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Rachel Carson's Silent Spring Education Essay (Essay Sample)


This course is about Biology&Plants.
Part 1 and Part 2 are connected.
Watch the documentary "Rachel Carson's Silent Spring":
!! I do not have access to the video, open the "transcript.doc" file to see the video transcript. Thanks!
Answer the following questions:
1. What are pesticides? What are the benefits of pesticides? How and why was the pesticide DDT used during World War II?
2. Explain in your own words how Rachael Carson and her book Silent Spring are relevant in today's world even though the book was published nearly 50 years ago.
3. In your own words describe what Rachel Carson refers to as "the balance of nature."
Read the news "Pesticide seed coatings" (file attached):
Answer the following questions:
1. In your opinion, how does this news story connect to the issues presented in the Rachel Carson documentary?
2. Use the internet to find information on a class of pesticides called “neonicotinoids.”
a): Briefly describe how this pesticide works, i.e. what does it do to the insect specifically (don’t just tell me that it kills them!).
b): Describe how this pesticide could have a negative impact on pollinators.




Pesticide seed coatings are widespread but underreported


Sara LaJeunesse


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pesticide-coated seeds — such as neonicotinoids, many of which are highly toxic to both pest and beneficial insects — are increasingly used in the major field crops, but are underreported, in part, because farmers often do not know what pesticides are on their seeds, according to an international team of researchers. The lack of data may complicate efforts to evaluate the value of different pest management strategies, while also protecting human health and the environment.


Researchers reviewed existing evidence, as well as proprietary and novel government data, on seed treatment usage and found that many farmers either did not know what pesticides were on their seeds or falsely assumed that seed treatments did not include certain pesticides. IMAGE: ALYSSA COLLINS

“We reviewed existing evidence, as well as proprietary and novel government data, on seed treatment usage and found that many farmers either did not know what pesticides were on their seeds or falsely assumed that seed treatments did not include certain pesticides,” said Paul Esker, assistant professor of epidemiology and crop pathology, Penn State. “This lack of knowledge could lead to overuse of pesticides, which could harm the environment and farmers’ health.”

The team analyzed proprietary data from Kynetec, a third-party global marketing and research firm that maintains one of the most comprehensive datasets on pesticide use in the United States, collected from 2004-2014. They found that the use of seed treatments in the U.S. grew over the past decade, particularly in corn and soybean production. In the 2012 to 2014 period, 90% of corn acres and 76% of soybean acres were grown with treated seeds. Of the insecticides applied to seeds, neonicotinoids accounted for roughly 80%.

Next, the researchers analyzed farmers’ responses to questions about pesticide-coated seeds documented in the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) — the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary source of information on the production practices, resource use, and economic well-being of America’s farms and ranches. Specifically, they examined farmer responses to the ARMS for cotton in 2015, corn in 2016, wheat in 2017 and soybean in 2018.

They found that around 98% of farmers were able to provide the names of the field-applied pesticides used on their cotton, corn, wheat or soybean crops. By contrast, only 84% of cotton growers, 65% of corn growers, 62% of soybean growers, 57% of winter wheat growers and 43% of spring wheat growers could provide the name of the seed-treatment product on their crops. The rest either did not answer the survey question or specified that they did not know.

The researchers also found that, in 2015, cotton growers reported that 13% of total acreage was not treated with an insecticide and 19% was not treated with a fungicide, while simultaneously reporting the use of products containing those types of pesticides on that acreage.

The results appear today (March 17) in the journal BioScience.

“One of the most important findings of this study is that farmers know less about pesticides applied to their seeds than pesticides applied in other ways,” said Margaret Douglas, assistant professor of environmental studies, Dickinson College. “This is likely because seed is often sold with a ‘default’ treatment that contains a mix of different pesticide active ingredients, and the treated seed is exempt from some labeling requirements. Without knowing what is on their seeds, it is nearly impossible for farmers to tailor pesticide use to production and environmental goals.”

According to the study’s lead author Claudia Hitaj, research and technology associate, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, the lack of information on the use of pesticidal seed treatments means that a significant portion of pesticide use, particularly for active ingredients that are applied almost exclusively as seed treatments, is not captured in existing pesticide-use datasets.

“Reliable data on pesticide use is needed by regulators, farmers and researchers to increase agricultural production and profitability and to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of pesticides,” she said.

By comparing the data Kynetec collected during the 2004-14 window to that collected in 2015, when Kynetec stopped offering information on seed treatments, the team found a significant drop in pesticide use for a number of pesticides known to be used as seed treatments. The researchers used clothianidin as an example of what can happen as a result of poor tracking of pesticide-treated seed use.

“The removal of data on treated seed makes clothianidin use appear to drop from more than 1.5 million kg/year in 2014 to less than a tenth of a million kg/year in 2015,” said Aimee Code, pesticide program director, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Clothianidin is currently undergoing review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so the lost data makes it difficult to ensure accurate risk assessment.”

The team concluded that farmers, researchers and regulators could benefit from improved labeling of pesticide-treated seeds and posting of information about the active ingredients contained in treated seed products on public websites. In addition, information could be collected through sales data from seed retailers and other companies. And information about the planting location of treated seeds could help in assessing pest resistance and the local effects of pesticides on the environment.

“The lack of knowledge by farmers about the pesticides applied to seed is an example of why it is important to maintain a strong university extension system that can provide up-to-date information about different seed treatments, what these treatments do, and what the empirical data shows,” said Esker. “This is also an opportunity for further collaboration among different disciplines, like agronomy, plant pathology, entomology, economics and environmental science, to address farm issues from a whole-system perspective.”

