Friday, December 3, 2010

Discussion Highlights from Silent Spring

Hi everyone,

I know we haven't been too faithful with posting discussion highlights, but we had such great discussions last night that I couldn't resist as little bit of a recap for those who couldn't make it and were wondering how the book went.  So, here goes...

Things we didn't like about the book:
- a bit of a struggle to read as this is a real science heavy book.  The book was originally published as a series of articles with explains some of the repetition.  Some passages were really heavy reading: hydrogen particles, anyone?
- Carson seems to suggest that people are the problem as if removing people would return the earth to some perfect Eden-like state. 
- it's hard to tell how balanced of a picture Carson presents as the book comes across a bit like a shock-and-awe campaign full of worst case scenarios

Things we liked about the book:
- the awareness that this book creates about all these toxic chemicals and the affect that they have on our environment and on our bodies.  It's good to think about how the chemicals that we rub into our skin, spray in our houses, apply in our gardens and put in our mouths affect us.  Particularly fascinating was Carson's explanation of how chemicals "live" in us and are passed on to the next generation (via the placenta, breastmilk and gene mutations.)
- some of us were particularly touched by her description of a bird-less world.  Hard to imagine an early morning without birdsong... and we're not spraying chemicals at the birds, but chemicals in the soil means chemicals in the worms, and birds eat worms and build up toxic levels.  Crazy to think about...
- Carson does a pretty good job of bringing much of this science down to the level of an average-"Jane"
- we were also impressed by how Rachel Carson really changed the way that people think about chemicals in the environment and chemicals in the food supply.  We take this so forgranted now, and we're all aware of the benefits of home-grown and organic foods, but this book was a real eye-opener in the 60's and made a real impact on society.

Looking forward to....
more on this topic when we read In Defense of Food in May 2011!

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