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Silent Spring, Rachel Carson

"What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America? This book is an attempt to explain."


"Of all our natural resources water has become the most precious. By far the greater part of the earth's surface is covered by its enveloping seas, yet in the midst of this plenty we are in want. By a strange paradox, most of the earth's abundant water is not usable for agriculture, industry, or human consumption because of its heavy load of sea salts, and so most of the world's population is either experiencing or is threatened with critical shortages. In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference."

p. 50

"Over increasingly large area of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song. The sudden silencing of the song of birds, this obliteration of the colour and beauty and interest they lend to our world have come about swiftly, insidiously, and unnoticed by those whose communities are as yet unaffected."

p. 100

"In each of these situations, one turns away to ponder the question: Who has made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings, this ever-widening wave of death that spreads out, like ripples when a pebble is dropped into a still pond? Who has placed in one pan of the scales the leaves that might have been eaten by the beetles and in the other the pitiful heaps of many-hued feathers, the lifeless remains of the birds that fell before the unselective bludgeon of insecticidal poisons? Who has decided - who has the right to decide - for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power; he has made it during a moment of inattention by millions to whom beauty and the ordered world of nature still have a meaning that is deep and imperative."

p. 121

"In some quarters nowadays it is fashionable to dismiss the balance of nature as a state of affairs that prevailed in an earlier, simpler world - a state that has now been so thoroughly upset assumption, but as a chart for a course of action it is highly dangerous. The balance of nature is not the same today as in Pleistocene times, but it is still there: a complex, precise, and highly integrated system of relationships between living things which cannot safely be ignored any more than the law of gravity can be defied with impunity by a man perched on the edge of a cliff. The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment. Man, too, is part of this balance. Sometimes the balance is in his favour; sometimes - and all too often through his own activities - it is shifted to his disadvantage."

p. 215

"Darwin himself could scarcely have found a better example of the operation of natural selection than is provided by the way the mechanism of resistance operates. Out of an original population, the members of which vary greatly in qualities of structure, behaviour, or physiology, it is the 'tough' insects that survive chemical attack. Spraying kills off the weaklings. The only survivors are insects that have some inherent quality that allows them to escape harm. These are the parents of the new generation, which, by simple inheritance, possesses all the qualities of 'toughness' inherent in its forebears. Inevitably it follows that intensive spraying with powerful chemicals only makes worse the problem it is designed to solve. After a few generations, instead of a mixed population of strong and weak insects. there results a population consisting entirely of tough, resistant strains."

p. 237

"Examples of successful biological control of serious pests by importing their natural enemies are to be found in some 40 countries distributed over much of the world. The advantages of such control over chemicals are obvious: it is relatively inexpensive. it is permanent, it leaves no poisonous residues. Yet biological control has suffered from lack of support."

p. 253

"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."

p. 257

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