Other authors on the paper include David Smith, former economist, Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Seth Wechsler, agricultural economist, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture supported this research.





00:00:00Be more 

00:00:00UNKNOWN Help everyone explore new worlds and ideas. Support your PBS station. 



00:00:10UNKNOWN DDT - it was cheap, effective and we loved it. 

00:00:15DR. ROBERT WHITE-STEVENS The real threat to the survival of man is biological, in the shape of hoards of insects. 

00:00:20UNKNOWN But one woman challenged the way we looked at chemicals and nature, giving us a new vision of the future. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring tonight on The American Experience. 

00:00:30The American Experience 


00:01:20The American Experience 

00:01:20with David McCullough 

00:01:25presented by 

00:01:25WGBH/Boston, WNET/New York 

00:01:25and KCET/Los Angeles 

00:01:30DAVID MCCULLOUGH Good evening and welcome to The American Experience. I’m David McCullough. It’s happened many times - a book - a single book has changed American life, changed our history, the book itself became an event in the American experience. There was Uncle Tom’s cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – "the little woman who started the civil war," as Lincoln said. In 1906, a book called The Jungle by Upton Sinclair awakened the country to the horrors of the Chicago stockyard, and in less than six months Congress passed the first pure food law. Closer to our own time came Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed with its shattering indictment of American automobiles. Tonight’s story is about one of the most important of all such books – this one, Silent Spring – and its brave unlikely author Rachel Carson. It was not Rachel Carson who discovered the deadly impact of pesticides on the natural world, nor was she the first to write about it, but when she did, it was both as a scientist and as a writer of exceptional power. She began her landmark work in the 1950s, when for a woman to speak with any authority in science was extremely rare. And remember too, she was on her own, with no university or institutional backing. Yet no universities or institutions, no politicians, not television or the newspapers sounded the alarm as she did. Rachel Carson changed our lives, changed how we think about the world and our place in it. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. 


00:03:20ALEX CHADWICK Pesticides had become a way of life in post-war America, and by 1955, the country was being treated with more than 600 million pounds a year. But in 1962, the chemical industry, the government and agribusiness were accused of poisoning the environment in a book called Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson. 

00:03:40RACHEL CARSON Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called insecticides but biocides. 

00:04:00ALEX CHADWICK Rachel Carson painted a nightmare vision of the future. Silent Spring polarized the nation and the ensuing controversy changed the course of history. 

00:04:10Stewart L. Udall 

00:04:10Former Secretary of the Interior 

00:04:10STEWART L. UDALL A great book has a flow to it and it changes people’s minds, it changes their outlook, and it has a long reach. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is still affecting our thinking and our policymaking today. The essence of Rachel’s message was that we had to come to terms with nature and work with it and not against it. In a complex modern society, of course that was a very radical concept, but in the sense of a change in our thought, I think she was revolutionary. 

00:04:55Rachel Carson’s 

00:04:55Silent Spring 

00:05:00Readings by 

00:05:00Meryl Streep 

00:05:05ALEX CHADWICK Silent Spring was a terrifying exposé and it’s crusading author was quickly swept into the public eye. 

00:05:15RACHEL CARSON "The reporter continued, ‘No one in either county farm office who was talked to today had read the book, but all disapproved of it heartily.’" 


00:05:30ALEX CHADWICK Rachel Carson was no stranger to fame. In 1951, her book ‘ The Sea Around Us’ had won universal respect. It made the New York Times Best Seller list for 86 straight weeks – a new record. "Once or twice in a generation", wrote one reviewer, "does the world get a physical scientist with literary genius. Ms. Carson has written a classic." All of her writing grew from a fascination with the natural world that she first found as a child in western Pennsylvania. Rachel was introduced to nature by her mother. It was a world with which she made an immediate and lifelong bond. 


00:06:20ALEX CHADWICK She had always wanted to be a writer, and by the age of 10, she was already making her own books. 

00:06:25MERYL STREEP The Little Brown House. Once upon a time, two little wrens were hunting a little house to set up housekeeping. All at once they saw a dear little brown house with a green roof. 

00:06:35Voice of Jeanne V. Davis 

00:06:35Former Colleague 

00:06:35JEANNE V. DAVIS Everything about the miracle of nature was her religion. She had lot of unhappiness in her life, but I think that her love of nature kept her sane and sweet. 

00:06:55ALEX CHADWICK She believed in herself as much as she believed in nature. 

00:07:00MERYL STREEP I am an idealist. I may never come to a full realization of my dreams. But a man’s reach must exceed his grasp. Or what’s the heaven for? 

00:07:10ALEX CHADWICK In the 1920s, women were not encouraged to be scientists. But at Pennsylvania College for Women, Carson decided to be a biologist. It was an unconventional choice, but she was determined. She earned a master’s degree in zoology at Johns Hopkins. In the early ‘30s, she taught college biology and spent one summer researching marine biology at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It seemed for a while that she had found her life’s work in pure science, but it was not to be. 

00:07:45Shirley Briggs 

00:07:45Former Colleague 

00:07:45SHIRLEY BRIGGS Her family had been in very reduced circumstances for years and quite a struggle to put her through college even. At that point, the family was her mother, her father, her sister Marian, who’d been divorced, and Marian’s two little girls. And in rather short order, within a year, her father and her sister died. So, there was Rachel and her mother and the two little girls, which is why Rachel didn’t go on to get a doctorate, I’m sure. She had to support the family. 

00:08:20ALEX CHADWICK It was 1936, the middle of the depression, and Carson needed a steady job. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was hiring biologist, and she went to work for them at a salary of $2,000 a year. 

