Monday, March 28, 2011

Research Paper on Silent Spring

Research Paper on Silent Spring

Chapter 1 - A Fable for Tomorrow
Rachel Carson begins her book Silent Spring by telling a story of a town in the heart of America. She describes the town as being very beautiful and full of life. The spring time of this town is the nicest time of the year and many people enjoy experiencing it. She starts off by describing the town as perfect as it can be, and then begins to pick away at its beauty by introducing harmful components that damage the environment. This story never really happened. Instead, it is just describes what has or will happen to the United States and the world to a much smaller scale. This book will try to explain what has silenced the spring of many towns in America.

Chapter 2 - The Obligation to Endure
This chapter begins with a very important line that I thought stood out. "The history of life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings." I think that this is true because as humans, in order to survive we need to take from all aspects of the environment to provide us with our essentials. Carson brings up an important aspect of our interaction between us and the environment. She states that for the most part, the way we live has been modeled by the environment. Only recently in history have we influenced and modeled the environment. It is primarily the people who have caused this to change. She states that the worst "assault" that we as humans have done to the environment is the contamination of different aspects of the environment such as the air, soil, and water with chemicals and lethal materials. The worst result of the usage of the chemicals is that once they are released upon the earth, they can not be removed. She states that the chemicals can stay in our soil and effect all different kinds of organism causing a domino effect of death. These chemicals can also pass through are waters and be evaporated into our air. They spread throughout our environment without the average person knowing what is going on. Carson also explains how earth can balance itself with harmful materials, it's just the process of life. However, she believes that people have tampered with this process and have given no time for the environment to balance itself. "Unlike the natural process of chemicals coming into the world where the earth takes millions of years to adjust to it, there is no such time for the earth to adjust to every synthetic chemical introduced into the world." Carson goes on to talk about new chemicals and what they are used for. She states that there are 500 new chemicals introduced to us each year. These chemicals are used for things in nature that seem to hinder the human race. They can include insect killers and pest killers. They can be found in almost any home, business, and farm. "These things should be called 'biocides' instead of 'insecticides' because they kill all living things, not just insects." The use of these chemicals can cause what we now call a "Flareback." This is when an animal or insect becomes immune to the power of the chemical causing a more deadly and powerful chemical to be produced. She also brings up a concern with the idea of chemicals and heritage. She believes that when the chemicals enter a human, plant, or animal, it can alter the very genes of the creature to cause change in heritage. She believes that it is are own fault that the insect problem has increased over the years. One major fact that she brings up is the plant product we have imported into our country. It is said that over 200,000 plants have been introduced into the United States that carry all sorts of insects with them. She believes that instead of spraying massive amounts of chemicals around the U.S., we should learn about the insect and their plants and try to promote a "healthy balance." This chapter is Carson's way of showing us the concern of the use of chemicals in the United States. She does not truly hate the usage of chemicals, she just believes that they are being used in the wrong way and by the wrong people. This chapter helps us see the history behind the insects and chemicals used against them.


