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Old 04-01-13, 06:11   #1
 
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Question Mark Fifty years after Silent Spring, Are we any Closer to Saving the World?

Fifty years after Silent Spring, Are we any Closer to Saving the World?

The damage to the soil and sea has intensified since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring


The joys of globalisation: children keep the world spinning at the People’s Summit in Flamengo park, Rio de Janeiro, in June Photo: Getty Images

Telegraph UK

It’s the end of an important anniversary year. You already knew that? Sure, but I’m not thinking of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. For 2012, far less happily, also marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the great and growing environmental slanging match.

On June 16, 1962 – half a century before this summer’s vapid Rio Earth Summit – the New Yorker started serialising one of those rare books that make history. Published three months later, Silent Spring – by a shy, studious scientist, Rachel Carson – revealed the effects of the

little-regulated overuse of pesticides on American wildlife. Flying off the bookshelves (it came to sell more than two million) it was the first big exposé of an ecological downside to hitherto unquestioned technological progress.

Many credit the book’s explanation of humanity’s inextricable connection with nature with launching the environmental movement, though others prefer the first view of the Earth from space, or even the founding of the World Wildlife Fund the year before. Both sides of the environmental debate, however, agree that it marked the moment that it began becoming polarised, politicised and personalised.

Even before publication the chemical industry and its allies mobilised a war chest to attack the book and its author. Carson was denounced as “an hysterical woman”, with a former US agriculture secretary opining that, since she was unmarried despite being attractive, she was “probably a Communist”. Accepting her remedies, industry sources said, would return America to “the Dark Ages” where “insects and vermin would once again inherit the earth”. Not to be outdone, extreme environmentalists charged that the chemical industry was causing a cancer epidemic that would bring life expectancies crashing down.
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