The book 'Silent spring' by Rachael Carson can interpreted as an embodiment of Carson's deep conventional conceptions in regard to natures balance and the web of life. For approximately a period of thirty years after its publication 'Silent Spring' has come to be acknowledged as a book that evoked the ominous image of the dangers of DDT as well as the general concept of pesticides on ecological life forms (McGillivray pp 25). In fact it is recognized as an important icon of change that led to the beginning of the United States Environmental Movement back in the 1960's. The books major argument is based on the fact that the unexamined and uncontrolled use of pesticides narrowing down to DDT was a harmful and killing danger that not only affected the birds that it heavily presents a case on but also on humans. Just looking at its title is enough to communicate that it was an evocation of a spring season with no birdsongs coloring the environment as implied by the fact that all birds had vanished on account of the abuse of pesticides.
Some scholars claim that Carson was happiest when writing about the resilience and strengths of natural systems. Apart from 'Silent Spring' other works that demonstrate his passion towards this subject include 'Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Around Us in addition to The Edge of the Sea which consisted of hymns which explored the interconnectedness of living things and natural ecosystems or nature. Although Carson rarely uses the term nature in her works Carson is known to hold an ecological take on nature in which she describes using poetic yet precise language the complexities that characterize the web of life (McGillivray pp 25). This is most especially the ones that link the mollusks to birds of the sea in addition to the fish that thrive in the deepest and inaccessible parts of the oceans. The above characterizes the take that she pursues in this particular book.
In this light, on the basis of which she criticizes DDT, Carson considered DDT as the world's most powerful pesticide known to expose 'the vulnerability of nature (Carson pp 29)'. Unlike other pesticides that were only believed to bear harmful effects to a few insects, DDT had the capability of destroying hundred different kinds at the same time. When it was first introduced for civilian usage as a pesticide only a few were concerned about it negative effects. Edwin Way Teale a nature writer warned against how pesticides such as DDT could upset nature economy. He cited that ninety percent of the insects found in nature are good and killing them would create an imbalance in nature. Rachael Carson also presented her views in the readers digest but they were quickly brushed off. She later expressed his views on the issue using his book 'Silent Spring' which to some was not greeted with a good welcome.
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The Message contained in Carson's book is beautifully and very vividly delivered using a very effective style and there is no doubt that it has a lot of enhancements from the substantial reputation of Carson as a writer and scientist. The books initial arrival came soon after the revelation that Thalidomide as a tranquilizer was a major contributor to bird defects which hence adds to the impact that the book served to achieve. Carson hence had done what many authors had been unable to achieve. This is tying the diverse information facets in regard to the abuse of pesticides to the ubiquitous exposure, environmental impacts and biological magnifications into a single story that was easily understandable and readable by a general public which is not in any way steeped by science.
One very impelling and famous chapter is "A Fable for Tomorrow," much criticized for its fictional account in literary terms which resembles a Gothic tale. It talks about a town where all life seemed to be harmonious with the environment until a 'strange blight (Carson pp 45)' befalls the town as well as its country side, famed for its abundantly varied bird life, and all birds disappear. This description helps the writer to get a firm grip on doom that is to befall the town which helps the reader to anticipate the message. This omnipresent prophesy of unfolding danger compel the readers attention to wards the message
When the 'Silent Spring' received its first publication in 1962 it attracted to its self a storm of controversies in regard to the use if pesticides. The message was so clear, to warn the general public on the adverse negative effects lying in the use of pesticides. Through out the book, Carson cites numerous case studies that document the ill effects of pesticides on the environment. This are reinforced with facts explaining, citing many instances, on how pesticides have done less good than harm in the eradication of pesticides for which it had been designed to eliminate (Lytle pp 98). She also makes it so clear that out of the many ill effects which are long term that pesticides are known to attract towards the environment and even human being, 'many more still remain unknown (Carson pp 79)'. As one of her critiques wrote, this book dealt a major blow to the pesticide industry. This controversy is what triggered the enactment of the legislation on environment in addition to government agencies that were established to regulate pesticide use.
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To focus on our main argument Carson's book as highlighted earlier is heavily influenced by his deep conventional conceptualization of natures balance as tied to the web of life. Carson's nature can be best described as a fanatic defendant of a cult of nature balance which comes as the central metaphor of the whole body of work (Lear pp 120). Carson nature in writing this book which can be described as highly integrated and priced is characterized by a relation of mutual benefit and interdependence as well as the regulating balances and checks on the environment. This was a new ecological scientific rendition that depicts the concept of nature economy which can be dated back to antiquity.
This balance of nature can be attributed to providing Carson with a norm that can form a basis on which the interference of humans on the environment could be assessed and hence definitely challenged. The systems of relationships that exist between human beings and other living things such as the birds that prompted her to raise his concerns on the issue of pesticides cannot be assumed such as the way the laws of gravity cannot be defied (Lear pp 123). Another metaphor that can be identified as a guide to this book is a notion related to the one that is highlighted above that is the 'ecological web in life' which binds organisms and their environment together in a way that even in the occurrence if the slightest minute changes in a single area reverberates over time and space.
