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Samenleving en economie

Voorkant Carson 'Silent spring' Rachel CARSON
Silent spring
Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1962, geen paginering; geen ISBN

[Dit is het beroemde boek dat het sproeien met allerlei herbiciden en insecticiden zoals DDT aan de kaak stelde, gebaseerd op onderzoek naar de gevolgen op plaatsen waar dat sproeien groot- en kleinschalig werd ingezet om 'een probleem' uit de wereld te helpen. Het boek laat zien dat die giftige middelen het hele ecosysteem overhoop halen, met als gevolg dat allerlei dier- en plantensoorten niet kunnen overleven. In de lente dus niet meer het geluid van allerlei fluitende en fladderende vogels. Vandaar: 'Silent spring'. Het is een indrukwekkend boek dat ook duidelijk maakt hoe het kapitalisme werkt: bedrijven die leugenachtig blijven volhouden dat hun producten niet de oorzaak zijn van alle ellende terwijl alle feiten in die richting wijzen, lucratieve onderonsjes tussen bedrijven en politici om je producten verkocht te krijgen, politici die uit eigenbelang vol blijven houden dat het allemaal geen kwaad kan terwijl de vogels van de daken vallen, praktische keuzes die niet in harmonie zijn met de natuur terwijl er ook natuurlijke mogelijkheden zijn die nog werken ook, en zo verder.]

[Carson was als zeebiologe al een succesrijk en veelgelezen auteur. Maar toen ze besloot over pesticiden en hun gevaren te schrijven werden haar artikelen door de tijdschriften geweigerd omdat ze bang waren een deel van hun reclame-inkomsten te verliezen. Ook dat is iets van kapitalisme: de voortdurende censuur door media die afhankelijk zijn van de bedrijven en ze niet tegen het zere been willen schoppen. Ook typisch: de chemische industrie probeerde via alle mogelijke middelen Carson belachelijk en ongeloofwaardig te maken en spande rechtszaken aan om de publicatie van dit boek te voorkomen. Maar Carson kreeg op alle fronten gelijk en dat was de start van het ecologische denken.]

"Under primitive agricultural conditions the farmer had few insect problems. These arose with the intensification of agriculture—the devotion of immense acreages to a single crop. Such a system set the stage for explosive increases in specific insect populations. Single-crop farming does not take advantage of the principles by which nature works; it is agriculture as an engineer might conceive it to be. Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds. One important natural check is a limit on the amount of suitable habitat for each species. Obviously then, an insect that lives on wheat can build up its population to much higher levels on a farm devoted to wheat than on one in which wheat is intermingled with other crops to which the insect is not adapted. The same thing happens in other situations. A generation or more ago, the towns of large areas of the United States lined their streets with the noble elm tree. Now the beauty they hopefully created is threatened with complete destruction as disease sweeps through the elms, carried by a beetle that would have only limited chance to build up large populations and to spread from tree to tree if the elms were only occasional trees in a richly diversified planting."(14)

" It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge.(...)
I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself. Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life. There is still very limited awareness of the nature of the threat. This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits. It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts."(15-16)

"So far in this chapter we have been discussing the deadly chemicals that are being used in our war against the insects. What of our simultaneous war against the weeds? The desire for a quick and easy method of killing unwanted plants has given rise to a large and growing array of chemicals that are known as herbicides, or, less formally, as weed killers. The story of how these chemicals are used and misused will be told in Chapter 6; the question that here concerns us is whether the weed killers are poisons and whether their rise is contributing to the poisoning of the environment."(27)

Insecticiden en herbiciden: van anorganische chemicalieën (arsenicum) naar organische op koolstof gebaseerde chemicalieën: (DDT, DDD, DDE, BHC, 2,4-D, chlordaan, lindaan, dieldrin, aldrin, endrin; malathion, parathion, dinitrophenol, pentachlorophenol, aminotriazole / amitrol).

"We are rightly appalled by the genetic effects of radiation; how then, can we be indifferent to the same effect in chemicals that we disseminate widely in our environment?"(28)

Vergiftiging van grondwater en oppervlaktewater. Verontreiniging van de bodem.

