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Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618249060
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/22/2002
Edition description: 40th Anniversary Edition
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 14,686
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1340L (what's this?)

About the Author

RACHEL CARSON, 1907-1964, spent a good deal of her professional life as a marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her first three books -- Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea -- established her reputation as a first-rate writer on the natural world.

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Introduction by Linda Lear

Headlines in the New York Times in July 1962 captured the national sentiment: “Silent Spring is now noisy summer.” In the few months between the New Yorker’s serialization of Silent Spring in June and its publication in book form that September, Rachel Carson’s alarm touched off a national debate on the use of chemical pesticides, the responsibility of science, and the limits of technological progress. When Carson died barely eighteen months later in the spring of 1964, at the age of fifty-six, she had set in motion a course of events that would result in a ban on the domestic production of DDT and the creation of a grass-roots movement demanding protection of the environment through state and federal regulation. Carson’s writing initiated a transformation in the relationship between humans and the natural world and stirred an awakening of public environmental consciousness.
It is hard to remember the cultural climate that greeted Silent Spring and to understand the fury that was launched against its quietly determined author. Carson’s thesis that we were subjecting ourselves to slow poisoning by the misuse of chemical pesticides that polluted the environment may seem like common currency now, but in 1962 Silent Spring contained the kernel of social revolution. Carson wrote at a time of new affluence and intense social conformity. The cold war, with its climate of suspicion and intolerance, was at its zenith. The chemical industry, one of the chief beneficiaries of postwar technology, was also one of the chief authors of the nation’s prosperity. DDT enabled the conquest of insect pests in agriculture and of ancient insect-borne disease just as surely as the atomic bomb destroyed America’s military enemies and dramatically altered the balance of power between humans and nature. The public endowed chemists, at work in their starched white coats in remote laboratories, with almost divine wisdom. The results of their labors were gilded with the presumption of beneficence. In postwar America, science was god, and science was male.
Carson was an outsider who had never been part of the scientific establishment, first because she was a woman but also because her chosen field, biology, was held in low esteem in the nuclear age. Her career path was nontraditional; she had no academic affiliation, no institutional voice. She deliberately wrote for the public rather than for a narrow scientific audience. For anyone else, such independence would have been an enormous detriment. But by the time Silent Spring was published, Carson’s outsider status had become a distinct advantage. As the science establishment would discover, it was impossible to dismiss her.

Rachel Carson first discovered nature in the company of her mother, a devotee of the nature study movement. She wandered the banks of the Allegheny River in the pristine village of Springdale, Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, observing the wildlife and plants around her and particularly curious about the habits of birds.
Her childhood, though isolated by poverty and family turmoil, was not lonely. She loved to read and displayed an obvious talent for writing, publishing her first story in a children’s literary magazine at the age of ten. By the time she entered Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College), she had read widely in the English Romantic tradition and had articulated a personal sense of mission, her “vision splendid.” A dynamic female zoology professor expanded her intellectual horizons by urging her to take the daring step of majoring in biology rather than English. In doing so, Carson discovered that science not only engaged her mind but gave her “something to write about.” She decided to pursue a career in science, aware that in the 1930s there were few opportunities for women.
Scholarships allowed her to study at Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, where she fell in love with the sea, and at Johns Hopkins University, where she was isolated, one of a handful of women in marine biology. She had no mentors and no money to continue in graduate school after completing an M.A. in zoology in 1932. Along the way she worked as a laboratory assistant in the school of public health, where she was lucky enough to receive some training in experimental genetics. As employment opportunities in science dwindled, she began writing articles about the natural history of Chesapeake Bay for the Baltimore Sun. Although these were years of financial and emotional struggle, Carson realized that she did not have to choose between science and writing, that she had the talent to do both.
From childhood on, Carson was interested in the long history of the earthh, in its patterns and rhythms, its ancient seas, its evolving life forms. She was an ecologist—fascinated by intersections and connections buttttt always aware of the whole—before that perspective was accorded scholarly legitimacy. A fossil shell she found while digging in the hills above the Allegheny as a little girl prompted questions about the creatures of the oceans that had once covered the area. At Johns Hopkins, an experiment with changes in the salinity of water in an eel tank prompted her to study the life cycle of those ancient fish that migrate from continental rivers to the Sargasso Sea. The desire to understand the sea from a nonhuman perspective led to her first book, Under the Sea-Wind, which featured a common sea bird, the sanderling, whose life cycle, driven by ancestral instincts, the rhythms of the tides, and the search for food, involves an arduous journey from Patagonia to the Arctic Circle. From the outset Carson acknowledged her “kinship with other forms of life” and always wrote to impress that relationship on her readers.
