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Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” from Several Perspectives Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 14th, 2022

Background

Environmentalism might seem a comparatively recent tendency in the society, yet a closer look at the subject matter will reveal that numerous scholars have pondered over the impact that the humankind has on the Earth and nature. Needless to say, the negative effects thereof have been brought up quite often, with a range of studies pointing to the necessity to introduce a more sustainable approach toward the management of natural resources, especially as far as finite ones are concerned. Silent Spring can be viewed as an attempt to draw attention to the problem before it grows out of proportions (Whorton 37). Particularly, the effects of synthetic pesticides on the well-being of people and wildlife should be viewed as the focus of the study. In her book, Rachel Carson argues that the use of pesticides, especially in combination with fuel oil, leads to deplorable effects such as the poisoning of the environment (Jakubowicz et al. 2). Despite the fact that the book must be recognized as a groundbreaking accomplishment in the struggle for preserving the environment and improving the quality of life across the globe, one must admit that the lack of elaboration on the issue of the biotic approach proposed as an alternative makes the argument somewhat weaker.

It would be wrong to claim that Carson’s paper lacks consistency or reasoning; quite on the contrary, it can be viewed as an example of a perfectly structured and well-grounded statement concerning the necessity to protect the environment. That being said, the book represented only the first step toward promoting a global improvement, yet it did not shed light on how to further alterations should be made. A tighter focus on the bionic approach that Carson suggested as a solution to the dilemma between the need to safeguard the environment and maintain the performance levels across industries consistent would have been a significant improvement.

Reflection on the Thesis: A Sociopolitical Perspective

When considering the strengths of Carson’s thesis, one must admit that it manages to embrace every single aspect of the problem, including not only the environmental perspective but also the economic and political ones. Indeed, viewing the issue solely through the lens of environmentalism would have led to a mismanagement of the problem and, therefore, its misrepresentation. By introducing political and social perspectives, Carson managed to stress the ambiguity of the issue. Particularly, the author acknowledges the importance of industries as the source of the economic and financial well-being of the state and its residents. At the same time, Carson pointed to the fact that the enhancement of industrial performance, the increasing pace of urbanization, and the inability to manage waste appropriately lead to a gradual deterioration of natural resources and, therefore, the ultimate demise of nature (Bober 35).

Therefore, it could be argued that the issue of urbanization has been foreshadowed in the book. Indeed, contemporary environmental issues are linked directly to urban development and the emphasis on the evolution of industries. Furthermore, the book provides a deep insight into the nature of consumerism as the result of the inability to design a compromise between industrial development and the careful use of resources. In other words, the sociopolitical message behind Silent Spring can be interpreted as the call for the promotion of the principles of sustainability as the key to the allocation of the available resources, the management of waste, and the consumption of the produced goods (Khondker 26).

Apart from encompassing the issues associated with politics and societal concerns, the book also renders some of the ethical and legal issues that can be linked to the promotion of environmentalism in society. The description of the dystopian future in which pesticides have destroyed the earth and doomed the humankind to death can be viewed as a desperate endeavor at calling for action and bringing people’s attention to the scale to which the problem may grow in the future. Therefore, the author views the problem from the Utilitarianism perspective and conveys the idea of maximizing the utility of the available resources by preserving them. The ideas promoted by Carson can also be represented from the deontological perspective as an attempt to appeal to people’s idea of morality and prevent the process of destroying the environment from occurring (Worm 11752).

However, apart from appealing to people’s morality and ethicality, the book also builds a profound foundation for legal action. Indeed, an overview of the effects that Silent Spring produced at the time will reveal that it was quickly followed by the Toxic Substances Control Act issued in 1976 (Rosner 472). While the regulation did have its effect on the further environmental change, though, it would have been useless without the brilliant strategy used by Carson to appeal to people’s ethics and morality (Epstein 72). By focusing on the values associated with the preservation of life and the creation of the realm in which people will be able to feel secure, Carson managed to convince the audience that the problem of waste dumping, pollution, and the related environmental concerns was worth taking into consideration. Thus, the premise for establishing the policy of sustainability was built (Woods 74).

Conclusion

Carson’s Silent Spring might lack clarifications about the tools for producing the necessary changes and the means of controlling the environmental issues, yet the response that the book triggered was immense. Therefore, one must give the author credit for focusing on the issues that used to be viewed as irrelevant at the time. While the book might not seem nowadays as revolutionary as it was at the time when it was published, it still allowed creating the impetus for a massive change in the global policy toward using environmental resources. Particularly, the emphasis that the author placed in the necessity to sustain from the creation of potentially catastrophic scenarios, the need to reduce the usage of pollutants, the gravity of the effects that pesticides have on not only plants but also animals and people due to groundwater pollution, etc., had tremendous importance. Carson created a sense of urgency that could not have been left unnoticed and, therefore, produced a significant response among the members of the target population.

Silent Spring is not without flaws. It could use more elaboration on the ways of producing a sensible response to the current environmental threats, including a more efficient waste management technique, the enhancement of sustainability principles, etc. Nevertheless, Carson succeeded in proving the importance of the issue that used to be overlooked for decades. By describing a macabre future in which people were forced to live in a polluted and ultimately doomed environment, Carson created a sense of urgency that made the readers call for immediate action. Therefore, one must admit that the book served its purpose well.

Works Cited

Bober, Eliza. “Rachel Carson: Writer, Scientist, Activist.” Environmental Readings, vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 33-40

Epstein, Lynn. “Fifty Years Since Silent Spring.” Annual Review of Phytopathology, vol. 52, 2014, pp. 377-402.

Jakubowicz, Karina, et al. “Discipline and Difference.” Dandelion, vol. 4, no. 2, 2013, pp. 1-9.

Khondker, Habibul Haque. “From The Silent Spring to the Globalization of the Environmental Movement.” Journal of International and Global Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, 2015, pp. 25-38.

Rosner, David. “Courting Disaster: Environmental Justice and the US Court System.” The Milbank Quarterly, vol. 93, no. 3, 2015, pp. 471-474.

Whorton, James C. Before Silent Spring: Pesticides and Public Health in Pre-DDT America. Princeton University Press, 82015.

Woods, Derek. “Corporate Chemistry: A Biopolitics of Environment in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Richard Powers’s Gain.” American Literary History, vol. 29, no. 1, 2017, pp. 72-99.

Worm, Boris. “Silent Spring in the Ocean.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 112, no. 38, 2015, pp. 11752-11753.

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