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Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

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Silent Spring by Rachel Carson-Review

Written to alert unaware people to the catastrophe caused by the abuse of pesticides

By Lin Wang

Have you ever imagined that once vibrant villages suddenly were a shadow of death? Silent Spring does depict such a shocking picture. After this science book was published in 1962, Silent Spring, written by American marine biologist Rachel Carson, a pioneer of modern environmental protection movement, immediately aroused world-class sensation about the abuse of pesticides, and contributed to the establishment of the US Environmental Protection Agency. The theme of Silent Spring is the reflection of human desires. The author points out that humans use pesticides recklessly to endeavor to control nature, eventually being punished by nature. In the process of seeking development, human beings must constantly meditate how to live in harmony with the environment and other life on earth. Insofar as my evaluation, while it is true that these arguments in Silent Spring are well-elaborated and supported by numerous real cases, there are some drawbacks which undermine the logic of the book. After a brief introduction, I will demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

In chapter 3: Elixirs of Death, the author mainly introduces organic pesticides, “chlorinated hydrocarbons” (including DDT) and “organic phosphorus insecticides”. Based on specific animal data and the suffering of human beings and their surroundings, the book discloses the devastating disaster caused by unrestrained use of pesticides. The author asserts that these chemicals are not innocuous as people mistakenly think or advertisers boast. On the contrary, they are extremely detrimental to people, consistent with the chapter’s title “Elixirs of Death”. Pesticides, enriched through the food chain, can destroy our nervous system and enzymes, even worse, affecting fertility. 

To begin with, one of advantages is that there are scientific and objective explanations. As it is described in the chapter, the reason why people mistakenly believe that the chemical must be non-toxic is because thousands of soldiers once used DDT intimately to combat lice and suffered no immediate illness. Meanwhile, there were no systematic approaches to test the toxicity of DDT, so people hardly oppugned the credibility. However, according to scientific facts that most of farinose DDT are hard to be absored through the skin, Rachel Carson refutes this misconception and explains the mechanism: how DDT impairs our liver cells and heart muscle if swallowed. It is the scientific interpretation that makes the author's argument convincing.

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