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Silent Spring
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Silent Spring, released in 1962, offered the first shattering look at widespread ecological degradation and touched off an environmental awareness that still exists. Rachel Carson's book focused on the poisons from insecticides, weed killers, and other common products as well as the use of sprays in agriculture, a practice that led to dangerous chemicals to the food source. Carson argued that those chemicals were more dangerous than radiation and that for the first time in history, humans were exposed to chemicals that stayed in their systems from birth to death. Presented with thorough documentation, the book opened more than a few eyes about the dangers of the modern world and stands today as a landmark work.

First published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.?"Silent Spring became a runaway bestseller, with international reverberations . . . [It is] well crafted, fearless and succinct . . . Even if she had not inspired a generation of activists, Carson would prevail as one of the greatest nature writers in American letters" (Peter Matthiessen, for?Time"s 100 Most Influential People of the Century). This fortieth anniversary edition celebrates Rachel Carson"s watershed book with a new introduction by the author and activist Terry Tempest Williams and a new afterword by the acclaimed Rachel Carson biographer Linda Lear, who tells the story of Carson"s courageous defense of her truths in the face of ruthless assault from the chemical industry in the year following the publication of Silent Spring and before her untimely death in 1964.

Customer Reviews:

  • Passionate, but discredited and deadly.
    This is a remarkable book, because it paved the way for the needless deaths of millions of people. This book was largely responsible for the assault on DDT, and the restrictions and bans on DDT that followed (which were based on passion and fear, and in the absence of evidence). DDT is the principal tool in the fight against malaria. Estimates now place the number of *unnecessary* (ie, preventable) human deaths by malaria between 30 and 60 million people. The New York Times writes: "Humans are far better off exposed to DDT than exposted to malaria." As Dr. Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health said, there "has never been a documented case of human illness or death in the US as a result of the standard and accepted use of pesticides." The British medical journal The Lancet has looked for a DDT connection for 40 years and a significant health threat from DDT has yet to be found. In 1996, South Africa stopped using DDT and malaria increased 10 times. Unfortunately they did not reverse their decision until 2000, after the deaths of millions more. A book with disasterous results to human life--because the writer was creative and imaginative and riding the wave of an ideology. Yet, to this day, it is highly rated by readers who cling to that ideology. Post Script: The World Health Organization recently reversed its previous ban on DDT and now recommends it as a highly effective and safe way of fighting malaria. So world opinion is finally starting to correct itself. But it's amazing how pockets of passionate illogic can influence public opinion for so long. ...more info
  • This book has killed millions of people
    Cherry-picking facts to present misleading statistical pictures outside of their context is reprehensible at best. Science is not about agendas; it's about getting after the truth. Ideas have consequences, as do dangerous, ideological movements supported by faulty and incomplete data.

    Carson's argument that DDT resulted in a spike of cancer deaths among children may have caught the attention of the US government, but she ignored that child cancer deaths only increased relative to other fatal ailments because the incidences of other child killers--such as infectious diseases--were shrinking rapidly. Her praises were sung nevertheless; DDT was effectively banned by the EPA in 1972, and we now know the rest. Between 1945 and 1965, DDT saved nearly 500 million lives, killing the mosquitoes that spread malaria. Since the 1970s, however, tens of millions of children have died due to the banning of DDT.

    Carson claimed to be fighting for the children. The irony of her impact therefore is especially macabre. The picture gets even sicker when one honestly looks at the evidence--there is still, to this day, absolutely zero evidence that DDT causes cancer. That people still applaud this book is both disturbing and laughable. ...more info
  • Bad customer service
    I will never order from NorAm Partners again. I ordered this book on Jan 30 for a class that I was taking. The book did not arrive until Feb 25, leaving me with only 6 days to finish and critque the entire book. I live in Chicago, the book was shipping from MA, I'm not sure how it possibly took over a month to go this distance. When I began inquiring as to the status of my order (2 wks after I placed the order), I received a canned email response back, stating it was on its way. A week later, I sent another email asking where it was, same EXACT canned response. When the book finally arrived, it was in good condition, so at least I had that going for me. ...more info
  • didn't like it
    I have bought used book in good condition before , but it was not like others, it is a wavy book, even it was so before mailing or it became so during the mailing process, I didn't like that!...more info
  • Factual Repitition
    We understand the importance of this book, 42 years ago. But, with the environmental education put in place today, the book lacks impact on the reader. Although the -many- facts given were very educational, and astonishing, they seemed too abundant, and too plentiful around facts, rather than relation to the environment.
    The ongoing occurances back then, are not specifically ongoing now, which means less corrolation to our modern day habitats, regardless of facts, though. Silent Spring was an easy read, and very persuasive and truthful in nature, but, however, the over-use of facts in the book, suffocated it's impact.
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  • Still as important today
    Too many people who read Carson's book dismiss her work because it was published, afterall, in 1962. We Americans like to think that these problems have been solved, these chemicals eradicated. But they have not. DDT is banned from domestic use in the US because of Silent Spring, but it is still produced -only now it is just sold to other countries for use. Think of that. Where do your fruits and veggies come from? And an alarming number of chemicals Carson names are still perfectly legal (and toxic) in the US today.