00:08:35SHIRLEY BRIGGS Rachel was one of the first two women ever hired at a professional level in the service. When I first met Rachel, she was assistant editor for the service. We all brought our lunch and would eat it in the office and we also made tea illegally in the closet in the afternoon. There was very strange sound for a government building, people laughing hilariously. There was a lot of laughter in that office. 

00:09:05ALEX CHADWICK Bob Hines, a colleague and illustrator remembers going on collecting trips with Rachel Carson. 

00:09:15BOB HINES From the tide pools in Maine, where the water is pretty cold, she would pull these specimens out and put them in a bucket, and we’d take them back to the cottage that she had rented, and I’d draw them, and then when I’m finished, she’d put them back in the bucket. Then we took them back and released them in the same spot from which we had taken them. And it didn’t matter whether it was morning, noon, night or midnight, we had to go back and drop them back in their own little homes. And that was a good idea. 

00:09:45ALEX CHADWICK She moved up in the Fish and Wildlife Service as a science writer and researcher. In 1941, she wrote her first book – Under The Sea-Wind. Those who read it recognized a great talent and a powerful new voice for conservation. Carson expressed her beliefs when she became Editor-in-Chief of all fish and wildlife service publications after World War II. 

00:10:15MERYL STREEP The preservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat means also the preservation of the basic resources of the earth, which men as well as animals must have in order to live. 

00:10:25ALEX CHADWICK In 1951, ’The Sea Around Us’ gave readers a fresh and compelling understanding of the natural world and their place within it. In spite of her fame as an author, the public knew very little about her. 

00:10:40SHIRLEY BRIGGS They did not put her picture on the jacket of ’The Sea Around Us’ and people would meet her and their faces would fall, Rachel was a… was a small, delicate, pretty lady. And they said, "You’re not at all the way I imagined you!" I did a painting actually of Rachel as the readers imagined her, this great Junius figure out in a… and was by the sea, on a cliff, in a storm, clutching an octopus. 

00:11:10MERYL STREEP People often seem surprised that a woman should have written a book about the sea. This is especially true I find of men. Then, even if they accept my sex, some people are further surprised to find that I am not an over-sized Amazon-type woman. I can offer no excuse for not being what people expect. 

00:11:35Jeanne V. Davis 

00:11:35Former Colleague 

00:11:35JEANNE V. DAVIS She was a feminist before her time. And I think she had to fight against the bureaucracy when she was in the Fish and Wildlife Service. She’d worked with men a lot and she got along well with them. But she really fought for anything that she believed in and she didn’t let anyone push her around. She had enemies, because she didn’t compromise very easily. She spoke her mind and was rather blunt at times. 

00:12:10ALEX CHADWICK After Carson’s third book about the sea, one of the nieces she had raised died, leaving a four-year-old orphan son. At the age of 48, Rachel adopted the boy, Roger Christie. 

00:12:25Roger Christie 

00:12:25ROGER CHRISTIE I never forgot that I had another mother who was a real mother, but, you know, Rachel was my mother too, after my mother died. We would spend a lot of time in the beach obviously. She would find something interesting and call me over and then, "Here, look at this." She was a great one for getting down and peering under the rocks. She was very concerned about keeping alive a sense of wonder in children. It was more imparting a philosophy in a way of looking at things. 


00:13:10ALEX CHADWICK The success of ‘The Sea Around Us’ had given Rachel Carson enough financial security to quit her job. She built one house in Maine and another one in suburban Maryland where she settled in with her mother and young Roger. Carson’s life was comfortable, but her thinking was radical for the time. In ‘The Sea Around Us’ she railed against what she saw as the heedless arrogance of man. 

00:13:35MERYL STREEP He has subdued and plundered the continents. In the artificial world of his cities and towns, he often forgets the true nature of his planet in which the existence of the race of men has occupied a mere moment of time. 

00:13:50ALEX CHADWICK Her concern was not shared by many. One biologist remembers the direction that most of the country was taking. 

00:13:55Roland C. Clement 

00:13:55Former V.P., National Audubon Society 

00:13:55ROLAND C. CLEMENT Remember that we had been benefiting from about 50 years of a gung-ho technological development. Right after World War II, for example, especially, we went into a binge in developing new technologies. 

00:14:15ALEX CHADWICK One of these was chemicals. It had spawned a giant industrial complex and it gave us a bewildering variety of plastics, drugs, lubricants, fertilizers, and among the most important of all, pesticides – poisonous chemicals that kill pests such as blights and parasites or insects that destroy crops and carry disease. The most famous pesticide at the time was DDT. It had saved millions of lives at World War II by preventing the spread of disease. It was cheap, effective and apparently safe. 

00:14:55Dr. John L. George 


00:14:55DR. JOHN L. GEORGE It was a military secret during the war. It was smuggled in from Switzerland. It’d been sitting there for 50 or 100 years, but nobody had ever tried it on insects. And they found that it was a very potent chemical for killing certain insects. I’m told that World War II was a first war in which more people were killed by enemy (inaudible) than by diseases. 

00:15:20Dr. Thomas Jukes 


00:15:20DR. THOMAS JUKES The terrible disease in warfare is typhus fever. And it has been said to have ended most wars, because in the final stages of the war troops developed typhus fever from body lice. But in World War II, DDT spraying killed the lice and typhus fever was stopped. 

00:15:40ALEX CHADWICK The United States faced a different kind of plague, insects that annually ravaged its farms. Following the war, DDT and other pesticides were put to civilian use on a massive scale. They worked wonders and production exploded. Synthetic pesticides were like miracle drugs, or so almost everyone thought, but a storm was brewing. 