Chapter 3 - Elixirs of Death
This chapter begins with Carson explaining how chemicals have affected many of us in one way or another. She explains how the demand for these chemicals have been increasing after certain periods for different uses. She states that most insect killing chemicals were evolved from chemical warfare testing. She explains how synthetic pesticides not only attack the surface but enter the body attack different enzymes that protect the body. This is were the idea of how chemicals can cause cancer. One chemical that Carson goes over in this chapter is arsenic. This organic chemical is used in most weed and insect killers. It is a tasteless chemical that has been used to kill humans in the past. It has been used over the past as crop killer for farmers. She states that farmers who have used this chemical have been reported to become sick and some die. Even so, it is still used in many houses around the United States and the world. She says that these organic chemicals are very dangerous, but synthetic chemicals are even more harmful. She then goes on to explain the famous chemical DDT. This chemical is based on the carbon atom (DDT is short for dichloro-diphenyl-trichloror-ethane). It was created in 1874 but was not truly used as a chemical until 1939. DDT was used during the war to help kill the lice on soldiers. It was sprayed across there bodies, and killed the lice while not getting the soldiers sick. Many believed that this chemical was not harmful to humans. When the chemical was put on the bodies, the fat cells would store it. When tested on animals, DDT would cause harm to different aspects of the animals. In some cases, a heart enzyme was destroyed along with liver cells. She explains that people have a fare amount of DDT in them through a system in which the can transfer itself. IT can spread through food chains in farms.Another set of chemicals that are explained in this chapter are chlorinated naphthalenes. These chemicals have been found in workers who make their place in electronic and agricultural fields. They are known to cause hepatitis and other forms of liver disease. They have also been know to kill humans and some forms of cattle. The three most poisonous forms of this chemical are dieldrin, aldrin, and endrin. IT was stated that the dieldrin form is almost 40 times as strong as DDT and cause people to go into convulsions. Even with the strength that it has, it is still one of the most wildly used insecticide across the world. Some who have manually used these chemicals have died. The aldrin form has also caused many problems when it has been used. It damages the liver and kidneys and can sometimes cause sterility. Of the the three, endrin is the most toxic of all. It is about five times as strong as dieldrin. Carson explains one case where a young child was severely injured by the spraying of this chemical. Another group of pesticides are organic phosphates. They were first developed in the 1930's by the German government for uses of war. These insecticides also attack the enzymes of any organism. One of these chemicals that is widely used is Parathion. It can cause death to a human in a short time but was still used across the United States at that time. In this chapter, Carson gives an explanation of the many used chemicals around the world. In some parts of the chapter, I was lost in the whole "scientific explanations" of each, but was still getting the point. She wanted people to know the harmful effects of the chemicals that are used every day.

Chapter 4 - Surface Water and Underground Seas
This chapter explains the problems with our earth's water. Carson goes on to explain that it is our most important resource to us. She explains how our waters are becoming less and less available to us. Even though water covers the majority of our earth, most of it is salt water, and more and more is becoming contaminated and polluted. This pollution comes in many ways. It comes from radioactive wastes, from nuclear explosions, from domestic waste, and from chemical sprays. We know that polluting the waters is bad, but it is more convenient to do so for us. This chapter is Carson's way of telling us how selfish we really are. In many areas, chemicals are being used just like insecticides. They are dumped in water to kill of unwanted fish, plants, and organisms. Others just find there way into the waters though the cycle of life (like though soil and rain). The chemicals that are used inland can seep though the ground and travel by streams and rivers into bigger bodies of water like lakes and oceans. She goes on to explain many areas in which massive amounts of insecticides and other chemicals have been found. She gives many examples of how in some areas there were chemicals meltdowns and areas miles away were affected. This is because of the underground system of water transferring. She also explains the spread of chemicals through different life forms in water. Her one example included Clear Lake where chemicals were used to kill gnats in the area. Soon, people of the area began to notice a certain bird beginning to die out. It was found out later that the birds were dying because they ate the fish that were in the lake. The chemical had spread from life form to life form damaging organisms not intentionally planned. She then goes on about the politics of cleaning agencies and the how they deal with problems like the one at Clear Lake.

Chapter 5 - Realms of the Soil
In this chapter, Carson explains the problems with our soil on earth. She also believes that soil is a very important part for our existence on this planet. Without soil, we would have no plants for us and other animals to eat probably not allowing use to be able to survive. She explains how soil has been created over time through the emission of acids on rocks, nothing to important. She says that the soil is constantly changing because many living things inhabit it. She also says that many new matter is added to the soil while other matter is taken away. She goes on to explain how the smallest things in the soil are the most important like bacteria, fungi, and algae. She says that these three components are very important because they create decay. This is when they break dead things down into their component minerals. Carson then begins to talk about the importance of the earthworm and how it helps keep the soil in rotation to keep it fresh. Carson uses the begging of this chapter to show the importance of all the creatures in the soil of the earth. She then begins to start talking about the dark side of pesticides and chemicals. When these pollutants are dumped into the earth, they hinder the soil to complete certain life cycles. One of these cycles she talks about is nitrification. The insecticides that are put into the soil mess up the very balance of all the living creatures that make life in it. She goes on to say that the chemicals that are put into the soil have been known to stay in the soil for up to twelve years. She uses the example of arsenic on tobacco plants to show the how the chemical stays in the soil. Even if plants that have grown in the contaminated soil are removed, the soil will stay contaminated and continue to set birth to new contaminated plants.

