Rachel Carson: Silent Spring | The stone ax

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Rachel Carson in a forest in 1962.
Rachel Carson in a forest in 1962.Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE/Getty Images (EL PAÍS)

There are books that changed the scientific view of the world. One of them is the one with the title Mathematical principles of natural philosophy, published on July 5, 1687, by which Isaac Newton laid the foundations of modern physics, explaining the motion of terrestrial and celestial bodies based on the contributions of Kepler and Galileo.

Another book that changed the paradigm of evolutionary biology was published on November 24, 1859, and was titled The origin of species. With such a legendary title, Darwin laid the foundations of natural selection as the foundation of our evolution. If we continue with the list, and we get to our days, we find a curious book, beautiful and combative at the same time; a book that, since the complaint, managed to inaugurate contemporary environmentalism.

We are talking about Silent spring (Review), written by biologist Rachel Carson in the early 1960s; a woman who, in her own words, was “pessimistic about the human race for being too resourceful for its own good.” With such a confession, Rachel Carson carries out a documentation work where she points out to the chemical industries of the poisoning that the Earth suffers.

The use of dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane, better known by its acronym (DDT), would be denounced in Silent spring with scientific rigor and abundant examples. Written with prose not without lyricism, Rachel Carson lit the flame of the social to preserve the environment. Something that, seen from a distance, almost sixty years after its publication, is obvious, but at the time the book was published, it was very spectacular for Rachel Carson, as she was the victim of a smear campaign where she was accused as a deranged woman, even going so far as to qualify her as old, hysterical, spinster, and niceties like that. When reason is lost, these things happen.

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We must go back to the times when this book was published, when nothing and no one dared to question the model of scientific progress that exercised its cultural hegemony in the postwar years. Angry, the gyrfalcons of the pesticide industry behaved with mafia affection, using all possible channels to propagandize against Rachel Carson, accusing her of being an inquisitive, alarmist and of giving place, with her book, to insects and pests. so that they would once again dominate the Earth. Rachel Carson smelled of sulfur.

But Rachel was undaunted. Nor did public opinion perceive the smell of sulfur. His book was a bestseller, spending more than half a year on the best-seller list; a best seller of ecological content that managed to generate debate with a question that pierced consciences: “What is it that has silenced the voices of spring in countless cities in North America?”

Written with great sensitivity, the book begins as if it were a story: “There was once a city in the heart of North America where all existence seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.” After reading it, people began to become ecologically aware and, with it, they began to worry about the chemicals that spray our environment and “stay for a long time in crops and penetrate living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death ”.

Due to the resonance of the word written by Carson, a federal investigation began in Congress, and President John F. Kennedy launched a study on the use of pesticides. The report would end up banning most of the products that Carson’s book called harmful.

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Thanks to Rachel Carson’s work, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created, and with it, Rachel Carson became the first contemporary activist to champion the green model. For these things, your book was so important. As much as it was, in its day, Newton’s book or Darwin’s.

Because Silent spring It is a clear example of how reading can change people’s attitudes, and how this attitude can put pressure on institutions to make life on Earth more habitable. Without such a book, current environmentalism would be otherwise or, perhaps, it would not be.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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