The life of Rachael Carson and the impacts of Silent Spring on American Environmental Awareness

Rachel Carson was an amazing woman who with her unique writing style showed the impacts of toxic chemical agriculture in her book Silent Spring. Although she had written and published 4 books as well as had a book published posthumously, Silent Spring remains the most popular amongst them all. According to the New Yorks times, Carson knew that housewives would be the majority of readers and as a result Carson had to appeal to them. It is astonishing that Carson shed light to modern ecology and ultimately started a motion that allowed people to see the effects of synthetic pesticides such as DDT. No only did it affect wildlife but also could have an impact on children, which proved to be a horrible consequence of DDT becoming a part of the food chain. Carson also used simple terms when explaining topics that not every citizen would be aware of, and ultimately it allowed a broader audience for the information she was trying to convey. As a result of her work, no only did she make a huge contribution to the banning of DDT, but she also received a handful of awards for her works and contributions. She received numerous honorary degrees from universities as well as became the second woman who was elected in the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Even though she died on April 14th, 1964 her legacy remains and inspires new environmentalists even today, 55 years later.

Alternatives to Industrial Farming

As mentioned in a previous blog post, industrial farming can be very harmful. That being said, there are various alternatives to industrial farming that are much better for the environment, such as agroecology, agroforestry, and intercropping.

First, agroecology is a better alternative to industrial farming, because it is a farming approach that mimics the natural ecosystems. It is an alternative method, which uses fewer resources, but produces more food. This is very beneficial for the environment. This is not a new technique. In fact, farmers in Africa have used it to double crop yield within 3-10 years of implementing it. This is proof that it works and is helpful. Some of agroecology’s additional benefits are that it can be used to improve soil fertility, adapt to climate change, and reduce the cost of farming. This is so important, because not only is it an alternative to industrial farming, but it is sustainable.

In addition, agroforestry is also a better alternative. It involves incorporating the cultivation and conservation of trees. Not only is the total output from the farms greater, but crops are also protected from the destructive effects of the wind and weather. By planting more plants and trees, it increases financial diversity and flexibility of farms. Instead of separating crops and animals, they are combined to make one single unit of a large farm. Trees, crops, and animals can all be put together, instead of being spread out, using more space. A major benefit of agroforestry is that it is productive, yet naturally fertilizes the crops instead of adding harmful fertilizers.

Lastly, intercropping is a more beneficial alternative to industrial farming. Intercropping is when crops are grown beside different plans between the rows. In other words, crops are side by side. The benefits to this are more biodiversity and maximizing growing space. There are three types of intercropping, which include mixed cropping, row cropping, and temporal intercropping. Mixed cropping involves planting compatible plants next to each other, while row cropping has different plants. Temporal is planting fast growing crops next to slow growing crops. 

All of these methods are better, more sustainable methods of farming.


Conrad, A. (2013, april 23 ). the guardian. Retrieved from The benefits of alternative farming methods :

Grah, R. (2015, September 12). afta web. Retrieved from What is Agroforestry? : (n.d.). Retrieved from Intercropping:

Silent Spring

I really enjoyed reading this book, even though I hardly read books like this. This was a lot different because of the way Carson describes the vivid aspects of nature through the rustic American Town. Rachel really informs us about how harmful pesticide is and how it can effect the environment, even though it is to control the insect population. This book was like a public announcement informing us what could happen to our environment if we keep living the way we do. If we want to change this environment needs to be done with extreme caution if we want to avoid damaging the systems that support us, according to Carson. I was really intrigued of how she broke down the certain effect of pesticides and really telling us the truth of how manufactures don’t inform customers of how deadly it is. Carson really tells it how it is and shows no shame in doing so. This book was a big eye opener for me because I had no idea that this stuff is happening.

Environmental Toxicity of Organic Phosphates

Organic Phosphates were originally created during World War II in Germany as nerve gas by a Chemist named Gerhard Schrader. Today, they are used as pesticide because they effectively attack the nervous system of pest and insects. The organic phosphates at today’s concentration have little effect on humans but multiple exposures can destroy the enzymes that protect us from the organic phosphates. Organic phosphates have become a problem in the United States because of increased exposure due to overuse of the organic phosphate as pesticides. Although the cases are relatively small in number, the effects of them are traumatic.

The change of using organic phosphates to nerve gas to Malathion has created a deadlier combination of organic phosphates and overrides human protection systems. Overexposure to organic phosphates can build up over time since they are stored in the body’s tissue. Once exposed, the phosphates are absorbed rapidly by the skin, and symptoms occur shortly after. Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness. Acute exposure can lead to death, either by shutting down the central nervous system, mechanical asphyxiation, or mental impairment. The unpredictability of these chemicals in the body that we take in from plants and animals that have come into contact with the chemical either by consuming the toxin indirectly or plants being sprayed with it. These are some of the many reason to be cautious of organic phosphates.