Chapter 6 - Earth's Green Mantle
This chapter takes a turn and talks about the green portion of the earth. Carson makes a good point by saying that plants connect with all different parts of our earth. They connect with soil, animals, plants themselves, and humans. So using chemicals on weeds and plants would mean that a lot of interactions could be harmed. One example that Carson uses to show the relationship between plants and the surrounding earth is with the sagebrush lands of the west. Cattle owners wanted to destroy all the sage with chemicals to make grassy lands instead. Along with killing the sage, other animals that have adapted the way they lived based on the amounts of sage will not be able make a living anymore and eventually die in the end. The chemicals sprayed on the sage would also kill other surrounding plants leaving more destruction. Many other areas are sprayed in the United States with multiple herbicides that kill targeted plants. Carson goes into detail about roadside destruction of beautiful plants by herbicides. She also talks about how a normal plant has been dubbed the name "weed" because chemical companies want to sell their product no matter what the plant. These companies use the herbicides 2,4D, 2,4,and 5-T. These herbicides are considered safe, but they have been known to cause severe neuritis and even paralysis in people using them. They also have been shown to damage chromosomes. When eaten, these contaminated plants have also know to cause metabolic problems in animals and livestock. She also talks about how the chemicals when sprayed on that plants damage the soil when released into the ground by the plant. While seeming like nothing is happening on the outside, herbicides can cause damage to the surrounding earth.

Chapter 7 - Needless Havoc
In this chapter, Carson tries to tell the reader that true loses that insecticides bring upon earth and life itself. This chapter helps sort two different stories of the truths of insecticides. Each story is by two different types of groups: those who are against the usage of chemicals (biologists and scientists) and those who agent the companies that use the chemicals. The conservationists the chemicals have caused severe damage and things will only get worse if nothing is done. They say that animal and plant life have been been subject to many lethal obstacles. On the other hand, the companies that run the chemicals say that their product only does what it says it does: kill the target that it says it will kill. Carson goes on to say what happens when a certain area is hit or sprayed. When this happens, all the life will most likely become infected by the chemical that is sprayed. She uses the example of the Japanese Beetle in Michigan. Almost 30,000 acres were to be sprayed with the chemical Aldrin that I mentioned earlier. Aldrin was used because it was the strongest and cheapest. The plan went on and pellets of the chemical fell on people, animals, houses, and crops. For the most part, life went on with no problems. Then days later, many birds and other animals began to die suddenly while others became suddenly sick. Then people started to become sick and the city just told them that the symptoms were from something else. This "covering up" of the truth also happened in many other cities including Sheldon, Illinois and other towns of Illinois. This chapter allows Carson to show her readers that insecticide companies should not always be listened to for what they want to do might not be what is expected.

Chapter 8 - And No Birds Sing
Hence the name of the chapter, this part of the book deals with the relationship between birds and the chemicals I have been talking about. Carson begins by stating the fact that more and more birds are disappearing throughout the United States. During the time of this book, she talks about how many complaints from different parts of the country were starting to be developed. In such states as Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, people were reporting the drop in the number of bird sightings in places where they usually were seen. The disappearance of the birds have been licked back to usage of insecticides again. IN some areas, disease carried by bugs were eating away at different types of trees. In order to stop the spread of the disease, insecticides were sprayed among the infected areas to kill the bugs. The birds would then eat the contaminated bugs and therefore become contaminated themselves and eventually die. Another case included the usage of the chemical DDT, once again. When certain trees were sprayed with this chemical, the leaves of the trees would become contaminated. When they eventually fell in the fall, earthworms would eat them. Then, not only would birds eat the worms, but also small animals such as raccoons and hawks. This creates a problem in the circle of life as Carson explained. Since the chemicals were killing of the birds, the birds could no longer eat away bugs that were harmful to us (not directly to us, but things like eating away are gardens and trees). Since the trees of the community seemed to be the biggest part or contributor to the spraying of insecticides (because they hold the bugs that need to be killed), Carson believed that an easy solution to stop the spreading of bugs was to not plant the same tree in massive amounts. If only a certain bug can eat a certain tree, then only those trees can be affected. If more of a variety of trees were planted then the bugs could not migrate from tree to tree and increase there population. In this chapter, she tries to show the reader, seeming small, the birds can play an important part with the environment and therefore should be protected from insecticides.

