✒ WWP — Week 2: Books to Read

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

It would be unrealistic to believe that one book could bring a complete change.
Rachel Carson

Writers often imagine that their work will bring about social change, but few really succeed. Even author and scientist Rachel Carson underestimated the power of her own 1962 book, Silent Spring. This important book changed our collective world view about the dangerous effects of chemicals on the environment, and it continues to affect our consciousness today. It’s a wonderful example of how clear and forceful writing can effect¹ change.

Silent Spring took on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DTT), condemning its effects. During the 1940s and 1950s, DDT had come into widespread use as an agricultural insecticide. It helped farmers grow bigger crops and gain larger yields. Carson, a scientist, recognised and researched the detrimental effects of the chemical. Critics—many intimately involved in the chemical business—accused Carson of being a “hysterical woman”. Yet readers flocked to the book. It leaped to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, staying in the number-one position for thirty-one weeks.

Among Carson’s fans was President John Kennedy. After reading the book, he asked his Science Advisory Commitee to study the impact of insecticides on the environment. The commitee’s report vindicated Carson and her work and led to the ban of DDT and other chemicals. Her work also paved the way for books such as Al Gore‘s An Inconvenient Truth.

¹ Effect as a verb. It is not common, but acceptable in rare cases, which means, “to produce a result; to cause something to occur; to bring about an outcome”.

One word for mastery: Consistency.

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