Rachel Carson is a marine biologist who wrote books and pamphlets on natural resources and conservation of the environment. She has already written a series of books on the sea such as Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. However, her Silent Spring published in 1962 was a turning point in environmental studies because of its harsh criticism of the excessive use of pesticides in farming.
She ushered in a significant change in environmental studies with the publication of her Silent Spring. This was published in serialised form in the New Yorker and later in the form of a book. It is about the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation on the environment .
The title highlights the silence that come over nature as the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird species have become extinct.The writer speaks of a springtime world that has become completely silent and no birdsongs are heard anywhere.
Carson pointed out that the reason for this destruction of the environment in the United States was the uncontrolled use of organic pesticides such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin used to control pest insects in agriculture. Though these compounds led to agricultural benefits, they posed serious threats to animal and human life as Carson proves by giving scientific evidence.
She gives several examples of how the pesticides such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin has managed to get into the human food chain largely through aerial spraying. She speaks of the large-scale contamination of the waterbodies in several places and the subsequent entry of these compounds into human and animal bodies. She gives the example of an egg that a child eats, which might contain traces of these compounds from the grain that the mother hen ate for its food.
The harmful effects of these chemicals on humans and animals ranged from genetic mutation to cancer. However, what she predicted was the complete extinction of many bird species as a result of using pesticides. Moreover, she was of the view that the pests of the future might be resistant to these chemicals and might even result in species mutations.
This book was a clarion call for greater awareness about the great destruction that human beings were causing to the Earth and its natural cycles. Though there was much protest from the chemical companies, Carson’s Silent Spring is a key text in environmental studies because it led to the banning of DDT in the US and to a greater awareness about the consequences of using deadly pesticides on the environment. It gradually led to the development of an ecocentric attitude in the latter half of the twentieth century.