Nature (2)

In the book nature, chapter seven mentions DDT but doesn’t go into a lot of detail about it. Since I’ve been learning about Rachel Carson in another class, I thought I could explain more behind the subject. Rachel Carson, more than anyone else, inspired the US environmental movement.

Carson was trained as a research scientist. She received a masters degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University. She was an accomplished marine biologist, but in the 1930s prospects for women as researchers–especially at major universities–were slim. In the end she got to work for the US Bureau of Fisheries and later for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). At first she was assigned to write scripts for an education radio show. Later she produced all kinds of writing tasks: from official government brochures to popular magazine articles. Eventually she quit her government job to become a full-time science writer. it was the 1962 publication of silent spring that sparked the environmental movement in many ways and set the stage for the conservation and environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s.

Carson argued that humans depended on the many connections among species that make up the planets’ ecology, and she realized that the indiscriminate use of pesticides was a treat to the web of life. Carson was so notable during this time, not just because of her message, but because she relied on scientific research to back up her points. Carson did not shy away from advocacy and was one of the first environmentalists to use apocalyptic vision to catalyze public concern. She made the point that if the federal government did not protect the environment no one else would. Silent Spring brought to the public’s attention what DDT ( dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane ) and other pesticides were doing to the environment. Although DDT was viewed as a miracle of modern technology at the time–because it killed fleas, mosquitoes, and other bugs that can spread deadly diseases like malaria–biologists began to compile evidence of DDT-resistant-strains of insect and how DDT was having harmful side effects on other species– especially birds.

Their egg shells were becoming so weak that when the mother bird would sit on them they would break. So populations of birds, such as the bald eagle, were in decline. But Rachel Carson’s book helped stop the use of DDT and bring back bird populations. In 1957 Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer and lived only two years after the publication of Silent Spring to witness just the beginnings of the movements caused by her written work.

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