“‘Silent Spring’ Measures the Extent of the Chemical Industry’s Victory Over Environmental Science”

Isixty years ago, on September 27, 1962, the American publisher Houghton Mifflin published one of the most important books of the 20And century. silent springby Rachel Carson, was already in everyone’s conversation because, all summer long, the New Yorker he had begun to give his readers, in serial form, the first of its seventeen chapters. Thus, by the time the volume was officially published, a fierce battle for influence and containment of public debate had already begun. Feeling that the moment was decisive, and that the conditions of its survival were at stake here, around this book, the chemical industry put all its strength into it.

silent spring denounced the environmental devastation and health risks posed by the massive, indiscriminate and systematic use of synthetic pesticides in agriculture and many other activities.

By selling half a million copies in its first year, the book launched the modern environmental movement. Very few texts can claim to have weighed so much, and above all in such a positive way, on the course of things. Consider the expression ” to protect the environment “so common to our ears, it did not begin to spread to all sources written in English (novels, newspapers, reviews and periodicals, essays, scientific texts, etc.) digitized by Google until the 1960s.

The great victory of the American biologist is obviously also the ban of the famous DDT insecticide in its most massive uses (agriculture, livestock, etc.).

Read also: Article reserved for our members Rachel Carson, pioneer of political ecology and “first major whistleblower”

However, with six decades of hindsight, there is no doubt that the chemical industry has emerged globally as the winner of the battle waged in the spring of 1962. To understand this, it is not enough to note that industrial agriculture drugged with inputs. she remains mistress of the world, that all banned molecules are immediately replaced by others that are often more problematic, that the intensity of their use continues to increase, or that the bulk of public subsidies for agriculture continue to fuel this spiral.

To understand and measure the extent of the defeat, it is necessary to read or reread silent spring, recently reprinted in France by Wildproject editions. Because re-reading Rachel Carson today means understanding that all the knowledge needed to act against the massive, systematic and indiscriminate uses of life-destroying products was already firmly rooted sixty years ago. Change the name of the products: the book may have been written yesterday.

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