Book Review: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is an expertly written environmental science book published in 1962. It focuses on the documentation of detrimental effects that the haphazard use of pesticides has on the environment. In the book, she is vocal about her criticism of chemical industry which she blames for the rampant disinformation that is aimed at ensuring that public official accepts their claims unquestioningly (Carson and Lear). Carson had earlier focused all her attention on conservation efforts and in particular in environmental problems caused pesticides.The result of her new found passion culminated in the writing of Silent Spring(1962) that brought out her environmental concerns with the aim of sharing them with the American public. The following is a review of the book and an analysis of its content.


            Content and themes

An overriding theme throughout the book is the negative effect that human beings bring to the natural world. Her main argument posits that the chemical pesticides used in farms have far-reaching effects on the environment. She describes them as “biocides” as their effects are not only limited to the specific pests that they aim to exterminate. A prime example Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane popularly known as DDT, notorious for bioaccumulation (Rios). A large chunk of the book is dedicated to pesticides and how they affect the natural ecosystem with the portion consisting of four chapters providing detailed cases of the manner in which pesticide poisoning in human beings causes cancer and illnesses that are linked to pesticides(Carson 12). She eloquently questions the faith of humanity in this destructive portion of technological progress while helping set a base for an environmental conservation movement.

The book is as a result of an in-depth research undertaking into the subject and even meticulously describes the process of DDT entering the food chain and then consequently accumulating in animals, especially in their fatty tissues ( a leading cause of cancer and damage to the genetic material).  She further writes that a single application of a pesticide on a crop continues to kill insects for months on end with most of those dying being the unintended target. Furthermore, the book is written in a manner that seems to suggest that it is a public awareness campaign with the intention of demonstrating to society how vulnerable nature is to human intervention (Lytle 45). Carson makes radical proposals, one of them being that it is the duty of the government to curtail progress in technology as there are times when it is essentially at odds with the natural process. Hers is a call to environmentalism calling for the need to regulate this industry for the sake of nature’s protection.

The book also seeks to ignite a form of social revolution amongst the citizens of the country to keep the government in check in terms its accountability. Carson urges the readers to ensure that they always seek questions from the government, especially in regards to what they have promised the citizenry in term of protection of the environment. In particular, she points to the government is at the forefront in battling this epidemic but she still notes that the federal government is also partly to blame for this turn of events. Controlling the advancement in science and technology is one of the suggestions she gives for dealing with this problem in future because these development are often on a collision course with the natural world. Hers was a prophetic call to action to protect the environment that we live in for the purpose of balancing the laws of survival in nature. Human beings are thus expected to be in harmony as equal players in nature, instead of enforcing their will and playing master over all.


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