00:16:15Prof. Robert Rudd 

00:16:15Zoologist, U.C. Davis 

00:16:15PROF. ROBERT RUDD In world at large this was the only country that began to say, "Hey, wait a minute, there might be something here that isn’t quite as advertised." Some people were actually worried about it and the Fish and Wildlife Service was one. And the center of activity at that time in terms of the research being done was Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland. 

00:16:35ALEX CHADWICK At Patuxent, near Carson’s home, her colleagues had been investigating the impact of pesticides. As early as 1945, she had tried to get the Reader’s Digest interested in an article about these tests. 

00:16:50MERYL STREEP Practically at my backdoor, here in Maryland, an experiment of more than ordinary interest is going on. The experiment show what other effects DDT may have if applied to wide areas, whether it may upset the whole delicate balance of nature if unwisely used. 

00:17:05ALEX CHADWICK The magazine turned her down. But over the years evidence was mounting that some pesticides were deadly to wildlife. 

00:17:15DR. JOHN L. GEORGE We found that some strange things were happening. For example, people came in to us in the late ‘50s and said, "You know, there aren’t many eagles left around here and they’re not reproducing." And other people came in and said, well, same thing with the falcons. 

00:17:30RONALD C. CLEMENT The chemists and the agriculturalists knew that DDT killed insects. They didn’t know why. They didn’t ask why. It was enough that they killed insects. It seemed to be enough for them. They should have been more curious, but they were not. They were practical people and they went to work. 

00:17:50ALEX CHADWICK From 1945 to 1955, annual pesticide use on farms went from 125 million pounds to over 600 million. Soon government agencies began treating even the suburbs with DDT. 

00:18:05RONALD C. CLEMENT People thought it was a good thing, because they got action in solving a problem as they conceived it. They were, for example, complaining about mosquitoes. And if the spray truck came down the street, they were told to just stay indoors for a few minutes and everything would be all right. So, you had the government endorsing a product and you had the chemical industry pushing it very aggressively. 



00:18:35PROF. ROBERT RUDD There was a development program going on within the corporate system saying, "Well, everybody is good, but a lot more is much better, isn’t it?" 

00:18:45ALEX CHADWICK Public Health Department staged demonstrations to convince the public of DDTs effectiveness and safety. Enthusiasm for the chemical knew no bounds and few were questioning the wisdom of such use. Public places and private backyards were being treated whether people liked it or not. In 1957, planes sprayed a Massachusetts bird sanctuary owned by Olga Huckins, a friend of Carson’s. In fury and desperation, Huckins told her what had happened. The birds showed all the symptoms typical of DDT poisoning. Huckins knew that the planes would be back in spite of her protests. She asked Carson for help. Carson later remembered how the thought of a spring silent of bird song had moved her to action. 

00:19:35MERYL STREEP It was your personal letter to me that started it all. In it, you told what happened and begged me to find someone in Washington who could help. It was in the course of finding that someone that I realized I must write the book. 

00:19:55ROLAND C. CLEMENT The ornithologist, Robert Cushman Murphy, of the American Museum of Natural History sued the USDA to prevent the use of DDT and controlling the gypsy moth on Long Island. He lost his case on technicalities, but obviously there was a lot of concern before Rachel Carson came along. 

00:20:15ALEX CHADWICK Carson studied the trial records and found that they were full of chilling evidence of the dangers of pesticides. She wrote her literary agent of the first inklings of a powerful idea. 

00:20:30MERYL STREEP Having finally struck pay dirt, I feel I should do an article. I’m sending along a somewhat haphazard memorandum which does incorporate a few of the horrifying facts about what is happening through the mass application of insecticides. 

00:20:45SHIRLEY BRIGGS She tried to get articles in things like the Reader’s Digest or other leading magazines. Nobody would touch it. (inaudible) had advertisers to worry about, I suppose, and it was a disagreeable controversial subject and, oh no. 

00:21:00ALEX CHADWICK Carson’s dire warning was that by poisoning nature people were ultimately poisoning each other and subverting, what she considered, a fundamental right to a healthy environment. 

00:21:10MERYL STREEP If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers could conceive of no such problem. 


00:21:35PAUL BROOKS Pesticides certainly wasn’t an obvious subject for a successful book. On the other hand, Rachel was dealing with a subject that we all felt was important. 

00:21:45ALEX CHADWICK Paul Brooks, Editor-in-Chief at Houghton Mifflin, had been in on the project from the beginning. 

00:21:55PAUL BROOKS No, I don’t claim that we do this book was going to have the impact it did, but it was obviously something in the tradition of Houghton Mifflin publishing by an author whom we had liked and who’d published successfully and whom we encouraged to do a book on this subject. So, there was no doubt on anybody’s mind about her taking it on. 

00:22:20MERYL STREEP The whole thing is so explosive and the pressure on the other side so powerful and so enormous that I feel it far wiser to keep my… 

00:22:25ALEX CHADWICK Carson would be attacking a powerful well-organized industry. Her case would have to be airtight. Persuaded by the evidence that she had uncovered, she set out on a crusade. Late in 1958, she wrote to Paul Brooks. 

00:22:40MERYL STREEP Broad conceptions will reveal the futility and the basic wrongness of the present chemical program even better than ranting against it, though I shall rant a little too. 

00:22:50ALEX CHADWICK She had to absorb an overwhelming amount of data. She was working alone and desperately needed help. She wrote to Brooks with good news about a new assistant. 