Carson was confronted with the problem of environmental pollution at a formative period in her life. During her adolescence the second wave of the industrial revolution was turning the Pittsburgh area into the iron and steel capital of the Western world. The little town of Springdale, sandwiched between two huge electric plants, was transformed into a grimy wasteland, its air fouled by chemical emissions, its river polluted by industrial waste. Carson could not wait to escape. She observed that the captains of industry took no notice of the defilement of her hometown and no responsibility for it. The experience made her forever suspicious of promises of “better living through chemistry” and of claims that technology would create a progressively brighter future.
In 1936 Carson landed a job as a part-time writer of radio scripts on ocean life for the federal Bureau of Fisheries in Baltimore. By night she wrote freelance articles for the Sun describing the pollution of the oyster beds of the Chesapeake by industrial runoff; she urged changes in oyster seeding and dredging practices and political regulation of the effluents pouring into the bay. She signed her articles “R. L. Carson,” hoping that readers would assume that the writer was male and thus take her science seriously.
A year later Carson became a junior aquatic biologist for the Bureau of Fisheries, one of only two professional women there, and began a slow but steady advance through the ranks of the agency, which became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1939. Her literary talents were quickly recognized, and she was assigned to edit other scientists’ field reports, a task she turned into an opportunity to broaden her scientific knowledge, deepen her connection with nature, and observe the making of science policy. By 1949 Carson was editor in chief of all the agency’s publications, writing her own distinguished series on the new U.S wildlife refuge system and participating in interagency conferences on the latest developments in science and technology.
Her government responsibilities slowed the pace of her own writing. It took her ten years to synthesize the latest research on oceanography, but her perseverance paid off. She became an overnight literary celebrity when The Sea Around Us was first serialized in The New Yorker in 1951. The book won many awards, including the National Book Award for nonfiction, and Carson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was lauded not only for her scientific expertise and synthesis of wide-ranging material but also for her lyrical, poetic voice. The Sea Around Us and its best- selling successor, The Edge of the Sea, made Rachel Carson the foremost science writer in America. She understood that there was a deep need for writers who could report on and interpret the natural world. Readers around the world found comfort in her clear explanations of complex science, her description of the creation of the seas, and her obvious love of the wonders of nature. Hers was a trusted voice in a world riddled by uncertainty.
Whenever she spoke in public, however, she took notice of ominous new trends. “Intoxicated with a sense of his own power,” she wrote, “[mankind] seems to be going farther and farther into more experiments for the destruction of himself and his world.” Technology, she feared, was moving on a faster trajectory than mankind’s sense of moral responsibility. In 1945 she tried to interest Reader’s Digest in the alarming evidence of environmental damage from the widespread use of the new synthetic chemical DDT and other long-lasting agricultural pesticides. By 1957 Carson believed that these chemicals were potentially harmful to the long-term health of the whole biota. The pollution of the environment by the profligate use of toxic chemicals was the ultimate act of human hubris, a product of ignorance and greed that she felt compelled to bear witness against. She insisted that what science conceived and technology made possible must first be judged for its safety and benefit to the “whole stream of life.” “There would be no peace for me, she wrote to a friend, “if I kept silent.”

Silent Spring, the product of her unrest, deliberately challenged the wisdom of a government that allowed toxic chemicals to be put into the environment before knowing the long-term consequences of their use. Writing in language that everyone could understand and cleverly using the public’s knowledge of atomic fallout as a reference point, Carson described how chlorinated hydrocarbons and organic phosphorus insecticides altered the cellular processes of plants, animals, and, by implication, humans. Science and technology, she charged, had become the handmaidens of the chemical industry’s rush for profits and control of markets. Rather than protecting the public from potential harm, the government not only gave its approval to these new products but did so without establishing any mechanism of accountability. Carson questioned the moral right of government to leave its citizens unprotected from substances they could neither physically avoid nor publicly question. Such callous arrogance could end only in the destruction of the living world. “Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life?” she asked. “They should not be called ‘insecticides’ but ‘biocides.’” In Silent Spring, and later in testimony before a congressional committee, Carson asserted that one of the most basic human rights must surely be the “right of the citizen to be secure in his own home against the intrusion of poisons applied by other persons.” Through ignorance, greed, and negligence, government had allowed “poisonous and biologically potent chemicals” to fall “indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.” When the public protested, it was “fed little tranquillizing pills of half-truth” by a government that refused to take responsibility for or acknowledge evidence of damage. Carson challenged such moral vacuity. “The obligation to endure,” she wrote, “gives us the right to know.” In Carson’s view, the postwar culture of science that arrogantly claimed dominion over nature was the philosophic root of the problem. Human beings, she insisted, were not in control of nature but simply one of its parts: the survival of one part depended upon the health of all. She protested the “contamination of man’s total environment” with substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants, animals, and humans and have the potential to alter the genetic structure of organisms.