Chapter 9 - Rivers of Death
Carson begins this chapter by explaining the paths that salmon fish take every year to return to their place of birth. She starts by using the example from Miriamichi River were salmon return every year to lay eggs. Carson explains it to be one of the most finest streams for salmon in North America. She states that the new-born salmon eat the insects that inhabit the water of the River. This river was also home to an insect called the bud worm. This worm was becoming increasingly populated during that time and the Canadian Government wanted to get rid of it. To do so, they sprayed DDT on thousands of acres of land to attempt to kill it off. Along with the acres of land being sprayed, so were the rivers. It was severely damaged killing of many insects and many fish. The DDT killed the insects of the river and therefore leaving thousands of fish without food. The whole environment of the river had been altered from plant life to animal life. However, the bud worm's population increased making it a total failure. This example shows that dangers of spraying rivers because it can cause a chain reaction of destruction to occur. Other examples were giving in this chapter of similar occurrences. Carson goes on to explain that the chemicals used in these sprayings, scientists don't really know what the future will hold. They may know the initial attack of the chemical, but they can't predict what will happen when these chemicals enter streams and underground water systems and mix with other chemicals. It is just on to much of a large scale. Time is precious, and as long as people know that the chemicals can do what they say, the future goes not really matter at that time.

Chapter 10 - Indiscriminately From the Skies
This chapter deals with the usage of insecticides that are sprayed form airplanes. She states that the spraying has increased heavily during her time. She also says that people have seemed to worry less about the increase because they feel as though they have become safe over time. This chapter starts by giving two insects that have called for major spraying in the states. One is the gypsy moth in the northern states and the fire ant in the southern states. The gypsy moth was introduced into the states in the 1860's and began to increase in population. It was contained temporarily by importing certain predators. Then in 1956, they decided to wipe out the moth using chemical techniques. It was decided that DDT would be sprayed in all areas including densely populated ones. The spraying included all farm land, people, housing, and cattle. Reports of crop failure was huge and wildlife was also severely hurt. There were also reports that huge amounts of DDT were found in cattle products (such as milk) and in vegetables. Like cases before, many aspects of life were hurt, but the main problem, the gypsy moth, was not hurt at all. It was the same deal for the fire ant. Agencies reported that they were a threat to human productivity and needed to be dealt with. Chemicals stronger than DDT were sprayed in areas causing massive deaths and infertility in cattle. Carson's main point that she tries to get across are the fact that the aerial campaigns against thought-to-be-threats are very expensive, damaging, and ineffective.

Chapter 11 - Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias
Carson takes a step down from the large-scale destruction of aerial spraying and massive chemical attacks, and talks about the individual in this chapter. She states that people are subject to daily chemical poisoning in small dosses (I would like to know how true this still stands today). She goes into the very details of household appliances and necessities. This chapter was, I feel, more intended to put some questions in the brains of the average daily housekeeper, not a biologist. Carson talks about many things that don't seem to be much of a threat to the everyday person. Things such as bug sprays, lotions, paints and varnishes, and even a pocket-sized insecticide dispenser are mentioned to help show the everyday dangers we encounter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture even encourages the use of insecticides in the home, urging people to spray their clothing with oil solutions of DDT, Dieldrin, Chlordane and other moth killers. In the garden, many products that were sold in stores were very lethal to people. Only until some cases of death, was something done to stop it. Carson also explains in one situation were a person applied such chemicals as Chlordane and Dieldrin to the lawn by use of an attachment to the garden hose. This method can hurt the person applying the chemicals and it can also lead to poisoning of the public water supply because of the underground water systems talked about earlier. One physician used this method to apply DDT to his lawn weekly. Suddenly, he became severely debilitated. Tests showed an accumulation of 23 parts per million of DDT in his fatty tissues. She then goes into the camisoles found in our diet. Back during the time of the book, many animals were contaminated with residues of chlorinated hydrocarbons. When the meat was eaten, the chemicals were entered into our body. Carson finally writes a chapter not about water, land, or animals, but about humans, She goes into the details that the reader probably has been wondering about since he bought the book.

