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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring

Just by chance I came upon a flier for a new play based on the life of Rachael Carson who was the author of "Silent Spring". This was a book written and published in the USA in 1962 which caused a rethink in the use of toxic chemicals as pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in agriculture. It has been compared for its impact on history with Adam Smith's , The wealth of Nations and Charles Darwin's , The origin of the species.
Carson was born a hundred years ago this year and the play is a celebration of her major part in controlling the use of chemicals in this way. Here is a link to a web site dedicated to the play and Carson.

A few short extracts to the book give the flavour of its dramatic tale:

Chapter 1 A Fable for Tomorrow.

"There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings" We like to think such towns and villages still exist here in Somerset. "The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields." ***********
" Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community: mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens; the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was a shadow of death."***********

A page further on she wrote:

" This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterparts in America and elsewhere. I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe. Yet everyone of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have actually suffered a substantial number of them. A grim spectre has crept up on us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we shall all know.
What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America? This book is an attempt to explain."

These extracts are taken from a Penguin Books edition of " Silent Spring" Published in 1995 and reprinted many times since.
The story told is still relevant today not only in terms of taoxic chemicals but because of GM crop experiments.

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