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The two notions described above does 'Silent Spring' a tremendous deal of persuasive work. Nature as a whole can be interpreted as the basis upon which the book's unsettling tidings in regard to balance that seems to have been lost and the criticisms that Carson wages against the toxic pesticides is built. The notions allow Carson to invert a tradition in regard to nature writing which celebrates the connectedness and harmony in the casting of pesticides as sinister and unnatural (Lear pp 120). The book is build on dense images of dislocation by presenting a shattered living world, the bludgeoning of landscapes , the breaking of threads, in nature in a delicate uncoupled process. Carson introduces an elegy of tone into wonder conventions through the introduction of the reader to the unseen changes and relations in reference to the natural world (such as bird's flyways that are invisible, a sea of ground water that is hidden and paths of fish migration) through the portrayal of the disruptions caused by pesticides. Through the inclusion of the internal delicate human realms as well as the physiology of animals within the interconnected system of balanced nature, Carson in a way chillingly and seamlessly joins the outer and the inner ecology, landscapes and human health which launches a new environmental concern phase.
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However, Carson's concept on the balance of nature prompts one to question the effectiveness of his fight against pesticides. While nature provides Carson with a somewhat versatile conceptualized framework as well as stirring images that are familiar in underscoring the fragility of the natural systems of nature under which she frames the dangers of pesticides Cason provides no treatment to the destruction caused to the environment on the depoliticized notion in regard to nature (Lytle pp 29). Terms such as balance of nature or just nature have the capability of obscuring the priorities and social relations which go towards the evaluation of environmental practices. For instance, let us consider the preference of the biological rather than the chemical methods of controlling pest which Carson sees as 'a disturbance to the balance of nature (Carson pp 105)'. Pursuing this conception reifies the judgments in regard to the respective costs and benefits of the utilization of this method to human which creates an internal contradiction to the account by Carson. For instance, one might be prompted to ask the question as to why the use of an exotic bacterium to kill a certain insect considered a natural way of controlling pests. Towards this intervention which Carson otherwise passively notes in a different context, this bacteria will not only kill the targeted specimen but will end up killing other species too which is not respectful to natures balance.
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Similar questions can be raised also in regard to the means of biological control that Carson suggests or celebrates as a replacement to the use of pesticides. These are the use of 'chemical attractants, viral and microbial insect infection, use of juvenile hormones, employment of repellant sounds and introduction of parasites and predators (Carson pp 178)'. For example, in the book Carson strongly endorses the dispensation of heralds and X-ray sterilized males as a biological way of completely 'eradicating the screw worm (Carson pp 204)' which he terms as a very brilliant idea as well as triumphant demonstration of scientific creativity.
If we slip into the militaristic vision and imagery of complete eradication, Carson vehemently objects the mentality of those who propose pesticide sprays (Lytle pp 29). She approvingly argues towards the research that converted the sterilization of insects into a weapon for wiping out major enemy insects. But looking at it from a critical perspective, the difference that can be found between her celebrated methods of insect eradication and the use of pesticides, Carson's castigations do not lie in the inherent naturalness degree but is much biased by human judgment in regard to the respective impacts. Should Carson have chosen to otherwise castigate X-ray sterilization of male insects as a method which is unnatural, then rhetorical resources that she had argued towards in disparaging pesticides could have been easily redirected.
In spite of the above criticism one thing that is very clear in Carson's book 'Silent Spring' is that she is not advocating for the complete ban or withdrawal of pesticides but instead wishes to encourage people to responsibly manage its use. This is in consideration of the impact that they have on the natural ecosystem (Sideris pp 91). Carson hence strives to create an awareness of these impacts though some critics claim that she argued towards pesticide elimination. Only an irresponsible person can contend towards ignoring diseases that are insect-borne. The urgent question that the book wishes to address is whether it is responsible or wise to challenge the problem with means that upsets the balance of nature hence making the situation worse than it was before.
The world has been hearing about the many triumphant wars against the insect vectors infection control, but less has been said about the impacts it has on the environment. No one tries to neither demonstrate the triumphs that are short lived nor acknowledge the fact that some of the insect enemies such as mosquitoes that we strive to eradicate are growing stronger out of the means that we employ to fight them. To makes matters worse, we might have even destroyed the few means we had in fighting them. Natures balance has been off set by the excessive use of pesticides in the name destroying our enemies (Sideris pp 107).
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Rachael Carson's book not only aims to criticize pesticides and to show the effects that their abuse or excessive use had on the birds that she tells about in the novel. The book also tries to get the reader focus on nature, its balance and the webs of life that characterize it and how human nature offsets or upsets this balance through means such as pesticides. As a nature Writer Rachael Carson want to create awareness on how humans selfishly execute their activities with only short term benefits in their minds but disregarding how this affects ecosystems creating an imbalance by disrupting the harmonious order between living organisms and the natural environment or nature.
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