Skip

"The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth." ~ Rachel Carson
December 8, 2012 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring: "Widely considered the most important environmental book of the 20th century, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring has been reissued after 50 years. Margaret Atwood considers its impact and legacy."
posted by Fizz (19 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oryx and Crake is my favorite Dystopian society. There's no games, it's why there's no movie.
posted by Mblue at 6:05 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was wondering when SS's 50th anniversary was going to show up on the blue - almost did it myself! Thanks for posting.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:36 AM on December 8, 2012


I read Silent Spring in an Environmental Experimental Writing course during my Undergrad. We would read various environmental texts (fiction & non-) and then respond with our own weekly submissions. Silent Spring has stayed with me ever since. I tend not to read non-fiction and so I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully written and literary Silent Spring was. Entire paragraphs and passages that I would read out-loud to myself simply to hear the words flow into each other.
posted by Fizz at 6:56 AM on December 8, 2012


Rachel Carson and Silent Spring is still under attack today. The fact that it is possible to use DDT responsibly has been twisted into a horrible libel on Carson and her motives.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:47 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't it possible to use DDT responsibly? It would sure help eradicate malaria.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course many people think she's a saint anyway, but in this book it's official. The God's Gardeners – members of a fictional cult that reveres both nature and scripture – needed some saints. The Gardeners would choose them for their devotion to the divine natural world, and their saintly deeds could range from the writing of creature-friendly poetry – like that of Saint Robert Burns of Mice – to the saving of a species, like the efforts of Saint Diane Fosse of the mountain gorillas.

I have to admit that for various reasons related to being Canadian and Atwood being the grand dame of CanLit and treated like her every utterance is an enduring pronouncement on the nature of being and all that, I clicked on that link with a bit of apprehension. It was, alas, confirmed by riffs of precious self-indulgence like this one. And by the fact that she managed to spell Dian Fossey's first and last names wrong. And that she managed to write a big ole Guardian thinkpiece about Silent Spring at 50 on the weekend after the aimless Doha round of talks closed without once invoking the phrase "climate change."

I don't like to speculate on the activities of the long-deceased, but I'm willing to bet if Rachel Carson were alive today, she'd be involved pretty heavily in the climate change battle.
posted by gompa at 9:26 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]



Isn't it possible to use DDT responsibly?


It was. Agricultural spraying has engendered resistance to it.
posted by ocschwar at 9:28 AM on December 8, 2012


I grew up spending long hours playing in the rich woods of the St. Louis suburbs. I was ten when the book came out, and my neighbor had a new hardback copy. I remember sitting in their comfortable armchair in the slanting sunlight, mesmerized by what was a totally new paradigm to me at that young age. The Woods were my Eden. And now, this?

My life was changed that weekend, reading that book a few yards from bullfrogs and blackberries (now gone), and one mile from the world headquarters of Monsanto, Inc.
posted by kozad at 9:52 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


...and one mile from the world headquarters of Monsanto, Inc.

Did you get a cold chill typing that? I sure did reading it.
posted by J.W. at 11:14 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The good news story is that Carson's efforts did make a difference. There are significantly more eagles, hawks and owls where I live now than when I was a kid 30 years ago. Of course, from a global perspective things are going in the opposite direction....
posted by KokuRyu at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I just borrowed this from a friend. Aside from being important, I wondered whether it would be a good read. Thanks for those comments, Fizz!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:04 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "Rachel Carson killed more people than Hitler" nonsense is crankery of the highest order, and it's shameful to see it linked in this thread. It's carefully debunked here.
posted by mek at 5:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Of course, from a global perspective things are going in the opposite direction....

You mean the few hundred million additional malaria deaths the banning of DDT contributed to?
posted by ShutterBun at 5:24 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You mean the few hundred million additional malaria deaths the banning of DDT contributed to?

DDT has never been banned for the control of malaria.
posted by JackFlash at 7:23 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I recall Malcolm Gladwell writing about this:

"Silent Spring" was concerned principally with the indiscriminate use of DDT for agricultural purposes; in the nineteen-fifties, it was being sprayed like water in the Western countryside, in an attempt to control pests like the gypsy moth and the spruce budworm. Not all of Carson's concerns about the health effects of DDT have stood the test of time--it has yet to be conclusively linked to human illness--but her larger point was justified: DDT was being used without concern for its environmental consequences. It must have galled Soper, however, to see how Carson effectively lumped the malaria warriors with those who used DDT for economic gain. Nowhere in "Silent Spring" did Carson acknowledge that the chemical she was excoriating as a menace had, in the two previous decades, been used by malariologists to save somewhere in the vicinity of ten million lives. Nor did she make it clear how judiciously the public-health community was using the chemical. By the late fifties, health experts weren't drenching fields and streams and poisoning groundwater and killing fish. They were leaving a microscopic film on the inside walls of houses; spraying every house in a country the size of Guyana, for example, requires no more DDT in a year than a large cotton farm does.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:15 PM on December 8, 2012


You mean the few hundred million additional malaria deaths the banning of DDT contributed to?
Just so we're all clear, Rachel Carson supported the use of DDT to control malaria.
Rachel Carson never called for the banning of pesticides. She made this clear in every public pronouncement, repeated it in an hourlong television documentary about Silent Spring, and even testified to that effect before the U.S. Senate. Carson never denied that there were beneficial uses of pesticides, notably in combatting human diseases transmitted by insects, where she said they had not only been proven effective but were morally “necessary.”
So, now that you know, you can stop spreading heritage foundation propaganda if you want.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The excellent Tank Riot podcast on Rachel Carson:

We discuss the life and works of Rachel Carson, whose novel Silent Spring in 1962 brought the inappropriate use of DDT to the attention of the American public. We talk about her previous novels and works and the attacks against her for pointing out the truth. All this and discussions of Ponyo, Fast Freddy Markham, Rollerball, Brett Favre, Barney Frank, Obama, Jim Doyle, Ethanol and more.
posted by hannala at 2:40 AM on December 9, 2012


So, now that you know, you can stop spreading heritage foundation propaganda if you want.

Your drive by snark is a little too abstract this time. Couldn't you have used a more commonly-known object of derision, such as Rush Limbaugh or "Mon$anto" to shut down discussion?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:44 PM on December 9, 2012


One conclusion of the Gladwell piece you link to is that the DDT critics were right: that indiscriminate and repeated use of DDT to fight malaria was counterproductive, was mistakenly thought to replace the need for other anti-malaria practices, and rapidly engendered resistance.

Yes, global malaria eradication failed, and that's a shame. But it didn't fail because Rachel Carson nagged them out of using enough DDT to do the job. That criticism is not based in reality.
posted by mek at 3:57 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Farewell, Space Spider.   |   SPAUN of the living Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post