Chapter 12 - The Human Price
This chapter starts our with Carson explaining the new age of health problems, the old age being health problems such as smallpox, cholera, and plague and the new age being the hazards of chemical poisoning. Things such as the water we drink, the air we breath, and the food we eat, have all come under concern at this point. Carson goes into detail that are still unclear to me. She talks about how the chemicals may not seem to be damaging at one point but over time hurt the body. She goes into details about how the chemicals are stored in the body's fatty tissue and released with stress related issues. She also talks about the chlorinated hydrocarbon chemicals that effect the liver over time. When these chemicals effect the liver and damage it, the liver can no longer detoxify the body of other chemicals and therefore cannot protect the body. The two major types of insecticides talked about earlier greatly effect the nervous system. Some tests on animals and humans have been done in the past to help prove this theory. Carson then goes into more detail, causing some confusion for me, about how chemicals are harmless when in the body alone, but can evolve into something more serious when mixed with another. THis chapter is more on the side of medical and scientific terminology that was confusing and many points. I think that she is trying to make the reader feel as though we as humans are not subject to immunity from the chemicals that we unless on the rest of the world.

Chapter 13 - Through a Narrow Window
For me, this was probably the most challenging chapter. Carson goes into fine detail of the cells of the body because she feels to understand the true effects of the chemicals, we need to go deeper than just the outside. She starts to explain the process of the cell. She states that energy is produced by the cells of an organism from a transformation of matter. Each step that is made to make this energy is controlled by a different enzyme. When this energy is produced, the cells release waist. She then goes into details about how Mitochondria are packs of enzymes that are necessary to this process that I am not to sure what she is talking about. She then starts talking about the development of energy called ATP. Then it loses some phosphate groups to evolve onto ADP (this is were I begin to get confused). I have gotten out of this that is ATP is lossed, then different parts of the body are effected. She then loses me again when she talks about mitosis and cell radiation. All I know is that the usage of chemical poisoning effects all the process talked about in the cell. Overall I am still confused on this chapter and will wait for class discussion for future reference.

Chapter 14 - One in Every Four
This chapter deals with the human fight against cancer. Carson begins by sayaing that the battle of cancer had "began so long ago thats its origin is lost in time." One thing that I read that I did not know and seemed interesting was that Carson stated people were the first species to creat canser-casuing agents. One thing mentioned was that soot was a carcinigion. Other cancers began to show their faces after the descovery of the cancer from soot in the 1770's. One interesting fact that was brought up was that in 1900, only four percent of deaths were by cancer. Then by 1959, that number had risen to fifteen percent. It was also stated that cancer was the leading cause of death among school children in the mid-century. After some history in cancer, Carson starts to put cancer and chemcials togther. When the poisonous chemicals were tested on animals, most of them developed some kind of cancer. One of the earliest chemical known to cause cancer in the human body is arsenic. She gives an example from a town were their drinking water was contaminated with arsnic. On to another note, Carson tells the reader about how the FDA tests chemiclas for cancer-causing agents. It is sometimes hard to test for these things becuase certain cancer will not show up in a persons body for up to fifteen years after exposure. One example that Carson gives us is when a woman who hated spiders decided to srpay her house with a form of DDT. Soon after she did that, she began to felt sick. When her symptoms left, she sprayed again. This time her symptoms got worse and needed to go to a hospitle. She was later diagnosed with leukimia, the most common cancer from chemcials. In the past, many who have used some kind of chemical poison or insectisied have always been known to develop leukimia. Carson then goes into cell mutation from radiation or poisons. When it divides irregularly, a malignant cancer could develop. It is also true that the chemcials in the body can damage vital organs and parts that are essentail to fighting against cancers.