00:23:00MERYL STREEP I was extremely lucky to stumble upon a secretary who has an incredibly right background. If I had set out to make someone up, I could hardly have done better. 

00:23:10JEANNE V. DAVIS When I met her, she told me she was Rachel Carson and I was so stunned, because there she was, you know, the author of ‘The Sea Around Us’. So she told me that she had a contract and was supposed to have the manuscript in by the 1st of January, and she wasn’t anywhere near ready. She felt very bogged down by these masses of materials and trying to keep track of them. 

00:23:45SHIRLEY BRIGGS Many people in universities or government agencies or even industry who were on her side were very helpful, but they had to do it extremely carefully. This man later said he thought the most useful thing he’d done in his whole career was slip stuff to Rachel Carson when she was writing the book. 

00:24:00ALEX CHADWICK Carson was outraged to discover within the government a pervasive attitude of secretiveness and denial. One field worker wrote, "The USDA representatives have consistently downgraded the biologist’s findings on damage to fish and wildlife. They have refused to give me information saying, no significant wildlife damage occurs." John George found the Department of Agriculture reluctant to publish methods of safe pesticide disposal. 

00:24:30DR. JOHN L. GEORGE Well, the administrators didn’t want to bring out any information along these lines, because it might leave the impression that pesticides were dangerous if you’ve got to be careful at how you got rid of them. 

00:24:45ROLAND C. CLEMENT I was up against industry and agricultural experiment station personnel, who insisted that the way they use these chemicals, they did no harm and that the people who insisted otherwise were either misled or being paranoid. 

00:25:05SHIRLEY BRIGGS Some people, she quoted in the book, lost their jobs were quickly. You didn’t speak up against the establishment on this. Even for such innocent things as saying, "No, we do better with the germ disease if we don’t spray the trees, we just clean them up." That man lost his job. 

00:25:25ALEX CHADWICK The book was beginning to take shape, and Carson wrote to Paul Brooks. 

00:25:30MERYL STREEP All the pieces of an extremely complex jigsaw puzzle are at last falling into place. It is now possible to build up a really damning case. 

00:25:40ALEX CHADWICK Carson attacked what she saw as a heavy-handed public-be-damned attitude behind certain government programs. 

00:25:50DR. JOHN L. GEORGE There was a mindset against insects. They really focused on the bad ones without realizing, I expect, ecologically the vast majority of control of insects is by other insects. And you see, the moment you step in and play god with a chemical, you can get into some real problems. You just can’t eradicate an insect with a chemical. I think you got to be a little more imaginative than that. 

00:26:20MERYL STREEP They sprayed truck gardens and dairy farms, fish ponds and salt marshes, showering insecticide over children at play. A Quarter horse drank from a trough in a field which the planes had sprayed. Ten hours later it was dead. 

00:26:35DR. JOHN L. GEORGE See, all the big programs prior to that were largely federal lands. This was a big federal program that began to treat private lands including farmlands. And all of a sudden their milk was contaminated and the farmers couldn’t sell their milk. And people were worried about their wildlife. It just led to a clamor. 

00:27:00ALEX CHADWICK Carson attacked the government for exaggerating the threat of insects like the fire ant. 

00:27:05MERYL STREEP During most of the 40 odd years since its arrival in the United States, the fire ant seems to have attracted little attention. With the development of chemicals of broad lethal powers, there came a sudden change in the official attitude toward the fire ant. 

00:27:20FIRE ANT 

00:27:25ON TRIAL 

00:27:25Department of Agriculture film 

00:27:25UNKNOWN Human beings have lived with and have battled insects for many centuries. Now the war is between man and the imported fire ant. 

00:27:40ALEX CHADWICK Fire ant mounds could interfere with farm machinery, but the insect itself was only a nuisance. The government however, insisted it was a serious menace, in need of eradication. 

00:27:50DR. JOHN L. GEORGE This was a favorite word - eradication. And Congress bought this, you know, because, boy, if you eradiate it, I think, you don’t have to worry about it again. 

00:28:00ALEX CHADWICK Dieldrin was one of the most effective pesticides, but it was 40 times more toxic than DDT. Even so millions of pounds of Dieldrin were spread in the deep South by the Department of Agriculture. 

00:28:15MERYL STREEP Urgent protests were made. The protests were ignored. A million acres were treated the first year. The Agriculture Department brushed away all evidence of damage as exaggerated and misleading. 

00:28:25DR. JOHN L. GEORGE I’m out in a field in Georgia with a control entomologist and Dieldrin was three inches thick on this meadow - horses, cattle, sheep, mules, roosters, cats, dogs, everything had died in that particular area. And this person is saying, no effect. 

00:28:50MERYL STREEP Who has the right to decide that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be a sterile world ungrazed by the curving wing of a bird in flight. The decision is that of the authoritarian, temporarily entrusted with power. 

00:29:10JEANNE V. DAVIS She used to write a lot at night. She’ll write till two or 3 o’clock and then sleep late in the morning. And she’d ask me to type it for her. And then she would start cutting and patching and adding to it and taking out. We worked hand and glove together. Whatever had to be done, she did or I did. And here I was getting a preview of a great book that was evolving sort of from the depths of creation. 

00:29:40ALEX CHADWICK Carson was appalled by how easy it was to get deadly chemicals. One colleague’s experience with a pesticide TEPP is recalled by John George. 

