Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rachel Carson and"Silent Spring".

We watched the two-hour PBS American Experience tonight on NET that detailed the life and work of environmentalist Rachel Carson. The program covered her early life and family after her father died when she was a teenager. Her mother taught her to love nature and after receiving an MS degree she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of Interior. After WWII, DDT was widely used throughout the world to eliminate Malaria and insect control even in household products. The USDA sponsored a Fire Ant control program in the south where some 20 million acres were sprayed with DDT. It became apparent that while it killed fire ants, it also had many side effect on other desirable creatures of nature. The offspring of birds that had eaten effected earth worms were even killed. Nuclear testing during the early 50's also added to the unrecognized hazards of "fall-out".  Synthetic Pesticides had become widely used and their production promoted as a way of feeding a growing world population. It helped bring prosperity to agricultural producers at a time when it was changing. She did considerable
research, interviewed scientists, and collected scientific papers to document the effects of the hazardous materials.  Her book "Silent Spring", that is said to have ushered in the environmental movement, was published  on 9/27/62. It led to considerable controversy between economic interest and the environmentalist. Monsanto tried to counter "Silent Spring" with a book detailing how crop failures and disease would spread without modern pesticides. Time has proved that Carson was right, that agricultural spraying of DDT reduced the bird populations and that the widespread use had increased pesticide resistance among many targeted insect species. Unfortunately Rachel Carson was affected by cancer and died on April 14, 1964 at the age of 56. It has been recognized that "Silent Spring" changed the world. It was a great story and very well presented.

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