    It is true that Carson made some factual mistakes, but they were not made out of ignorance or a willingness to mislead. They were made because scientists now (thanks to Carson) have studied the subject more in-depth and have greater knowledge about the effects. And Carson got a disturbing number of facts correct. Anyone who labels this book "junk science" is clearly not paying attention. 50 pages of meticulous notes, and a manuscript signed off on by several of the time's top ecologists and biologists. Carson's book did the best it could in the situation and for the time.

    This is an important book because the American public needs to be reawakened to these problems. Too many of us do feel many changes have been made, when in reality, we lag far behind places like Western Europe. The reality is: We live in a toxic world. I think everyone needs Carson to remind them of that....more info
  • Silent Spring?
    In 1962, while still in college, I received, as a member of the Book-of-the-Month Club, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Company, c. 1962). It opened my eyes to something I'd never considered: environmental destruction. It made me, rather abruptly, an environmentalist! I decided to re-read Silent Spring, and coincidentally noticed a remark in a magazine saying no one actually reads Carson's book these days. In part this is due to the fact that many of her "scientific" assertions never had merit. Indeed, her alarms regarding DDT, leading to its banning (and the resultant deaths of millions of Africans), amount to one of the great tragedies of the past century.
    Carson launched her work with a quotation from Albert Schweitzer: "Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth." That's her fear. She herself was losing a battle with the cancer which killed her when she wrote the book, and she feared the earth, as well as she, might die, poisoned by pesticides. She feared the chemical flood we've unleashed since WWII might overwhelm the delicate biological networks which sustain life on earth. "The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible" (p. 6).
    We've done this, Carson argued, primarily to eliminate a few alleged "pests"--insects and weeds which annoy us. In fact, few of these "pests" pose significant threat to human survival or welfare, and in our effort to eliminate them we failed to understand three important facts: 1) the insects and weeds we try to destroy rapidly adapt to the poisons and thenceforth prove even graver threats; 2) the broadside spraying of chemicals kills good as well as bad creatures--thus the natural predators which kept populations balanced were often wiped out along with pollinating insects like bees which are necessary for plant life; 3) poisonous substances, such as DDT and DDD, though initially applied in small amounts, concentrate as they move up the food chain and remain permanently imbedded in certain tissues (fatty tissues in mammals, for example).
    Carson described the kinds of chemicals (she calls them biocides) which are most widely used in pesticides and herbicides, enabling non-scientists like myself to comprehend their composition and lethal power. Then she illustrates how these chemicals, mainly used in agriculture, flow into surface waters and leech into ground water. We're increasingly aware of water shortages, legal water wars between states such as Arizona and California, and poor water quality. I suspect Carson's still accurate in saying: "In the entire water-pollution problem, there is probably nothing more disturbing than the threat of widespread contamination of groundwater" (p. 42).
    She illustrates the crisis with the case of Clear Lake, California, 90 miles north of San Francisco. A good lake for fishing, it was also plagued by a gnat, annoying but not harmful to humans. In the late 1940's, DDD was applied at a ratio of one part per 70 million parts of water. The gnats quickly recovered, however, so in 1954 another spraying was done, this time at the ratio of one part per 50 million, followed by a third application in three years. Some noticed that many of the western (or swan) grebe began dying, and fatty tissues in the birds were found to contain 1600 parts per million of the poison. By 1960, of the original 1000 pairs of nesting grebe, only 30 remained. The gnats endured, as much a nuisance as ever; the birds, however, perished.
    "Silent spring," of course warns of the disappearance of birds like the grebe. Massive amounts of herbicides and pesticides have been applied, unsuccessfully trying to deal with problems such as Dutch Elm Disease, only to end up killing songbirds such as robins. Dumped into streams and rivers, such "biocides" kill fish. And, ultimately, they also kill men and women who eat the fish. Carson explains, with consummate literary skill, the life of cells and the oxidizing wonders of tiny mitochondria within them, showing how they sustain life. Toxic chemicals, however, interrupt normal cell life and provoke abnormal reactions and growth.
    Much has changed since Carson published her treatise. Savagely attacked at first, her agenda, if not her research, has succeeded. Her concerns have encouraged others to continue her work, and toxics are no longer used as recklessly as they were in her time. This book endures as more of a classic literary work than a scientific work, a book which will be read in coming generations because it alerted us to a momentous problem and illustrated how science can be written so as to engage the popular mind.

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