00:29:50DR. JOHN L. GEORGE TEPP is really the refined essence of the German nerve gases. It’s a very powerful compound. This was a 4 ounce bottle of 40% TEPP that he had purchased in Washington, DC on a grocery store shelf. Now, this stuff is so potent that if that bottle had dropped, broken and it had splashed on the leg of whoever dropped it, he’d be dead. There wouldn’t be any doubt about it. Just dermal toxicity would have killed him. Today, we use some of the refined essence of those compounds in agriculture. But any farmer that uses it gets trained today, and he goes out looking like he’s going to go to the moon, you know, he’s protected. But the average housewife or a gardener may not have all these protections. 

00:30:45MERYL STREEP Some seven million pounds of Parathion are now applied to fields and orchards of the United States. The amount used on California farms alone could, according to one medical authority, provide a lethal doze for five to ten times the whole world’s population. 

00:31:05ALEX CHADWICK It was 1960, Carson had been working without let up on the book for two years, and it had grown from six chapters to 17. 

00:31:15Paul Brooks 

00:31:15Former Editor-in-Chief 

00:31:15Houghton Mifflin 

00:31:15PAUL BROOKS Writing really became pretty hard to Rachel. She often said it was a lonely business. When she’d gotten into a subject and finally she felt that the subject was taking it over from her, herself, then she knew that she was getting somewhere. 

00:31:35MERYL STREEP For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals from the moment of conception until death. The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of philosophy when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man. It is our misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern weapons, and that in turning them against the insects, it has also turned them against the earth. 


00:32:15JEANNE V. DAVIS In the five years I was intimately a part of her life, I don’t think she ever went to a concert or a movie partly because of her health. 

00:32:25SHIRLEY BRIGGS I knew her for 19 years. I think in almost every year she had some illness that disrupted her work. 

00:32:40ALEX CHADWICK By March of 1960, a first draft of the book was finished, but she had developed an ulcer and a series of other ailments. A visit to her doctor brought chilling news. She wrote her close friend, Marjorie Spock. 

00:32:55MERYL STREEP There were two tumors in the left breast. One was benign, the other suspicious enough to require a radical mastectomy. I’m giving details to special friends like you. Somehow I have no wish to read of my ailments in literary gossip columns. Too much comfort to the chemical companies. 

00:33:15JEANNE V. DAVIS She was unbelievably brave. I just still marvel that she got that book written, because some new complication would come up. It seemed almost every week she’d have a new problem with iritis in her eyes or rheumatism. She was in pain, I think, all the time. And I used to drive her to the hospital twice a week for radiation treatments, which were very hard on her, and she lost lot of hair and had to get a wig. It was terrible to go through it with her. 

00:34:00MERYL STREEP I was as ill as I’ve ever been in my life. I had to be taken to the hospital to complete the second course of radiation for the tumor. I have been having cortisone injections for the arthritis. 

00:34:15PAUL BROOKS She thought that this was pretty overwhelming and am I going to manage to do it? And there were days when she actually couldn’t write at all. And… But she had that determination. 

00:34:35MERYL STREEP The only good thing in all this is that the long time away from close contact with the book may have given me a broader perspective. Now I’m trying to find ways to write it all more simply. 


00:34:50ALEX CHADWICK One colleague wrote to her:"You are rendering a tremendous public service, yet I warn you that you are going to be subjected to ridicule and condemnation. Facts will not stand in the way of some confirmed pest control workers." 

00:35:05MERYL STREEP I guess all that sustains me is a serene inner conviction that when the book is done it is going to be built on an unshakable foundation. 

00:35:15JEANNE V. DAVIS I think she loved every word she wrote. You know, it’s like somebody with a glorious voice, an opera singer. She enjoys that voice and is glad that god blessed her with. And I think that’s the way Rachel felt about writing. 

00:35:30ALEX CHADWICK The New Yorker magazine was going to print exerts in the spring of 1962, the book would appear on the fall. When the magazine’s editor told her he had read the final manuscript at one sitting unable to put it down, Carson wrote to her friend Dorothy Freeman. 

00:35:50MERYL STREEP I knew from his reaction that my message would get across. I played the Beethoven violin concerto and suddenly the tension of four years was broken and I let the tears come. The thoughts of all the birds and other creatures and all the loveliness that is in nature came to me with such a surge of deep happiness that now I had done what I could, now it had its own life. 


00:36:45PROF. ROBERT RUDD There is not anyone being on earth who doesn’t have some element of this emotional beauty in an environment. What she was doing was adding a dimension to a technical argument. She introduced something which one of the scientist presumably not supposed to do, and that is to recognize the emotionality in people. 

00:37:10ALEX CHADWICK The New Yorker articles aroused both fear and anger. It was clear Rachel Carson had called into question the integrity of the entire pesticide industry. Velsicol, one of the largest chemical companies, claimed Carson had lied about two of its products. 

00:37:30SHIRLEY BRIGGS The Velsicol company tried to stop her from printing the Silent Spring with this blast on trying 4to prove it’s inaccurate and that anyone who was opposed to pesticide was a tool of the communist menace. 

00:37:45PAUL BROOKS This letter from Velsicol was obviously a threat to stop publication, if we went ahead with it. They had also made a similar threat to the New Yorker on the basis of the three sections that the New Yorker had already published. And we and The New Yorker, both told them that the facts had been checked and that we were going to go ahead. 

00:38:15DR. JOHN L. GEORGE The Secretary, Udall, of Interior, at the time, he was impressed by it. And I got the pleasant message from the Secretary, "Would I document every statement that she had made?" And, of course, I could have done that, but I was able to wiggle out of it by saying, "Mr. Secretary, she is going to publish a book and everything will be documented in the book." 

00:38:40STEWART L. UDALL There were people, scientists, in my department concerned about DDT and pesticides. But I can assure you, when I became Secretary of Interior, their voices were in the background and they didn’t have the attention of policymakers. 

