The 50th Anniversary of "Silent Spring" - A Book That Changed The World

In June 1962 The New Yorker began to serialize a book that changed our lives. Later that year a publishing house started printing it. It made the New York Times bestseller list and was also selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club.

September 27, 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first publication of this book. That was the day that Houghton Mifflin published a book written by Rachel Carson called "Silent Spring." This book has been credited with launching the environmental movement.

"Silent Spring" documented the detrimental effects that pesticides had on our environment. In her book Ms. Carson said that the chemical industry had been spreading disinformation and that public officials were universally accepting their statements as truth without verification.

According to Carson, she had written the book after her friend sent her a copy of a letter she wrote to The Boston Herald. The letter described how a lot of birds had died around her property because DDT had been aerial in sprayed in an effort to kill the mosquitoes in the area.

The title of the book alluded to a spring when birds would not be heard because they had all died as a result of the abuse of pesticides. "Silent Spring" contends that the unexamined and uncontrolled use of pesticides was not only killing birds and animals, but that it was harming and killing humans as well.

Carson, a scientist, had been concerned about DDT and other pesticides since the 1940s.

After the book was published the chemical industry fought back. Monsanto, American Cyanamid, Velsicol, and pretty much the entire chemical industry organized and led a huge counterattack. Carson was derided and threatened by lawsuits. She was even accused of being a "hysterical woman" who was not qualified to write the book.

In the 1960s Robert White-Stevens, a biochemist who was formerly a chemistry industry spokesman said, "If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth."

In the 2000s her book is still being attacked.

On its list of the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" Human Events, a conservative weekly, gave Silent Spring an "honorable mention."

In 2009 The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a climate change denial think tank built the website. It asserted that "Millions of people around the world suffer the painful and often deadly effects of malaria because one person sounded a false alarm. That person is Rachel Carson."

The books defenders say that Carson was aware of the "insect-borne disease" problem and had not called for the banning of DDT. They noted that DDT was no longer used to fight malaria because mosquitoes became resistant to it.

Tim Lambert and John Quiggin wrote that "the most striking feature of the claim against Carson is the ease with which it can be refuted."

It's now known that when pesticides are used in agricultural spraying that within 7 to 10 years insects become resistant to the chemicals.

To learn more about the environment you may want to enroll in online environmental courses.

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