"Ever since chemists began to manufacture substances that nature never invented, the problems of water purification have become complex and the danger to users of water has increased."(29)

"Indeed one of the most alarming aspects of the chemical pollution of water is the fact that here—in river or lake or reservoir, or for that matter in the glass of water served at your dinner table—are mingled chemicals that no responsible chemist would think of combining in his laboratory. The possible interactions between these freely mixed chemicals are deeply disturbing to officials of the United States Public Health Service, who have expressed the fear that the production of harmful substances from comparatively innocuous chemicals may be taking place on quite a wide scale. The reactions may be between two or more chemicals, or between chemicals and the radioactive wastes that are being discharged into our rivers in ever-increasing volume. Under the impact of ionizing radiation some rearrangement of atoms could easily occur, changing the nature of the chemicals in a way that is not only unpredictable but beyond control."(31-32)

" It was a house-that-Jack-built sequence, in which the large carnivores had eaten the smaller carnivores, that had eaten the herbivores, that had eaten the plankton, that had absorbed the poison from the water. (...) This whole chain of poisoning, then, seems to rest on a base of minute plants which must have been the original concentrators. But what of the opposite end of the food chain—the human being who, in probable ignorance of all this sequence of events, has rigged his fishing tackle, caught a string of fish from the waters of Clear Lake, and taken them home to fry for his supper? What could a heavy dose of DDD, or perhaps repeated doses, do to him? Although the California Department of Public Health professed to see no hazard, nevertheless in 1959 it required that the use of DDD in the lake be stopped."(33-34)

[Dat is ook zo typisch, die attitude van 'ga maar rustig slapen, er is niets aan de hand' tegenover de bevolking en intussen weten en geheimhouden dat er van alles mis is en uiteindelijk je beleid baseren op informatie die jij alleen had zodat de bevolking zich bekocht en belazerd voelt.]

"The problem that concerns us here is one that has received little consideration: What happens to these incredibly numerous and vitally necessary inhabitants of the soil when poisonous chemicals are carried down into their world, either introduced directly as soil ‘sterilants’ or borne on the rain that has picked up a lethal contamination as it filters through the leaf canopy of forest and orchard and cropland? Is it reasonable to suppose that we can apply a broad-spectrum insecticide to kill the burrowing larval stages of a crop-destroying insect, for example, without also killing the ‘good’ insects whose function may be the essential one of breaking down organic matter? Or can we use a nonspecific fungicide without also killing the fungi that inhabit the roots of many trees in a beneficial association that aids the tree in extracting nutrients from the soil?
The plain truth is that this critically important subject of the ecology of the soil has been largely neglected even by scientists and almost completely ignored by control men. Chemical control of insects seems to have proceeded on the assumption that the soil could and would sustain any amount of insult via the introduction of poisons without striking back. The very nature of the world of the soil has been largely ignored. "(37-38)

"Although modern man seldom remembers the fact, he could not exist without the plants that harness the sun’s energy and manufacture the basic foodstuffs he depends upon for life. Our attitude toward plants is a singularly narrow one. If we see any immediate utility in a plant we foster it. If for any reason we find its presence undesirable or merely a matter of indifference, we may condemn it to destruction forthwith. Besides the various plants that are poisonous to man or his livestock, or crowd out food plants, many are marked for destruction merely because, according to our narrow view, they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many others are destroyed merely because they happen to be associates of the unwanted plants.
The earth’s vegetation is part of a web of life in which there are intimate and essential relations between plants and the earth, between plants and other plants, between plants and animals. Sometimes we have no choice but to disturb these relationships, but we should do so thoughtfully, with full awareness that what we do may have consequences remote in time and place. But no such humility marks the booming ‘weed killer’ business of the present day, in which soaring sales and expanding uses mark the production of plant-killing chemicals. "(41)

"As man proceeds toward his announced goal of the conquest of nature, he has written a depressing record of destruction, directed not only against the earth he inhabits but against the life that shares it with him. The history of the recent centuries has its black passages—the slaughter of the buffalo on the western plains, the massacre of the shorebirds by the market gunners, the near-extermination of the egrets for their plumage. Now, to these and others like them, we are adding a new chapter and a new kind of havoc—the direct killing of birds, mammals, fishes, and indeed practically every form of wildlife by chemical insecticides indiscriminately sprayed on the land. Under the philosophy that now seems to guide our destinies, nothing must get in the way of the man with the spray gun. The incidental victims of his crusade against insects count as nothing; if robins, pheasants, raccoons, cats, or even livestock happen to inhabit the same bit of earth as the target insects and to be hit by the rain of insect-killing poisons no one must protest."(52)