Carson argued that the human body was permeable and, as such, vulnerable to toxic substances in the environment. Levels of exposure could not be controlled, and scientists could not accurately predict the long-term effects of bioaccumulation in the cells or the impact of such a mixture of chemicals on human health. She categorically rejected the notion proposed by industry that there were human “thresholds” for such poisons, as well as its corollary, that the human body had “assimilative capacities” that rendered the poisons harmless. In one of the most controversial parts of her book, Carson presented evidence that some human cancers were linked to pesticide exposure. That evidence and its subsequent elaboration by many other researchers continue to fuel one of the most challenging and acrimonious debates within the scientific and environmental communities.
Carson’s concept of the ecology of the human body was a major departure in our thinking about the relationship between humans and the natural environment. It had enormous consequences for our understanding of human health as well as our attitudes toward environmental risk. Silent Spring proved that our bodies are not boundaries. Chemical corruption of the globe affects us from conception to death. Like the rest of nature, we are vulnerable to pesticides; we too are permeable. All forms of life are more alike than different.
Carson believed that human health would ultimately reflect the environment’s ills. Inevitably this idea has changed our response to nature, to science, and to the technologies that devise and deliver contamination. Although the scientific community has been slow to acknowledge this aspect of Carson’s work, her concept of the ecology of the human body may well prove to be one of her most lasting contributions.
In 1962, however, the multimillion-dollar industrial chemical industry was not about to allow a former government editor, a female scientist without a Ph.D. or an institutional affiliation, known only for her lyrical books on the sea, to undermine public confidence in its products or to question its integrity. It was clear to the industry that Rachel Carson was a hysterical woman whose alarming view of the future could be ignored or, if necessary, suppressed. She was a “bird and bunny lover,” a woman who kept cats and was therefore clearly suspect. She was a romantic “spinster” who was simply overwrought about genetics. In short, Carson was a woman out of control. She had overstepped the bounds of her gender and her science. But just in case her claims did gain an audience, the industry spent a quarter of a million dollars to discredit her research and malign her character. In the end, the worst they could say was that she had told only one side of the story and had based her argument on unverifiable case studies.
There is another, private side to the controversy over Silent Spring. Unbeknown to her detractors in government and industry, Carson was fighting a far more powerful enemy than corporate outrage: a rapidly metastasizing breast cancer. The miracle is that she lived to complete the book at all, enduring a “catalogue of illnesses,” as she called it. She was immune to the chemical industry’s efforts to malign her; rather, her energies were focused on the challenge of survival in order to bear witness to the truth as she saw it. She intended to disturb and disrupt, and she did so with dignity and deliberation.
After Silent Spring caught the attention of President John F. Kennedy, federal and state investigations were launched into the validity of Carson’s claims. Communities that had been subjected to aerial spraying of pesticides against their wishes began to organize on a grass-roots level against the continuation of toxic pollution. Legislation was readied at all governmental levels to defend against a new kind of invisible fallout. The scientists who had claimed a “holy grail” of knowledge were forced to admit a vast ignorance. While Carson knew that one book could not alter the dynamic of the capitalist system, an environmental movement grew from her challenge, led by a public that demanded that science and government be held accountable. Carson remains an example of what one committed individual can do to change the direction of society. She was a revolutionary spokesperson for the rights of all life. She dared to speak out and confront the issue of the destruction of nature and to frame it as a debate over the quality of all life.
Rachel Carson knew before she died that her work had made a difference. She was honored by medals and awards, and posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981. But she also knew that the issues she had raised would not be solved quickly or easily and that affluent societies are slow to sacrifice for the good of the whole. It was not until six years after Carson’s death that concerned Americans celebrated the first Earth Day and that Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act establishing the Environmental Protection Agency as a buffer against our own handiwork. The domestic production of DDT was banned, but not its export, ensuring that the pollution of the earth’s atmosphere, oceans, streams, and wildlife would continue unabated. DDT is found in the livers of birds and fish on every oceanic island on the planet and in the breast milk of every mother. In spite of decades of environmental protest and awareness, and in spite of Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic call alerting Americans to the problem of toxic chemicals, reduction of the use of pesticides has been one of the major policy failures of the environmental era. Global contamination is a fact of modern life.
