silverflight8 (silverflight8) wrote in bookish,

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Silent Spring: Rachel Carson

This is the book (as the front cover proclaims) that set off the big environmental movement. Published in 1962, non-fiction, 297 pages (with some very, very nice chapter illustrations alongside), by the marine biologist Rachel Carson.

This book is centered around the use of pesticides. The most notable one, of course, is DDT, but heptachlor, diedrin, 2,4-D, and others are mentioned and examined. This is not a book about how the pesticides work; instead, it examines how the pesticides interact with the world around us.

And it's scary. Very little is known about the effects of these chemicals, but if they have the capacity to kill insects, and along with them birds, mammals (domestic or otherwise) and marine life, it is almost guaranteed that they affect humans too. Moreover, since so little testing has been done on the chemicals in isolation, the mixing of pesticides in places like bodies of water and other places takes on a terrifying quality. It is also sobering to realize that despite the huge, heavy-handed methods of applying pesticides were very ineffectual--in addition to developing resistance in the insects, the pesticides would often kill off other insects that preyed on the pests, compounding the problem.

The title, in case you (like me) wondered, is about "spring" in the sense of a season: a spring where no birds sing. And while the book was noted for the way it explored how birds are impacted by pesticides like DDT, it in fact focuses on birds, insects, humans, and the environment at large.

At first, she uses some spectacular anecdotal evidence, but when I looked in the back of the book, there are literally dozens of pages citing references, all from reputable sources.

It does use more complex vocabulary (although the writing is not very technical). She begins to wax poetic in "Nature Fights Back"--I quite enjoyed that chapter--and overall is a good read, though I found that I was reading much slower than usual. This isn't a book to be read for enjoyment, but I found it very educational....and quite alarming. 8/10
Tags: genre: non-fiction, xxx author last name: a-h

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