"Which view are we to accept? The credibility of the witness is of first importance. The professional wildlife biologist on the scene is certainly best qualified to discover and interpret wildlife loss. The entomologist, whose specialty is insects, is not so qualified by training, and is not psychologically disposed to look for undesirable side effects of his control program. Yet it is the control men in state and federal governments—and of course the chemical manufacturers—who steadfastly deny the facts reported by the biologists and declare they see little evidence of harm to wildlife. Like the priest and the Levite in the biblical story, they choose to pass by on the other side and to see nothing. Even if we charitably explain their denials as due to the shortsightedness of the specialist and the man with an interest this does not mean we must accept them as qualified witnesses."(52)

"Spraying is killing the birds but it is not saving the elms. The illusion that salvation of the elms lies at the end of a spray nozzle is a dangerous will-o’- the-wisp that is leading one community after another into a morass of heavy expenditures, without producing lasting results."(65)

" It is difficult to understand why these midwestern towns, to which the elm disease spread only rather recently, have so unquestioningly embarked on ambitious and expensive spraying programs, apparently without waiting to inquire into the experience of other areas that have had longer acquaintance with the problem. New York State, for example, has certainly had the longest history of continuous experience with Dutch elm disease, for it was via the Port of New York that diseased elm wood is thought to have entered the United States about 1930. And New York State today has a most impressive record of containing and suppressing the disease. Yet it has not relied upon spraying. In fact, its agricultural extension service does not recommend spraying as a community method of control."(66)

" In each of these situations, one turns away to ponder the question: Who has made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings, this ever-widening wave of death that spreads out, like ripples when a pebble is dropped into a still pond? Who has placed in one pan of the scales the leaves that might have been eaten by the beetles and in the other the pitiful heaps of many-hued feathers, the lifeless remains of the birds that fell before the unselective bludgeon of insecticidal poisons? Who has decided — who has the right to decide — for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power; he has made it during a moment of inattention by millions to whom beauty and the ordered world of nature still have a meaning that is deep and imperative."(72)

Hetzelfde verhaal over de vissen.

"From small beginnings over farmlands and forests the scope of aerial spraying has widened and its volume has increased so that it has become what a British ecologist recently called ‘an amazing rain of death’ upon the surface of the earth. Our attitude towards poisons has undergone a subtle change. Once they were kept in containers marked with skull and crossbones; the infrequent occasions of their use were marked with utmost care that they should come in contact with the target and with nothing else. With the development of the new organic insecticides and the abundance of surplus planes after the Second World War, all this was forgotten. Although today’s poisons are more dangerous than any known before, they have amazingly become something to be showered down indiscriminately from the skies. Not only the target insect or plant, but anything—human or nonhuman—within range of the chemical fallout may know the sinister touch of the poison. Not only forests and cultivated fields are sprayed, but towns and cities as well."(85)

"A swing to more sane and conservative methods seems to have begun. Florida, reporting that ‘there are more fire ants in Florida now than there were when the program started,’ announced it was abandoning any idea of a broad eradication program and would instead concentrate on local control. Effective and inexpensive methods of local control have been known for years. The mound-building habit of the fire ant makes the chemical treatment of individual mounds a simple matter. Cost of such treatment is about one dollar per acre. For situations where mounds are numerous and mechanized methods are desirable, a cultivator which first levels and then applies chemical directly to the mounds has been developed by Mississippi’s Agricultural Experiment Station. The method gives 90 to 95 per cent control of the ants. Its cost is only $0.23 per acre. The Agriculture Department’s mass control program, on the other hand, cost about $3.50 per acre—the most expensive, the most damaging, and the least effective program of all."(93)

Al die giftige middelen die over onze omgeving en ons voedsel worden uitgestrooid hebben een enorme hoeveelheid ziekten opgeleverd, zoals kanker en allerlei neurologische problemen.

"To have risked so much in our efforts to mold nature to our satisfaction and yet to have failed in achieving our goal would indeed be the final irony. Yet this, it seems, is our situation. The truth, seldom mentioned but there for anyone to see, is that nature is not so easily molded and that the insects are finding ways to circumvent our chemical attacks on them."(128)

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