Silent Spring compels each generation to reevaluate its relationship to the natural world. We are a nation still debating the questions it raised, still unresolved as to how to act for the common good, how to achieve environmental justice. In arguing that public health and the environment, human and natural, are inseparable, Rachel Carson insisted that the role of the expert had to be limited by democratic access and must include public debate about the risks of hazardous technologies. She knew then, as we have learned since, that scientific evidence by its very nature is incomplete and scientists will inevitably disagree on what constitutes certain proof of harm. It is difficult to make public policy in such cases when government’s obligation to protect is mitigated by the nature of science itself.
Rachel Carson left us a legacy that not only embraces the future of life, in which she believed so fervently, but sustains the human spirit. She confronted us with the chemical corruption of the globe and called on us to regulate our appetites—a truly revolutionary stance—for our self- preservation. “It seems reasonable to believe,” she wrote, “that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.” Wonder and humility are just some of the gifts of Silent Spring. They remind us that we, like all other living creatures, are part of the vast ecosystems of the earth, part of the whole stream of life. This is a book to relish: not for the dark side of human nature, but for the promise of life’s possibility.

Copyright © 1962 by Rachel L. Carson Copyright © renewed 1990 by Roger Christie Introduction copyright © 2002 by Linda Lear Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Table of Contents

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Introduction by Linda Lear x
  • 1 A Fable For Tomorrow 1
  • 2 The Obligation To Endure 5
  • 3 Elixirs of Death 15
  • 4 Surface Waters and Underground Seas 39
  • 5 Realms of the Soil 53
  • 6 Earth’s Green Mantle 63
  • 7 Needless Havoc 85
  • 8 And No Birds Sing 103
  • 9 Rivers of Death 129
  • 10 Indiscriminately from the Skies 154
  • 11 Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias 173
  • 12 The Human Price 187
  • 13 Through a Narrow Window 199
  • 14 One in Every Four 219
  • 15 Nature Fights Back 245
  • 16 The Rumblings of an Avalanche 262
  • 17 The Other Road 277
  • List of Principal Sources 301
  • Afterword by Edward O. Wilson 357
  • Index 365

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Silent Spring 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To those who have not yet read this book, do not be fooled by the baseless criticism posted in negative reviews here. These negative notices are themselves ignorant of Carson's work and lack sound ecological understanding. 'Silent Spring' was published as a longer work, and not in a peer review journal, because of Carson's intended audience DDT was affecting the environment in immediate and horribly detrimental ways, even though scienctific studies had previously shown the destruction it wrecked. Carson wrote in a format which had the greatest ability to disseminate her work among the general public and thus have a greater effect of public policy, as was vitally needed. It was not necessary to publish in a peer journal, additionally, because the information which supported her claims already existed in the scientific world. She drew only on independent studies, which elimated common bias in studies conducted by special interest groups. The criticism which 'Silent Spring' evoked did not come from the greater scientific community, but instead from industry which relied on DDT for profit, as well as those seeking to discredit a women speaking in a field and in a role traditionally dominated by men. After the work's publication in 1961, JFK ordered an invesigation into the legitimacy of Carson's assertions this invesitgation confirmed Carson's work, and initated a decade's long environmental reform in the government. Furthermore, the environmental degradation done by DDT cannot be measured in dubious assertions of malaria deaths. Beside the baseless nature of such assertions, which fails in scientific proof, such attacks attempt to discredit an environmentalism out of ignorance in an area in which that environmentalism is strongly anchored: it seeks to protect the world as a whole, humans and nature included. If there is no world for us to live, no air to breath or water to drink, then there is no point, no effect, no good that can come out of any technoligical innovation. Essentially, do not be disuaded from reading this book by reviews here if you do not believe my argument, for whatever reason, read the book yourself, look up the facts for yourself. The facts don't lie the comments here have. For further information on what I have written here, see the work of Douglas Allchin, Professor at the University of Texas, an essay entitled 'Rachel Carson & Silent Spring'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Regardless of how you feel about the environmental movement, Carson's Silent Spring is well worth a read. Whether you agree or disagree with her stance on DDT and other synthetic insecticide use, Carson illustrates well how fragile natural ecosystems can be. No matter what we choose for an occupation, one day we'll end up influencing the world around us. It's probably best to know how to decrease the negative effect we'll have on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eventhough "Silent Spring" was written in the early 1960s, it is so well written and the author so brilliant that it reads as though it were written yesterday. Utilizing published research data by the medical community, agricultural experts and similar, Carson writes about bioaccumulation of toxic