Why are we Obliged to Endure?

Carson is part of a community of writers in the 20th century who attempt to address the environmental problems affecting humanity, wildlife and vegetation on a global scale and is considered as the initiator of the environmental movement in America. Some of her earlier works include; Under the sea wind (1941), The sea around us” (1951), The Edge of the Sea (1955), and Silent spring (1962) from which our excerpt; The obligation to endure has been taken. This excerpt is based on the fact deadly pesticides are being developed much faster than the natural process of adaption has the capacity to endure. In my discussion, I will attempt to highlight the reasons I believe Carson would be of this opinion and it is from these reasons that I am prompted to support her argument in the excerpt. To arrive at these suppositions, the questions; “Why are we obliged to endure?”, “What does it mean to endure?”, “What is our obligation to the environment?” must first be answered.

          According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an obligation is defined as something that directs an individual in a particular cause of action and to endure is to continue tolerating a situation, idea or person despite the negative implications of doing so. Carson, in the context of the excerpt, is attempting to draw insight into the worrying state of the environment and our obligation to do something in order to protect the welfare of future generations. She describes the present state of contamination in air, rivers and oceans as worrying to an alarming degree and that the presence of these contaminants is directly correlated with human activity with his pursuit of wealth through agriculture being the direct cause of deforestation and ultimately global warming and his desire to maximize production leading to the lethal doses of chemicals present in our water bodies. These chemicals have contributed to the decline in marine life and the extinction of some of the world’s most exotic sea creatures. Carson’s demonstration of the assaults of men upon the environment may be understood as an effort to bring us from a state of endurance to that of obligation, an obligation to change societal norms that foster this kind of behaviour.   

As men continue with their assaults upon the planet, its inhabitants that lack the capacity to reason gifted upon man, continue to suffer. Carson posits in this excerpt, that there is a possibility of extinction of some species of plants and animals as potentially harmful substance enter their tissues, penetrate into their germ cells which are the precursors of life. These substances may lead the alteration of the genetic material that will be expressed by these germ cells leading to defective offspring that may not survive to maturity or not have the capacity to reproduce further (Carson, 1962).

Man is depicted as the sole destructive agent of his environment and his destructive capability does not end at environmental exploits, he destroys his fellow man as Jared Diamond points out in this excerpt. It is surprising to note, from this excerpt, that the highest levels of toxic industrial chemicals recorded are from Siberia’s Inuit people (Eskimos) who live in the most remote areas of the world and are expected to be free from the effects of industrial contaminants.  Their blood mercury levels are consistent with findings in acute mercury poisoning and the typical Inuit mother’s breast milk has toxins in her breast milk enough to classify her milk as hazardous waste with significant implications on the physical and mental development of the children that must receive their early source of nutrition from it. This prompts the question; how did man manage to penetrate this seemingly safe haven, and cause such utter devastation in the lives of these simple people? (Jared 10).

          Certainly, the man of the past by lack of knowledge also destroyed the environment for his agriculture by deforestation, but today we have several means or knowledge to impede the destruction of the environment. However, developed and developing countries, continue to impact negatively on the environment. It is this negative impact that we export to third world countries through the process of globalization. Globalization is not restricted to the benefits third world countries enjoy such as the export of carbonated drinks and the inclusion in digital platforms, it also encompasses the devastation that we bring them due to the irresponsible way in which we handle the environment. We must assume the responsibility of protecting our fellow man before we lead to our own downfall. We cannot afford to remain inactive, it is our obligation as the powerful forces that we are to foster change and reduce the amount of devastation those without the capacity to initiate this change has to endure (Jared, 5). Jared draws his ideas from his visit to the Netherlands where he witnessed a tremendous pulling of resources by the Dutch people. All the farmland in the Netherlands lies beneath sea level as well as a fifth of the total surface area occupied by the Netherlands. The citizens have reclaimed the land previously under the sea by the use of dykes that surrounded the area and gradually pumped out the water. The reclaimed land is called a Polder and took almost a thousand years to achieve the utility it has today. Unfortunately, sea water continually seeps into the land and the people have to keep pumping out the water using wind-generated energy. The pumping starts from the areas furthest into the sea and continues until the last pump drains it out into the ocean. The collective responsibility involved in maintaining this polder system is achieved through the relations among the citizens who have tremendous respect for each other since it is not uncommon to find that your next door neighbour is operating the pump in your polder. The people of Netherland understand that the difference between life and death in an environmental crisis does not arise on one’s economic capacity or lack thereof, it is determined by avoiding a clash of interest as both the rich and poor share a common goal, to stay afloat. It is this thinking that informed their response to the inland storm of 1953 where thousands of people, rich and poor drowned into the ocean. This event contributed to the environmentally aware state of the Netherland population, they understand that the increasing polar ice melting due to global warming will result in a world at sea level and this will have severe consequences for the Netherland people (Berwyn, 2019). This sort of collective responsibility should inform our efforts to save the environment. We must maintain a deep respect for the welfare of other people and not engage in actions that devastate their lives since this harmful behaviour could trickle back down to us and indeed, it has (Cameron & Archer, 2018).

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