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Readings: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life–a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways. These extraordinary capacities of life have been ignored by the practitioners of chemical control who have brought to their task no “high-minded orientation,” no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper.
The “control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man. The concepts and practices of applied entomology for the most part date from that Stone Age of science. It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth. [Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Mariner, 2002) 297.]

What a truly remarkable and relevant book this is! Not only because it started the eco movement and is a canonical classic but also because it is still relevant today as the tendencies and the state of mind of people today–the age of globalization and of genetic engineering–is similar to the state of mind of the proponents of chemical control in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, described at the end of Carson’s book (cf. above).

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