synthetic chemicals in the environment and how they negatively impact wildlife, agriculture, and humans--as well as the toxins getting into the ground water and food chain--worldwide! Carson also writes about the resistance that "pests" develop within 6 months-6 years to horrific pesticides such as DDT, Lindane, Chlordane, BHC (Benzene Hexachloride) and similar including that the toxins kill the natural predators of the pests leaving superpests. This is the main area of toxicology discussed in her book, but she also mentions other areas too. Carson was supposedly one of the few women with an advanced biology degree during the time of when she wrote "Silent Spring," and she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. My only criticiem of this book is that as horrible the facts she states, she underestimates them as I suspect to keep her "job." I notice that today some USA government reports written by scientists underestimate, downplay problems (whether it is power lines or nuclear power). In "Silent Spring," Rachel Carson gives a history of pesticides such as in the years the 1800s, and mentions arsenic as one of the main ingredients though another major ingredient back then--lead--lead mixed with arsenic is not mentioned. That is, unless I missed it in my reading of her book. When lead was used then, it was also known that it was a toxin, so for it to be used then could be construed as deliberate pollution intention? Or, did she fear they would label it as a non-major ingredient and not list it? Whatever the case, at least Carson wrote about "arsenate of lead" used. From there, it gets much worse in the 21st Century, and the horrors she writes, she even mentions tank mixing of chemicals--though, you wonder if she also lacked some clarity to keep her "job"...Other than this, her writing style is beautiful as she contrasts the nice nature scenes with the human step backwards in science to create the unseen environmental disasters in a journey-type way. I read it many years ago, and it is current as new sunthetic toxins are created daily and mixed in many areas of the world. Carson was before my time, but her writtings are still about this era of history. Carson tries to get the scientific community into developing environmentally-friendly products, and to make everyone aware of the fragility of the environment. One often hears of the indigenous handlng "pests" by being better stewards of the environment so that there is not an imbalance or infestation--using birds and bats to help combat some insects, that are pests and utilizing medicinal plants as cures. Carson writes of some other "environmentally-friendly" developments, though some of those would be criticized also. This was also a testimony to her brilliance--to also show other developments.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nature, a web of energy transfers and the movement of ambitious life, broken down yields unique fibers each their own form and style; an endless matt of differentiation. Fibers defined by an independent characteristic which life and nature depend on. Rachel Carson¿s, Silent Spring, certainly changed the perceptions of all who have read it. Carson carefully wrote Silent Spring in her own soft style which incorporates scientific evidence, theory and reasoning along with the naturalistic biological observations Carson noted herself. Although, blatant evidence shows that chemicals like the: chlorinated hydrocarbons, phosphates and organophosphates mutate genes as radiation does, inhibit functions of the body, promote cancer in all cells, halt the division of cells and pass mutated DNA on to progeny. World wide these chemicals are sprayed at rates which any form of life, including humans, in any part of the world would undoubtedly absorb enough chemical residue whether directly or indirectly for the aforementioned unnatural catastrophes to take place. Carson made it clear that these chemicals have no counterparts in nature, which means nothing exists in the realm of the Earth that could break them down. They are sturdy and last the test of time, some thousands if not millions of years. Because of this, residues enter a food web in many ways. If water is contaminated in one place, water is contaminated everywhere; therefore all living beings have residues in their system and have passed them down the line. Animals not directly hit by the poisons may feed on others that have, or feed on an animal who encountered contaminated food many years ago. The poisons build up in fatty tissues where they become concentrated and sometimes multiplied. Mothers nursing newborn infants and feeding them baby foods which contain insecticidal residues never knew it, still even today. Carson has explained that insecticides, herbicides and pesticides all deserve the classification ¿biocide.¿ She describes them as biocides because these chemicals kill not only what their prefix implies but all life. One could determine this from the mere fact that all these chemicals stemmed from the poisonous gases by the U.S. in World War II. Now that industries have control over their own regulations, life as nature intended will become extinct if not all together. Rachel Carson wrote this book almost forty years ago and realistically, nothing has changed in chemical production, or the ignorant practices of agriculture. Some chemicals have been banned, although some countries still use them and residues travel across the world back and forth. Everyday, chemicals belonging to the three aforementioned groups are newly synthesized and marketed differently. Basically the same chemicals are just physically rearranged on the molecular level. Until people consider other forms of life then their own, as well as read Silent Spring, the world is headed for disaster.
