“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields ………………….Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community ……. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among adults but even among children, who would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within a few hours. There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed……..”
The words which made the whole world think about the harmful hazards of pesticides and its impacts on living beings of environment. One of the most discussed books among nature lovers that inspired many environment movements against pesticides even resulting in the ban of many harmful pesticides all over the world – Silent Spring. On 27th September 2012, the book which told the story of a muted spring is celebrating its 50 years.
Rachel Carson – the author of ‘Silent Spring’
Rachel Carson was born in Springdale in 1907. She was a quiet child who always loved to spend her time in her own beautiful world of butterflies, springs, woods and birds and lovely nature. She was an already well known established writer before she published ‘Silent Spring’ and this book raised her popularity a little more when this book became an instant best seller. She began writing at a tender age of 8 and published her first book when she was 11. She got degree in genetics and zoology from Hopkins University. Later she was appointed as Aquatic biologist in U.S Bureau of fishes, which gave her ideas to write two books related to sea life of which ‘The sea around US’ got appreciated as the best book of the year in US. Then she told the harmful effects of DDT through her book, ‘Silent spring’. Till then, DDT was praised as a good insecticide. So, her book was really an eye opener. Though even biologists opposed her ideas with doubtful minds, her book inspired millions to fight against pesticides. She was suffering from breast cancer during her late ages and died of a heart attack in 1964, April 14 in Silver Bridge, Mariland.
Inspiration from a friend’s letter
The village about which ‘Silent Spring’ told story is just imaginary. But she was inspired by an event, she read through the letter of her friend Orga from whom she came to know about DDT for the first time. At that time, she was the chief editor of Fish and Wild life services publications. Through the letter, Orgo told about her the sudden death of her birds, which she kept as pets. She also specified the spraying of DDT across nearby forests by American agriculture department to kill pesticides with the help of helicopters. As soon as Rachel read her words, she began her research and wrote a book based on her findings and published in the year 1962, September 24. She told in her book, about the health hazards the excess usage of pesticides can bring, not only to animals and plants but also to human beings. Very soon, many chemical companies came forward questioning her, even filing cases against her.
Her fight as single
During that time, environment organizations were not there as we see now. Also, no Government agencies available at that time. So, she had to fight alone through her writings and speeches. She did everything by giving solid proofs. As a result, the then American president John.F.Kennedy appointed a committee to study the issues. The wind created by ‘Silent Spring’ soon spread all over the world which even gave many evidences of bad effects of pesticides. Before the completion of the book, she was detected of breast cancer and she died in 1964. In 1972, American government banned DDT forever. Though a half century has passed since the ‘Silent spring’ has gone, we are still witnessing such disasters. Endosalfan, another face of DDT has already shown its bad face in different parts of the world. Many countries have banned it. Protests are going on in India asking the complete ban of this chemical.
Pesticide with the name DDT
DDT was found by German scientist Othmor Zeidler in the year 1874. Its scientific name is Dichloro diphenyl trichloro ethane [(C6H4C1)2CH.CCl3]. When this pesticide was able to kill mosquitoes and insects spreading plague, malaria and typhoid as a part of second world war, it was praised all over the world. World Health Organization arranged campaigns to spray this pesticide around every homes, septic tanks and forests to kill mosquitoes and other insects. Thus DDT helped a lot to keep malaria under control. Since it won’t dissolve easily, it can reach skin and get stored inside the fat cells. Also, through plants, DDT can reach both man and animals, even though in small quantities. It adversely affects nervous system of animals and human beings. Paul Herman Muller, a Swedish scientist was the first person who understood the insect killing nature of DDT for which he got a Nobel Prize in the year 1948. He identified it in 1938 while he was doing his researches in Geigy Company.
Spray here, it will reach Antarctica
Of 9 lakh species of pests identified till now, only below 1% are harmful. That means, only about 3500 varieties are harming agricultural products and spreading diseases. Majority of pests are men’s friends. They play a major role in keeping equilibrium of nature. Since pesticides can’t identify and kill enemies only, many of our helping friends are also destroyed. If long lasting Organochlorides are sprayed in our forests, it can even reach living beings of Antarctica. Rain plays an important role in transporting those pesticides from soil to seas. Soon they are absorbed by algae which in turn reach fishes and birds. Thus remains of pesticides and insecticides are even reaching penguins living in the poles!!!!
Let me conclude
It’s true, we can’t avoid certain evils in our daily life. Yet, we can reduce their amount thus helping our earth, nature and its living beings. The battle started by Rachel Carson should not end with the reading of ‘Silent spring’ or organizing 50th anniversary of the book. Instead we should carry on her struggles, believing that, it’s our duty also, to see our nature smiling free of all pesticides and insecticides!!! Let my article be a small effort to see her dreams fulfilled through many people who read this.
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