Silent Spring Virtual Book Discussion

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Published in 1962.

Synopsis: Written nearly 50 years ago, Rachel Carson’s well-researched thesis on the mortal dangers of DDT and other pesticides in large-part spawned the modern-day environmental movement. In this book, Carson elaborately explains the dangers of pesticides on many elements of our ecosystem – soils, air, rivers, fish, birds, mammals and humans.

About the Author:  A biologist, Rachel Carson spent most of her career working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Prior to the publication of Silent Spring, Carson published several other books, leading her to become a highly-respected science/nature writer. Carson overcame great odds while writing Silent Spring, battling breast cancer that would ultimately claim her life several years after the book’s publication. She is also the recipient of numerous science writing awards.

My Initial Reactions on this Book

Okay, so this wasn’t the biggest page turner out of my Around the World Virtual Book Club selections. However, in the end I was glad that I read this important book. I kept having to remind myself that 50 years ago, non-fiction wasn’t as exciting as the memoirs written today. Also, at the time of this book’s publication, Rachel Carson was likely considered an anomaly in a field heavily dominated by testosterone. A quick glance through the numerous pages in the ‘List of Principal Sources’ at the end of this book will tell you just how much evidence Carson had to gather to support her claims against the wealthy chemical industry.

One of the main points I garnered from the book is a quote from a Milwaukee woman found on page 114 of the 40th anniversary edition, “Isn’t it possible to help the balance of nature without destroying?” Humanity and it’s predecessors have managed to survive tens of thousands, if not millions of years, without the chemical means to control insect pests. In the latter third of her book, Carson does a convincing job of showing just how badly the balance of nature has been thrown off by the massive spraying of pesticides – malarial mosquitoes that just won’t die, the rise in the number of wormy-apples, and the list goes on and on.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, part of my reasons for including these ‘classics’ in book club selections is to examine the relevancy to our world today. Carson reminds us that human beings are oftentimes the guinea pigs for realizing the harmful/possibly deadly effects of human-made substances. It’s sad that it took rapid-onset leukemia, strange convulsions, and the massive genocide of animals for the United States Government to ultimately ban DDT. It makes me wonder how many chemicals we consume now-a-days are also harmful (albeit in a slower process towards death) that the FDA labels as “showing no scientific evidence of harm [as of yet] to humans.” While the human trials continue, I’ll gladly pay 30 cents extra for a pound of organic celery (non-organic celery has been found to contain over 60 kinds of pesticides) and rBGH-free milk.

So what did you think of the book? Feel free to completely disagree with me, as these book club discussions are the place to do so. Please post your comments below, whether you’ve recently read the book or read it many years ago.

Next Up for Discussion: Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, the follow up novel to the author’s much-acclaimed book The Kite Runner. Discussion begins December 30th.

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