LIZUNDERWOOD More than 1 year ago
Each chapter in the book offers a different environmental concern. A main theme in the book suggests that deadly chemicals are being infiltrated into the atmosphere without consideration or thought of what or who may be effected by them which would be the atmosphere, bodies of water, air, soil, animals, humans, etc.  An important point that Carson is trying to get across to the reader is that humans have a moral and ethical dedication to the environment and animals. She is causing the reader to think more deeply of their actions and whether or not it is right to over-consume and use products, which could be deadly to the atmosphere. 
Amer_Alsoudi More than 1 year ago
Silent Spring is a well, detailed analysis and explanation about the effects of many pesticides and chemicals so widely used in the modern wold. This theme was clearly portrayed in the novel, as Carson vividly illustrates a world effected by the dangerous chemicals used today such as DDT. With an immense amount of information to be learned, Carson puts together a environmental masterpiece with the Silent Spring. As a reader I learned the many things effected by these chemicals such as plants, environment, people, and overall our dear Earth. This book is extremely recommended, as it brings forth a whole new side of danger to this environment we,as people, never knew about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rachel Carson's silent spring surprised me when I found that although it constantly discusses DDT it mostly focuses on daughter versions of the poison that are said to be many times more poisonous than DDT. The book constantly points out that DDT is in fact a poison that does its job well which was simply put to kill things (originally focusing on malaria carrying mosquitoes). The major point of the book is that after it killed the insects a few years later the insects would repopulate and another spraying would be necessary to kill them again and then this pattern would continue again, but what was found was that the poison built up as more was continuously added reaching lethal levels that would kill animals that had stored enough of the poison in their bodies from consuming toxic insects. The book's theme is that its beneficial to a certain extent then it becomes unacceptable. What I liked so much about this book was the fact that Rachel didn't so much attack the poison itself but the way in which the poison was used such as massive air drops of the poison and so on. She explained the idea of selective spraying that attacked key areas instead of subjecting all of the wild life to the poison. She also mentioned other methods of accomplishing the task that were given as much thought and detail as her attacks on the use of insecticide including economic benefits and other benefits giving a positive light on the situation rather than constantly droning on about why we shouldn't use the poisons. The book however does tend to lead to assumptions that weren't exactly proven with scientific evidence but more theorized by Rachel such as the dwindling numbers of a certain species of animal in or near a sprayed location. These assumptions only occur a few times in the book but other than that most of the events she mentions are very hard to falsify just by her use of common since and logical thinking. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested on this topic but I would also caution you to keep a very open mind when reading this book as it is very bias against the use of chemicals at all. If you do read the book constantly question which is the better: preserving animal life or delaying the spread of disease. Both have serious consequences but I would like to add a fact from the book which mentions the scientific study that some of these insects do in fact adapt to the chemical bombardments and then require larger dosages of poison in order to kill them off again. Overall it was a very enlightening book for me and I would without a doubt recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. CDotts
shankster More than 1 year ago
This was a nostalgic journey through a world facing nuclear and chemical solutions to its problems more for convenience than real productivity. Without her, we'd all be living next door to a nuclear reactor.
HaroldHunterOakes More than 1 year ago
This book is well written and if you have a little background in chemistry and biology you will understand the dangers past, present and future of what we are doing to our planet and ourselves. Having grown up in a heavily industrialized town during the 50s and 60s my brother and I morbidly joke, wondering what kind of cancer we are going to die from. Like my brother and I, my wife also grew up downwind of these same plants that burned the cheapest high sulfur coal possible. They belched out all kinds of dangerous things into the air and buried things that are deadly and still there just waiting to leach out into neighboring water tables. My wife is now fighting for her life with stage IV lung cancer. She smoked for 25 yrs., but stopped 9 yrs. ago. Did the air pollution contribute to or trigger the cancer? We will never know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Changed the way I think about our pesticide/herbicide use & our industrial food industry. An excellent & informative read.
