Book review – Silent Spring revisited

You may have noticed that I have been blogging on the RSPB website since 1 June – in the run up to the Rio+20 conference of world ‘leaders’ which starts next week. My blog for the RSPB today is about the widespread use of ‘-cides’ – chemical poisons.

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was published 50 years ago and highlighted the impacts of widely used agricultural chemicals on wildlife.

To mark the 50 years, my former colleague, Conor Jameson, has brought out a book entitled ‘Silent Spring Revisited‘.

You can’t judge a book by its title or its cover – but this is a great title and the cover is by my friend and local artist Carry Akroyd – so this book gets off to a very favourable start with me even before I opened the pages.

Conor takes you through the 50 years since Silent Spring was published and pulls out the important events for nature conservation, popular culture and Conor Jameson through that period.  There are some lovely stories and I really enjoyed dipping into the years and remembering what I was doing at the time.  It’s a delightful pot pourri, organised as a personal timeline.

What Conor doesn’t really do is to pull it all together and make sense of where we are now and how we got here, but his description of the journey is well worth the price of the book (£16.99).

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  1. Jonathan Wallace says:

    Interesting blog on the RSPB site. In addition to your examples of aspirin adversely affecting cats and diclofenac and its devastating effect on Indian vulture populations, another example of an effect that testing failed to identify because the problem was unanticipated is that of endocrine disruptors and the impacts they can have on the reproductive success and sexual development of various aquatic species. I believe that these effects are complex and still not fully understood, potentially involving interactions between various chemicals present in the environment so any testing to 'prove' the safety of chemicals is frought with difficulty and we should proceed very cautiously before releasing new synthetic chemicals into the environment.
    Of course once a serious problem is recognised and understood as in the case of the diclofenac we should act with urgency to stop the use of the chemical. Clearly conservation bodies including the RSPB are endeavouring to achieve this ; let's hope they receive the support and political will to eliminate this problem.

    PS I would have posted this comment on the RSPB site but could not see how to. I may be being dumb but it's not obvious.

    • Mark says:

      Jonathan - i agree that th RSPB site is quite difficult to figure out. Thanks for your comment here!

  2. Gert Corfield says:

    and a bit less on Amazon cause I just bought it! Rachel Carson's book (and Marion Shoard's book - Theft of the Countryside) is what got me passionate about conservation so this is a no brainer to buy. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Filbert Cobb says:

    I wasn't aware of the diclofenac/vulture issue until now.

    Isn't this a cultural as well as a chemical issue? The treated cattle must be under some degree of control in order to be medicated. If fallen stock disposal didn't involve leaving them lying about, instead of burial or incineration, there wouldn't be a problem. Apart from the vultures having less easy meat.

    I now feel quite nervous about taking Voltarol and falling asleep on my garden bench.


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