“SILENT SPRING ”
“Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community…” (Carson,168). Rachel Carson’s”Silent Spring” is a fictitious but realistic short story describing the devastating consequences from the overuse of pesticides. A pesticide is a chemical used to kill pests (e.g.rodents or insects) to keep them from eating crops; however, they can have serious consequences when not used responsibly. During Carson’s time, the use of DDT was prevalent, and DDT is the most powerful pesticide in the world. Farmers were happy about this chemical as it killed the pests effectively. But what they weren’t aware of was that it was killing everything – even themselves and their families. In the story “Silent Spring”, Carson’s strong use of imagery describing the shocking and abhorrent effects of the “strange blight” (Carson,168) strongly warns her readers that the overuse of pesticides can seriously damage the environment and the human race.
Firstly, readers can definitely argue that the strong use of imagery and comparison emphasizes the importance of protecting the environment. The first paragraph allows readers to picture an exquisite, “heaven-like” paradise. Carson described the town as a place “…where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.” (Carson,167). It was a place “…where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields.” (Carson, 167). Wild animals such as deer and foxes roamed about the place. Various birds merrily glided across the skies and fed on the berries and the fish swimming in the crystal clear lakes. Crops and fruits were abundant. The place was full of beautiful wildflowers and alder ferns. Then one day, “silence” crept into town. Mysterious maladies swept the livestock. Bees were gone, so no pollination could happen, which meant that there was no fruit, and plants withered. The clear lake was polluted, and the life in the lake disappeared. Birds disappeared as there was no more food to eat. The few birds that could be seen were moribund. Farmers and their families started to catch diseases that never existed before, and there were several unexplained deaths. The pure laughter and giggles of the children were gone. The chirping of birds stopped. The whole town was silent and lifeless. The town drastically transitioned from the “Garden of Eden” to a place where “Everywhere was a shadow of death.” (Carson,168). The effects were horrifying. “Silent Spring” wasn’t just a plain sci-fi story for readers to read for fun and enjoy; Carson was really trying to warn her readers of the side effects of DDT. DDT was a popular choice for pesticides at that time as it was so powerful, and the result was immediate. However, the chemicals soon started to flow into streams and lakes, and they polluted the water with chemicals. Imagine you and your loving family have to drink from a pool of a polluted lake filled with toxic chemicals. Would you want that to happen?
Secondly, the overuse of pesticides can cause permanent damage to the environment. “One animal or plant species may become extinct every hour. All species are doomed to extinction, but man through worldwide development/killing animals for food/profit/using toxic chemicals such as pesticides/industrial wastes, will accelerate the extinction of plants/animals and the result will be a more hostile environment for man.” (Eckholm, azquotes.com). Even though pesticides are sprayed on land, many times, they can make their way into a water source, such as a river, ocean, or pond. For instance, pesticides from an orchid may end up in a nearby stream due to runoff. If a body of water becomes contaminated with the chemicals, many fish and other animals (e.g. birds) may die and get sick. Populations of non-targeted organisms and plants that may be a useful or important species may decline or even be at risk of going extinct, thus decreasing biodiversity. This can throw the whole ecosystem off balance. Furthermore, it’s not only the water that gets polluted; but also soil, too. When pesticides get absorbed by soil, it can be degraded and the community of organisms living in the soil can be damaged by the misuse or over use of pesticides. Pesticides applied to sandy or course-grained soils are more likely to leach through the soil and contaminate groundwater, which means that this will not only effect the environment, but also human beings. In addition, pesticides can also cause air pollution. Scientists have found that pesticides can be carried around as gas vapor, which can gradually cause the air quality to go down. Moreover, there is only one planet Earth, and it is our responsibility to take care of it. Once it’s damaged, it’s difficult to bring it back the way it used to be. Therefore, pesticides should not be overused as the consequences may be irreversible.
In her story, Carson wrote about the farmers and children being effected by DDT. In lines 10-11 of paragraph 3, she wrote “…children would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within a few hours.” (Carson,168). Scientists found out from a study that pesticides can be absorbed not only through consumption but also through the skin, and children can absorb enough pesticides potentially to make them ill or poison them. Moreover, children’s organs are not fully developed until later in life. Studies have shown that continuous exposure to these chemicals for a long period of time can cause permanent damage to their organs. UC Berkeley researchers discovered that infants exposed to large quantities of pesticides happen to have development problems. However, children’s behavior to interact with their physical environment changes during different stages of development and can place them at greater risk of exposure. Why do these innocent children have to suffer when it’s not their fault? Furthermore, it has been found that adults can also be effected by the side effects of the overuse of pesticides. Studies have also shown that people exposed to a large amount of pesticides may show symptoms such as vomiting, tremors or shakiness, and seizures. It is also known that chances of getting leukemia, breast and other cancers are a lot higher than other people. Yes, it does have some benefits as it can be used to cure malaria (to kill the mosquitos), however; it can cause serious health issues such as mentioned previously. Moreover, there are other healthier alternatives, such as taking vaccines and using organic pesticides. Therefore, it can be argued that the overuse of pesticides is not only a threat to the environment but also to us human beings.
In conclusion, the overuse of pesticides can seriously damage the environment and the human race. The overuse of pesticides can cause many side effects, including water pollution, make irreversible damages to the environment and cause fatal diseases to humans. Although pesticides can have some advantages, but there are other consequences to consider. Only with responsible use of pesticides and finding other environmentally friendly alternatives can we avoid the “Silent Spring” Carson warned her readers about.