jharlam More than 1 year ago
If you are taking any kind of Biology Class that deals with the environment; this is a most read book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely something to think about. Rachel Carson had a good idea of what environmentalists want to get across to the public through a book. There was a very big environmental movement because of certain farming practices with using pesticides. Carson had had a big history with Marine Biology and the U.S Fish and Wildlife service. The author was mainly concerned about the pesticides in the environment because of the fruits and vegetables that people ate with a pesticide coating. She also really emphasized how DDT can affect the fat in humans and animals. The data she described in the novel was proof of a large rise in cancer rates which is important in the book because of live accounts. The main idea is that pesticides affect the environment in a major way and for human health. I really liked the idea that she was worried about the rise in cancer rates and how she would want to prevent deaths because of that. Very similar to Erin Brockovich's story in that sense. I disliked the amount of times she described the amount of time in the book it described to the scientific process of the pesticides to an extent that made it get boring. I really DO think that one should read this text because it is important for society because they should understand how the environmentalists might have a connection of what's happening now to 1962, and people should definitely be aware of the cancer rates. The author has a very similar personality as to Erin Brockovich because of the empowering story. Though Erin has a para legal case and sued the company Pacific, Gas, and Electric (Hinkley, CA) for 133.6 million dollars, she was an environmental activist who got the water records and found that hexavalent chromium was distributed to that city. People were getting cancer, tumours, and sicknesses and PG&E didn't support the money for that. Carson had the same idea of what she wanted for people due to this problem. Because of what all fell in place and the major connection to the environmental activist Erin Brockovich I would give this piece 4 stars.
ngreen2 More than 1 year ago
Every blue moon, one is bound to find something that randomly catches an emotional response, one such response that is quite surprising. Rachel Carson seemed intent on doing this with many people when she wrote Silent Spring. Having never considered myself a researcher (purely for my lack of interest in researching number-type data of my own motivation), I was quite surprised to find that Carson was able to capture my attention and present me with facts, and I never wanted to put the book down until it was finished. Carson's way of beginning with a story was the first thing to draw me in; I love stories. But the story was different than what one usually expects from something beginning with the line, "There once was a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings." She then goes on to describe multiple facets of insecticides and human life, including listing and explaining different types of chemicals used, how they affect different areas of life (like the creatures of the water, creatures of the land, creatures of the sky, and humans in a separate chapter), and even showing how nature attempts to fight back/fend for herself. Carson also predicts outcomes of the road we are headed on (at the time of the book writing) and some ways to prevent it; aka, head down the road less traveled by, to see what it ends in. In the end, the choice, as Carson says, is ours to make. Cliffhangerrrr.....
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As important and relevant now as it was when it was written 50 years ago. Being a composting, recycling, organic gardener who has volunteered with wildlife organizations for years, I thought I was reasonably environmentally savvy, but Carson's work still managed to educate and dismay me. Both eloquent and remarkably succinct given the complicated chemical nature of the subject. It is amazing how much of her hotly contested "theories" have proven correct over the past five years. My walks through the local home and garden aisles are forever changed. A highly recommended book for all--it should be mandatory reading at high school level.
lozzer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Picked up this book having heard it was a landmark piece of literature in the ecological movement. Worth a read, but it's a sad book and in some chapters the author does labour the point a bit. In context of time written, a well-researched and quite frankly bold piece of work! Fact that it is still referred to 40 years on proves its significance.
jimmaclachlan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've re-read this after maybe 30 years & it is still scary. It is a classic environmental book, detailing how we're changing our ecology & poisoning it. How long the effects linger is just scary & the links to cancer is horrifying. She occasionally goes over the top, but most often makes good points on how our current practices of bludgeoning nature into our ideal form - which is often mistaken - is not working well & will eventually spell our doom. It was written over 45 years ago &, while a little dated, is still one of the best books I've read on the subject. It's amazing that we are still using some of the chemicals she shows so much evidence against using. Her well documented atrocities that our government has perpetrated against us are chilling. I never trusted the government all that much but trust them even less now.
Ms.Zaremba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written from a scientists perspective with ample support for its claims.Provides:-Connections to human health-Timeline for pesticide use and development-Effects of pesticides on water, soil, plant and animal life
carmelitasita29 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was such an interesting book - mankind tends to go all gung-ho into the latest thing (in this book, insecticides and herbicides) without fully understanding the implications or consequences of such actions. Not only does the thesis still resonate today, it teaches us a lot about the human psyche and how we refuse to see the havoc we wreak on our environment.