00:39:00ALEX CHADWICK But the subject of pesticide overuse came up at an August news conference held by President Kennedy. 

00:39:05UNKNOWN Have you considered asking the Department of Agriculture or the Public Health Service to take a closer look at this? 

00:39:10JOHN F. KENNEDY Yes, and I know that they already are. I think particularly, of course, since Ms. Carson’s book, but they are examining the matter. 

00:39:20ALEX CHADWICK The New Yorker exerts had primed the public. When the book was published on September 14th, the Consumer Union had already ordered 60,000 copies. Within two weeks it was a Best Seller. 

00:39:35STEWART L. UDALL I remember a conversation with President Kennedy where he brought this subject up. And, you know, he had a very quick mind and… But getting it into the consciousness of the President, getting action in the White House was very important. I had the good sense to take the advice of my people and champion Rachel from the… almost from the beginning, because we saw that that was our mission, and that she in effect giving us a new charge. But the… the chemical people, the chemical industry, the agribusiness people, they began speaking up, and you had an effect to pitch battle. 

00:40:20SHIRLEY BRIGGS Any possible anger was going to be used to discredit her. She was a hysterical woman. She… She was a bird lover or something. 

00:40:30STEWART L. UDALL They tried to clobber her, beat her down with the weight of their opinions, and… and some of them were distinguished men. 

00:40:40PAUL BROOKS It was attacked by the American Medical Association. It was attacked by Monsanto, who said in effect that we were turning the world over to the insects. But the lowest of all was when she talked about the effect of all this on future generations and this person came out and said, "Well, she’s a spinster. What she know about future generations?" 

00:41:10JEANNE V. DAVIS The chemical companies were really searching for some way to bring her down by proving that she was hysterical and didn’t know what she was talking about. She wasn’t a trained chemist. 

00:41:25PAUL BROOKS Their trade association had assigned quarter of a million dollars just to fight this one book. The result of this was it was (inaudible) more publicity (inaudible) nothing could ever (inaudible) advertising. We never had anything remotely like this kind of attack and it backfired very much to her advantage. 

00:41:55ALEX CHADWICK Some of the harshest attacks on Carson came from industry scientists such as Dr. Robert White-Stevens of American Cyanamid. 


00:42:05DR. ROBERT WHITE-STEVENS The major claims in Ms. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring are gross distortions of the actual facts, completely unsupported by scientific experimental evidence and general practical experience in the field. The real threat, then, to the survival of man is not chemical but biological, in the shape of hoards of insects that can denude our forests, sweep over our croplands. 

00:42:30DR. THOMAS JUKES He was a very eloquent person, a great speaker. And he did most of the talking, I did most of the writing, I guess. 


00:42:40DR. ROBERT WHITE-STEVENS Although there are a number of scientific errors, misquotations and obvious misinterpretations in her book, it must be admitted that much of her material is, in part, at least, scientifically accurate. The area of disagreement between Ms. Carson and students of Applied Agricultural Chemistry however, will lie in her clearly misplaced emphasis. 

00:43:00DR. THOMAS JUKES Once you turned the Silent Spring, she became very vindictive and very inaccurate and very selective in what she presented, and it was that that I took issue with. One of the bad things about the book was it made people terrified of pesticide residues in foods, on that day to this day, even though the residues are not even present. There was great value to bring in the public into these debates, but the public have to be supplied with authentic information, and we felt that Silent Spring had not done that. 

00:43:35RONALD C. CLEMENT This is the kind of tug of war that we are exposed to in the beginning of a public controversy. And nobody knows the real answer. Everybody stakes out a claim and we argue with the best we can. 

00:43:50JEANNE V. DAVIS As far as Rachel was concerned, I don’t think there was another side of the story. I think she was, you know, so convinced that we were destroying the earth with the careless use of pesticides that there was no room for doubt. 

00:44:10ALEX CHADWICK Sales soared. The book went into second and third printings. It was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Before the end of the year Robert White-Stevens had given 28 speeches and pesticide bills were introduced in 40 state legislatures. 

00:44:30ROGER CHRISTIE I was probably 11 when Silent Spring was actually published. So, things were very black and white to me. You know, Rachel was the good guy and anybody that was attacking her was the… were the black cats. We collected all the cartoons, you know, the editorial cartoons and that sort of thing and… There was a whole lot of commotion. You know, the CBS people came and did an interview at her house in Maryland. 

00:45:00Eric Sevareid 

00:45:00CBS Reports 

00:45:00ALEX CHADWICK Carson was weak from continuous radiation therapy. She made few public appearances, but agreed to be in a CBS report about the controversy. The program’s producer was Jay McMullen. 

00:45:10JAY MCMULLEN About two weeks before the broadcast, the network came out with its publicity about what was the broadcast all about and who was going to be on it and all of that. Two very interesting things happened. We got more than a thousand letters, which was an astonishing amount of mail, never had that much mail before a broadcast went on the air. First of all, they were all mimeograph. They all said the same thing. In essence, look, be fair about this issue. I thought they were from the chemical industry, but I could be dead wrong about that. Now, the second thing that happened was that the two major sponsors of the program pulled out. They said the program was a… was not the kind of showplace they wanted for their product. I imagined that most of the public and certainly most of the… our audience for the Silent Spring of Rachel Carson had never seen or heard Rachel Carson speak before. 

00:46:15RACHEL CARSON We’ve heard the benefits of pesticides. We have heard a great deal about their safety, but very little about the hazards, very little about the failures, the inefficiencies, and yet the public was being asked to accept these chemicals, was being asked to acquiesce in their use and did not have the whole picture. So, I set about to remedy the balance there. 