Chlorohydrocarbons in the theme of Silent Spring

What are Chlorohydrocarbons:

Chlorohydrocarbons is a group of organic compounds with at least one covalently bonded chlorine atom. Chlorinated hydrocarbons are often not readily degradable. Due to their persistence and lipophilicity they tend to enrich in organisms and in the food web. Because of these properties many chlorinated hydrocarbons are members of the so called “dirty dozen”, a group of 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which have been banned or their uses restricted by the Stockholm Convention 2004


What happens to the environment because of chlorohydrocarbons in the theme of Silent Spring


Carson refers to the chemicals and pesticides she describes in the book as “biocides” or “life-killers”. She specifically talks about Chlordane, Heptachlor, Dieldrin, and Aldrin. All of these are used on crops and are in the same family as DDT. Each of these chemicals build up in the food chain rather than die off, causing these chemicals to become more toxic than DDT. These chlorohydrocarbons have been shown to cause seizures, sterility, and death. She writes about a study involving a robin. The robin returns after winter, marking the end. They eat the earthworms, and when these chlorohydrocarbons are sprayed, end up negatively affecting the robin with the effects listed before.



Chemical used as a pesticide from 1948 to 1988. Technically chlordane is not a chemical, but a mixture of pure chlordance mixed with many related chemicals. Chlordan is a thick liquid. Can have either an irritating or mild smell. Chlordane can stay in the soil for approximately 20 years. Does not dissolve in water easily. Builds up in the tissue of animals




Inhalation of heptachlor can cause nervous system side effects.Chronic inhalation of heptachlor has been linked to side effects such as blood effects in humans.Ingesting heptachlor causes side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Chronic oral exposure has resulted in neurological effects including irritability, salivation, dizziness, muscle tremors, and convulsion. Animal studies have reported effects on the liver, kidney, and the immune and nervous systems from oral exposure to heptachlor.





Dieldrin entered the environment when farmers used these compounds to kill pests on crops and when exterminators used them to kill termites. Dieldrin sticks to soil and may stay there unchanged for many years. Plants can take up dieldrin from the soil and store it in their leaves and roots. Fish or animals that eat dieldrin-contaminated materials store a large amount of the dieldrin in their fat. Contaminated foods might include fish or shellfish from contaminated lakes or streams, root crops, dairy products, and meats. Exposure to dieldrin also occurs when you drink water, breathe air, or come into contact with contaminated soil at hazardous waste sites. Skin contact and breathing of dieldrin by workers who used these chemicals to kill insects were at one time common.



Aldrin is a highly toxic chemical that is very similar to Dieldrin. They are tied together because aldrin quickly breaks down to dieldrin in the body and in the environment. Pure aldrin and dieldrin are white powders with a mild chemical odor. The less pure commercial powders have a tan color. In the 1950s until 1970, aldrin and dieldrin were widely used pesticides for crops like corn and cotton. Because of concerns to the environment and potentially to human health, EPA banned all uses of aldrin and dieldrin in 1974.

By: Makayla Herzig, Hannah Asplund, Maranda Brei, Julie Kruger, Robyn Chrouser


Industrial Farming and Its Unsustainability

What is industrial farming?

Monoculture, which is the process of growing a single crop on a large scale, is the center of industrial farming. For monoculture farming to be successful, it relies heavily on the use of fertilizers and chemicals such as pesticides. Fertilizers are necessary to replenish the nutrients in the heavily taxed soil of a monoculture, as the use of only a single type of plant depletes the soil of the plants specific nutrient needs. Pesticides are required in this process, due to the fact that a large crop of a single type of plant is susceptible to certain weeds and insect pests. Much of the crop produced in this monoculture process is grain that is used to feed livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). These CAFO’s are a type of industrial farming in themselves.

Why is industrial farming unsustainable?

When industrial farming was developed after World War II, it was hailed as a technological triumph that would feed the world’s population. Around the same time, the use of pesticides was growing and released to the public, as if it were a miracle cure for everything. Of course, this was before the causes and effects of pesticides were realized. As a result, the broad scale use of these chemicals quickly became a danger to the population. Workers applying insecticides, such as organic phosphorus in fields, orchards, and vineyards, were extremely likely to suffer from poisoning that caused paralysis and death. DDT is a popular insecticide that is applied minimally and periodically to the soil. Although these applications are seemingly moderate, concentrations of DDT build up in the soil overtime. The crop that is grown in this soil holds these trace amounts of DDT, and when eaten, tend to build up in an animal or a human’s system as well and can lead to many unpleasant health problems. In addition, the application of these chemicals also leaves a residue on foods. While this may seem minute, it can actually build up in the system over time and create toxic effects. The insecticides used contaminate water, soil, food, and are indifferent to the creatures it targets, whether they are beneficial or considered a bother by the human hand applying it. Industrial farming erodes the soil by leaching its nutrients, leads to degradation by destruction of grasslands, and harms sensitive wildlife while giving an evolutionary advantage to organisms that are less desirable. Of course, this is just a short list of the harmful impacts of industrial farming. In the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the use of chemicals and the effects of industrial farming are described in great detail, which is very educational and eye opening.

Student Assignments on This site

This site is dedicated to ‘Silent Spring’ a book written by Rachael Carson about half a century ago. 24 students of ENV 102-section 002 will be working on this site.

Students will be divided into 4 teams with 6 students in each team.  Each team will select on one specific topic from the following list and post their research and findings on this site.  Of course, each topic should have a heading and a list of contributors.

These topics are:

(1) The life of Rachael Carson and the impacts of Silent Spring on American Environmental Awareness.

(2) Environmental toxicity of chlorohydrocarbons.

(3) Environmental toxicity of organic phosphates

(4) Unsustainable environmental impacts of industrial farming

(5) Bio-magnification of environmental toxicity