“How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?”
~ Rachel Carson, in her novel Silent Spring (1962)
I perceive Carson’s cynicism to be in regards to widespread acceptance and application of synthetic pesticides, specifically DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Due to both past and continued environmental pollution and degradation associated with human activities, there is an ongoing need for environmental cleanup and remediation. Although their magnitudes and degrees may vary, these needs span geographic, socioeconomic, and political boundaries. These “intelligent beings” pertain to agribusiness officials and affiliates, officeholders, and members of the general public who collectively have complete confidence in the use of synthetic pesticides.
Carson’s quote may be characterized as a social satire that exposes a discrepancy between an ideology (pest control) and a behavior (manufacture and application of synthetic pesticides). One would rationalize that people as a species with a high degree of intelligence would refrain from engaging in conduct that threatens both them and the natural environment upon which they depend.
A threat cannot be countered by a tactic that produces another threat, even if unintended. There are undertones of some of the flaws of our past and current economic policies and activities. Synthetic pesticides are long-term control measures in that pest control is likely to remain a threat and hindrance for the foreseeable future. In this scenario, the long-term manufacture and use of synthetic pesticides also produces long-term
environmental and public health ramifications. Long-term measures must foster economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Carson was unique in her time in that she possessed and demonstrated an awareness and concern for our environment and public health, which led her to question the social and ecological integrity of agribusinesses. Her skepticism paved the way for change to be identified and problem-solved. One must not be paranoid, yet not be gullible either. Like Carson, we must be unafraid to question the public safety and ecological integrity of any product and service and strive to cultivate a willingness to be educated regarding such matters.
See the recommended reading list!
~by Angelo Teachout
photo credit of Rachel Carson: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/Rachel-Carson.jpg/474px-Rachel-Carson.jpg