Chapter 15 - Nature Fights Back
In this chapter, Carson talks about how nature is responding to our attempts to change it. She begins to talk about how insects are adapting to the insecticides that are being used to against them. She goes into the theory of natural selection. This means that they are becoming to survive the chemicals being used on them. Their immune systems are outsmarting the poisons that once almost killed them. The poisons that were used to kill the insects also harmed the predators that are supposed to keep them in check by nature. And also, the insects that they thought had killed, returned after time. Carson's main argument in this chapter is that the poisonous chemicals used have upset the balance of nature itself. Chemical control proponents overlook two key facts of nature. First, nature applies the most effective control of insects. Second, insects have an explosive capacity to reproduce once they have adapted to chemical control methods. Carson goes on and talks about human attempts to break the balance of nature. She gives example of the coyote, the deer predators, and insects. She talks about how at first the idea seemed to work, but in the end there was some kind of backfire that made every effort pointless. Carson then goes to talk about the impact of insects and how scientists say they make up 70 to 80 percent of the earth's creatures. She then talks about the importance of insect predators and how that should be the natural way of keeping things balanced. She believes that is people would just sit back and study what happens when nature takes care of itself, many of our problems would be solved.

Chapter 16 - The Rumblings of an Avalanche
This chapter starts off by Carson giving insects the credit of survival. She begins by saying that if Darwin were still around today, his theory of survival of the fittest could not fit more perfect. Through the years of chemical spraying against insects, their species have ditched the weak and reproduced the strongest to form a more power arsenal and an even bigger threat. She says that it is known for a fact that insects have become resistant to sprays. At the highest time of spraying, Carson states that new chemicals were needed to be produced every couple of months to help deal with the resistance. Now a days, all the chemicals needed to get rid of the strong breed of disease carrying insects are in some way a danger to human health. One example of the resistance that Carson gives is the attack on houseflies after WWII. During the war, DDT was used to help kill the insects, so it was later used at the house. When the insects were finally able to resist the chemical, another one one was added to the mixture to help make it stronger. Then the insect would become resistant to that chemical and another one would have to be added, making the mixture stronger and stronger. This happened year after year until The flies became abundant as a result.

Chapter 17 - The Other Road
"As a society, we have two answers to the problem of insect control. The first, chemical poisons, has proven already to be costly, ineffective, and extremely, lastingly dangerous. The second, biological controls, has proven already to be cheap, effective, and safe for humans and non-pest animals and insects." Carson says that biological controls are the best of the two because they do not interrupt the balance and rules of nature. By using natural controls, such as predators, nothing in the environment is damaged or harmed. She says that people look past the importance of insects, and just want to kill them all bemuse they cant see the truth behind what they were put on the earth to do. In this chapter, Carson ends with new ways of biological control instead of chemical control on insects. On method is the sterilization method. The sterilized males would compete with the normal males and after a while, only infertile eggs would be produced and the population would die out. Many tests have been done throughout the world to help make this method a full proof plan. The only problem is that chemicals used in the process of developing this method could be worse than the insecticides themselves. However, if proper care is taken, it should not pose a problem. Chemical sterilants are of two main kinds. One interferes with the metabolism of the cells of insects. The second affects the genes, causing the chromosomes to break up. Some people believe that this use of these chemicals could lead to new carcinogens. New methods of using the insects to our advantage are also in process. Using things such as the insect's scents and sounds can be used to our advantage in wiping out large breeds.

Another method of destroying populations of insects includes destruction by bacterial infection and by parasites. Talks of introducing insect viruses are also in the works. Introducing more and more predators in a small area will also have a huge impact on insect population. Predators such as spiders, birds, and small animals will kill or eat many insects in their lifetimes. Carson ends the book by saying some words of wisdom. She spent the whole book talking about the negatives of chemical usage. She feels that the human as one species of the world should not try to control nature, but instead just let it take its course like it has since the beginning of time.

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