00:46:50JAY MCMULLEN Dr. Robert White-Stevens was eloquent all the way through. He was never at a loss for words. He wasn’t embarrassed for his industry. 

00:47:00DR. ROBERT WHITE-STEVENS The crux, the fulcrum over which the argument chiefly rests, is that Ms. Carson maintains that the balance of nature is a major force in the survival of man, whereas the modern chemist, the modern biologist, the modern scientist believes that man is steadily controlling nature. 

00:47:25RACHEL CARSON Now, to these people apparently the balance of nature was something that was repealed as soon as man came on the scene. Well, you might just as well assume that you could repeal the law of gravity. The balance of nature i s built of a series of interrelationships between living things, and between living things and their environment. 

00:47:55ALEX CHADWICK The day following the broadcast, Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut announced that the Senate would hold hearings on pesticide use. 

00:48:00ABRAHAM RIBICOFF If it weren’t for Rachel Carson, I never would have had those hearings. I was not aware of the extent and the importance of the problem she raised. It became important that this was an area that government had a responsibility of determining what to do about it, because no one else was going to do it. 

00:48:25ALEX CHADWICK Carson knew that the only way to bring about lasting change was to encourage government to take a leadership role. 

00:48:30RACHEL CARSON First, I hope this committee will give serious consideration to a much neglected problem that of the right of the citizen to be secure in his own home against the intrusion of poisons applied by other persons. I speak not as a lawyer but as a biologist and as a human being, but I strongly feel that this is or should be one of the basic human rights. 

00:48:55ABRAHAM RIBICOFF I’ve always known philosophically that one who believes is a majority, because most people don’t believe in anything, and here was a person that really believed and was right. See, what people don’t understand is that Rachel Carson wasn’t for the complete outlawing of pesticides or chemicals to help agriculture. Her point of view was that it was over-abused, that it wasn’t used properly, it wasn’t under control. 

00:49:35ALEX CHADWICK During these hearings, the President’s Science Advisory Committee released its report. It vindicated Carson’s warning and ended with this conclusion:Until the publication of "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson, people were generally unaware of the toxicity of pesticides. But Silent Spring transcended the pesticide issue and forced people to think about the environment in a new way. 

00:50:05STEWART L. UDALL The thing that was predominant and upfront, when I became Secretary of Interior, was the emergence of the atomic age, of the atom changing our lives, of the conquest of nature, of technology as being the great thing that was going to change the world and change our lives, and the natural world was pushed into the background. I think Rachel Carson brought it out of the dark corner and put it up front and challenged all of us to say, well, can you really ignore nature? If you think of her as a revolutionary, it’s rather startling. But in the sense of a change in our thought, I think she was revolutionary. 

00:51:00ALEX CHADWICK She had drawn desperate pieces of evidence into a cohesive hole and had made a powerful case for the interconnectedness of all life. She had given dramatic meaning to an unfamiliar word, Ecology. She was showered with critical acclaim. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters - one of only four women in a membership of 50. Silent Spring was translated into 22 languages. In the summer of 1963, Carson went to Maine where she could be near the sea and her closest friends - Stan and Dorothy Freeman. 

00:51:40JEANNE V. DAVIS The Freemans were jovial people anyway. I think that’s when Rachel came alive, when she was with the Freemans and up there in Maine. Rachel told Dorothy that she knew it was her last summer and she knew that she would never see monarch butterflies again, because they always migrate in the fall and she said, "I won’t be here to see them in the spring when they come back." And she wrote a beautiful letter to Dorothy. 

00:52:15MERYL STREEP This is a post-script to our morning at Newagen. Most of all I shall remember the monarchs, that unhurried drift of one small winged form after another, each drawn by some invisible force. Did they return? We thought not. When any living thing has come to the end of its cycle, we accept that end as natural. For the monarch, that cycle is measured in a known span of months. For ourselves, the measure is, something else, the span of which we cannot know. When that intangible cycle has run its course, it is a natural and not unhappy thing that a life comes to its end. 

00:53:05ALEX CHADWICK Rachel Carson died two years after Silent Spring was published. She never thought that one book could make a difference, but within a decade, sweeping environmental laws were enacted. She has been called "the fountainhead of the modern environmental movement." As one writer observed, "A few thousand words from Rachel Carson, and the world, took a new direction." 

00:53:35As the world seeks to address environmental issues, more people are reading Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring" than at any time before. 


00:55:10UNKNOWN Major funding for this series is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the financial support of viewers like you. 




Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
Part 1
According to the documentary, pesticides are chemicals that are used to control pests, particularly in large scale agriculture. Pesticides are essential because they control dangerous pests and can enhance agricultural productivity. During the Second World War, pesticides DDT was used to stop the spread of typhus fever, which was believed to be caused by lice. DDT was discovered as an effective contact poison against numerous arthropods ADDIN CSL_CITATION {"citationItems":[{"id":"ITEM-1","itemData":{"author":[{"dropping-particle":"","family":"Carson","given":"Rachel","non-dropping-particle":"","parse-names":false,"suffix":""}],"id":"ITEM-1","issued":{"date-parts":[["2019"]]},"publisher":"PBS","title":"Silent Spring","type":"motion_picture"},"uris":[""]}],"mendeley":{"formattedCitation":"(Carson, 2019)","plainTextFormattedCitation":"(Carson, 2019)","previouslyFormattedCitation":"(Carson, 2019)"},"properties":{"noteIndex":0},"schema":""}(Carson, 2019).

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