Revisiting Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in a World of Toxic Chemicals

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Revisiting Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in a World of Toxic Chemicals

By Jacqueline Marcus for BuzzFlash on Truthout.org

But no doubt, Rachel Carson is turning over in her grave. Our government sees no evil and hears no evil. No one in mainstream media seems to care as the earth grows louder with pollution and toxic chemicals blighting out the living, vibrant world of birds, fish and nature as we know it faster than we could possibly imagine.

Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring has its place among the Great Books of our century. Carson is the biologist that raised the concept "upsetting the balance of nature" to the public's attention by providing evidence of the disastrous effects on the balance of nature caused by the irresponsible use of insecticides and other pest controls.

As anticipated, the multi-million-dollar chemical and oil industries reacted violently to Carson's conclusions. They accused her of hysteria and painted the image of a crackpot, they chose to ignore her long career as a professional biologist and her sixteen years' experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service as well as many other accomplishments. She was a contributing writer for the New Yorker which published a partial serialization of Silent Spring. The book was a smash hit selling 500,000 copies in hard cover in 1962. Those were the days when Americans read books.

The federal government began an investigation, after the publication of Silent Spring, of pesticide control programs to find an answer to how to use chemical pesticides more safely. Thanks to Rachel Carson, the toxic pesticide, DDT, was eliminated from agricultural use which was killing birds and fish by the thousands and proved to cause more harm than good.

Today, we live in a country that uses up to 83,000 chemicals. Last May 2010, due to gross negligence on the part of British Petroleum, Halliburton, and the federal government's Mineral Management Service, five million barrels of oil gushed from the explosion of BP's deepwater Horizon, followed by tons of toxic dispersants, a chemical known as Corexit. Thousands of birds were poisoned by BP's criminally negligent oil spill. We can't be sure how many whales, dolphins and turtles were killed because BP quickly bagged and buried the evidence. BP's oil spill is the largest, most toxic oil spill in history. It is also the largest cover-up of mass seabird and animal poisoning in history. Biologists argue that the dispersant Corexit, used to disperse the oil which hides it but does not eliminate it, was far more threatening to wildlife than the oil; one can induce from these facts that the combination of oil and Corexit is a deadly poisonous combination. The cover-up continues on the ongoing damage as reported in "Gulf Oil Spill Still Fouling Louisiana Marshes".

Last week, thousands of birds dropped dead in Arkansas, Louisiana and at the same time, thousands of dead fish washed up on a 20 mile stretch along the Arkansas River between Ozark and Clarksville. Dead birds are suddenly showing up in southern regions of the nation. Kentucky wildlife officials say several hundred dead birds were found dead in the western part of the state. The grackles, red wing blackbirds, robins and starlings were found dead. 40,000 crabs washed up dead on English beaches. No one can explain it.

Silent Spring begins with a fable of a small American rural town of farmlands, wild flowers, songbirds and streams of trout. Carson writes: "Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change...there was a strange stillness. The birds, for example-where have they gone?...On mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh."

Here's an excerpt from a couple struggling with life after the BP spill in Louisiana. It sounds as if it were an excerpt from Carson's Silent Spring:

Since then, Darla and Todd won't allow their grandkids to swim in the water, especially after their six-year-old got splashed with water while riding on their boat and developed a painful red burn-like mark on his face. And when the oil gushed in and coated the marshes of their prized fishing grounds, they began to notice things they've never seen before. Shrimp were swimming on the top of the water during the day in 100-degree heat. Birds were strangely absent. Even the water didn't smell the same. "It's supposed to smell like fish, shrimp, crabs and oysters and salt," Darla says. "We smell nothing; it smells like oil."

Right now university biologists from around the world are examining the dead birds and fish and we'll have to wait for their conclusions before speculating. But no doubt, Rachel Carson is turning over in her grave. Our government sees no evil and hears no evil. No one in mainstream media seems to care as the earth grows louder with pollution and toxic chemicals blighting out the living, vibrant world of birds, fish and nature as we know it faster than we could possibly imagine.