liberality on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published in 1962. Rachel Carson was already a well known author of nature books and her book The Sea around Us, which came out in 1951, had spent 86 weeks on best seller¿s lists. She won numerous awards for The Sea around Us including the National Book Award for nonfiction. Ms. Carson worked for many years as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in addition to embarking upon a very successful literary career in the natural sciences. Her work in the field and her easy reading style made her a trusted source for information about our natural world so it was a bombshell for many when her book Silent Spring came out.In Silent Spring Rachel Carson imagines a world in which spring is unnaturally silent because of the pesticides and herbicides then in use killing off the wild life, including birds with their beautiful songs, hence the silence of spring. She informs the reader that such a scenario is not so far off and begins to document incident after incident where the use of dangerous chemicals has harmed the wildlife in our environment. The meticulous research involved in documenting the harm done by pesticides and other dangerous chemicals, especially DDT, is overwhelming and one can appreciate why the chemical industry tried to go after and discredit Rachel Carson. Moreover, she then documents that if these killing chemicals are harming the wildlife then they are certainly harming us as well. She documents the increase in cancer and traces it back to the overuse of pesticides, herbicides and other dangerous chemicals. Any pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide is a biocide she argues, if it kills life than it is killing us slowly but surely. At that time she states that cancer will become an epidemic and strike one out of every four people living if the wholesale use of pesticides and herbicides are not used more wisely if not banned outright. She documents how cancer can take decades to develop and that repeated small exposures to these dangerous chemicals disrupts cellular processes. Appreciatively, she writes in such a way that the layman can understand these complex biological functions. Ms. Carson argues forcefully that we ought to be working to prevent cancer from occurring as well as fighting for a cure. Instead, she points out, the medical establishment works upon fighting cancer once it has appeared rather than prevention. Unfortunately, not much has changed concerning cancer prevention verses cancer treatment. She herself died of breast cancer two years later after Silent Spring was released. For now it is a sad fact that one out of two men will have cancer in his lifetime and one out of every three women will so it is much worse than she predicted back in 1962. One of the original reviews by The New York Times gave it a glowing recommendation but the reviews by the chemical industry were not so favorable which is not surprising given that her book strikes at the hand that feeds them. Many of the reviews by the chemical industry were sexist and patronizing in the extreme. However, the public overwhelmingly endorsed Ms. Carson¿s recommendations. Silent Spring has been credited with beginning the environmental movement in the United States. So powerfully did the book argue against the use of chemicals to control the natural world that DDT was eventually banned for use in the United States. Although there are portions of the book where the science is outdated, because of the impact this book has had upon our nation¿s use of pesticides such as DDT and because it was an impetus for the environmental movement in this country, the title deserves to remain upon the shelf at public libraries.
jscape2000 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The original environmental classic, Silent Spring is meticulously researched and written in plain language. It is a little dry and a little uninteresting if you know the ending (no spoilers here, but it's been old news for a few decades now). In fact, Silent Spring's template has been so often copied that its formula will be painfully familiar to modern readers.
sharonandjohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had been meaning to read Silent Spring for years, but I never got around to it. I really don¿t know why. When I saw it on the shelf in a closing Border¿s store, I grabbed it. Rachel Carson wrote this book back in 1962, but her message is sadly still relevant and important today. I knew that pesticides and herbicides were bad. I am a novice gardener who does her best to avoid the stuff. I guess it never really struck home to me as to HOW bad they really were and still are. The overuse and abuse of pesticides and herbicides did not stop with the publication of this book, but it allowed people to become more aware of what was happening. The sad thing is that many people of my generation and even my parent¿s don¿t really understand the disastrous affects of these chemicals and still use them in their gardens. Gardens in which they grow food that they feed their children.If you haven¿t read this book yet and you are concerned about the environment and the food that you eat, please read this book. It will be an eye opening experience. It will probably make you very uncomfortable. It will probably make you think twice before you eat things like potatoes and apples. It will probably make you think twice before you apply chemicals to your gardens or your lawn especially if you have children or pets.
Devil_llama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best known environmental classics, a work that eventually led to the banning of DDT in the United States. Ms. Carson painstakingly details all of the evidence of the dangers of DDT, which had until that time been trumpeted as totally safe to humans. Written in easy prose, the book shouldn't be too technical for the lay reader.
seavac on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paperback edition with an introduction by former Vice President Al Gore. An incredibly powerful, landmark book..
jayde1599 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has taken me some time to read, but I am glad that I finished it. Carson made some exceptional and valid points regarding the chemicals that were being sprayed across the US, especially for the time period that she published this book. Because of her the use of DDT was scrutinized and banned - at least in most countries. I think we still have work to do on the amount of pollutants that we put into the environment, but with people like Rachel Carson and others exposing the harmful effects, hopefully things will improve even more.
rw_flyer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having grown up in the 80s I think it is very hard to understand this book. By then the environment movement had become accepted to the point of being assumed. It is eye-opening to try to understand the context of this book and the casual disregard for what today seems like obvious protections and cautions.Although the information in the book is dated, it is well worth the read to understand the history of the environmental movement, and what could be if environmentalism is minimized or ignored.