destruction of animal life, and in loss of public confidence in the Agricultural Department that it is incomprehensible that any funds should still be devoted to it.”

More and more I could say this about the FDA as well. These agencies are put in place to protect our food supply and ultimately us as consumers. It seems like these days they are in place to protect the profits of agri-business and corporate farming.

Rachel combats these pesticide programs with examples of species control using natures methods. For example, introducing a predator for an invasive, crop-killing species. These natural methods have proven far superior. She explains that nature has had millennia to perfect itself.

“The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment. Man, too, is part of this balance. Sometimes the balance is in his favor; sometimes–and all too often through his own activities–it is shifted to his disadvantage.”

This book focuses on the disadvantage of pesticides wiping out beneficial bugs along with the bad ones. But, unfortunately, this is a valid statement for environmental impacts as well. We are starting to see the balancing of nature almost daily as huge storms tear countries apart. Nature is adjusting to the pollution we are creating. The balance of added CO2 in the atmosphere is violent storms across the globe.

Both with pollution and chemical control, the effects are slow to materialize. By the time we know something is wrong, it may be too late.

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