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Sunday, August 26, 2007

subverting spring’s silence: a response to rachel carson’s “the obligation to endure”

Rachel Carson’s “The Obligation to Endure” is an early testament that science has taken over superstition as the New Age’s superstition. This postmodern essay has shown the ugly head of science as not necessarily the answer to everything humankind needs, as is claimed by modernism. The very fact that pesticides and other products of science wreak havoc more than the insects they are supposed to kill attests to the dangers human faith in science has rendered for believing that modernity can address practically all the problems plaguing the world. Meanwhile, institutions with naked interests to protect have slammed Carson for what might be considered the first bleep of ecofeminism in her time, all in defense of science and modernism, with impassioned responses mentioned in the critique “’Silence, Miss Carson!’ Science, Gender, and the Reception of ‘Silent Spring.’” Said critique, though not as sharp-clawed as Carlson’s in its supposed attempt to present a neutral picture of the raging debate on the opposite sides of science, is nonetheless sympathetic of and appears more critically oriented than the argument of the late marine biologist.
Highly rhetorical and moving in its urgency, Carlson’s deliberate discourse on “The Obligation to Endure” is a persuasion for the concerned to alter their view regarding a pressing issue before—the poisoning of nature with chemicals—which continues to create a bigger repercussion in the contemporary times. Banking mainly on showing the boon and the bane of the practices of chemical use, Carlson attempts to convince that these unnatural practices cause destruction to the society, and her alternative practice of eliminating pesticides and of implied resorting to organic farming promote a healthier community. Expectedly, Carlson received tremendous flogging from pro-pesticides critics as she was bestowed praises and support by anti-inorganic advocates.
While her essay on the chemical intoxication of the earth got roundly dismissed as sentimental, amateurish, antimodern and other character-assaulting adjectives, it cannot be discounted that most of those who dissented Carlson’s position composed the very institutions being circumvented by the female scientist—the male-dominated scientific community, the progress-inclined popular press and the chemical companies with economic stakes to secure. It is understandable then that they are in defense of themselves against a prototype of a “wild woman.” By virtue of this, these modern-spawned institutions lambaste Carlson just because she is female, postmodern and, consciously or unconsciously, anti-capitalist. As one browses over “The Obligation to Endure,” one may not fail to have goose bumps what with the terrible consequences to the living those lethal chemical products wield, to be squeamish of the thought of mutated insects dominating the earth and to self-flagellate out of regret for having to depend on a scientific breakthrough that is not bound to salvage man, anyway. It is lamentable that the quest to improve life through modernity only shortens the lifespan being attempted to prolong in the first place, and even more lamentable that this quest is being futilely pursued by man himself. For having “acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world,” man has exacerbated his already-endangered condition by infiltrating the whole earth with chemicals that are unnaturally spawned out of his laboratory. It is frightening to think that the doomsday scenario Carlson’s essay elicits in the concerned mind is really nigh, taking into the light the speed by which the chemical poison operates and the “essential ingredient” time ticking into exhaustion long before anything can be done because it is way too late.
When Carlson noted the disparate pace of man with that of the more patient nature in situations such as the pursuit for better living, her critics invoked the instant benefits of scientific wonders at the expense of the risks being posed by “man’s tampering with the atom,” or the “endless stream” of novel chemicals produced in the laboratories. It is irreparably heartbreaking to approximate progress but to slay the means—nature—by which this progress is harnessed. It really does not help to kill all insects when only a few of them threaten to upset a bountiful food production. Spiders, for instance, indirectly assist farmers in eradicating harmful insects by web-trapping and feeding on them. With the indiscriminate use of pesticides, even those that are deemed farmer-friendly become casualties to such a horrible crime against nature. In an effort to silence Carlson with her human-threatening revelations, her critics hail science as the ultimate refuge to have in these modern times gone wrong. This, it must be considered, is too naïve given the truth that science cannot oversimplify everything, especially when the risks man is exposed to are to be counted. While the ideology prevailing upon the world has science as the enlightener, an agent of progress, the truth is that problems deemed answerable by science still persist, and, as in the case of pesticides, these have not only annihilated pests but also decimated harmless animals and insects. It is not unthinkable that what Carlson and her followers perceived before is graver today inasmuch as these chemicals have affected humans, too.
The ecofeminism manifested in Carlson’s essay makes for an interesting subject of debate in ideological state apparatuses like the scientific society. Given that this community is male-dominated, Carlson may find herself being oppressed just because her gender is female. The boldness of her writing lashed raw nerves of the patriarchy; since science is almost always associated with the masculine and the Western hegemony is so largely androcentric as to engender non-female-related disciplines, Carlson’s femininity is punched at the core by branding her controversial work as emotional, unbalanced and irrational. This action, then, is a double take on women at-large and Mother Nature, both being ravaged heedlessly by the macho consciousness. However, by merely defying the scientific institution, she is one with Mother Nature in defense of womanhood by counteracting the critics’ label of her as a non-feminist, likened to Mother Nature’s unleashing of ire with recurrent physical disasters to punish man’s misdeeds. Like a dexterous driver well heeled at her car, Carlson proves the scientist that she is by presenting the side effects chemical substances will potentially yield with their continued use in the farms, bringing the after-effects to insects at-large and, ultimately, the end-user of the farm products: man.
In a bid to discredit Carlson with her monumental critique on man’s blunder of exposing the whole populace to intoxication, the manufacturers of the pesticides questioned by Carlson issued unfair reviews of her work, going to the proportions of silencing her on a subject she does not know whereof she speaks. This bullying is nothing but an arrogant patriarchal attitude knowing for a fact that it is easy to dismiss her and her organic fellows as primitive idiots not cognizant of respected scientists in support of pesticides and of the end-all and be-all of applied science. They would not hear of her because she is a woman generally schooled in the soft science biology, and her anti-insecticide warning is not to be taken seriously for as long as many opportunities are harnessed from the use of technology. For them, the end justifies the means, so what little poison is threatening if the farm produce will be bountiful? If indeed the chemicals were to be investigated of their effects on the bio-system, then the capitalists’ take at surpluses will be jeopardized because their products will be found to be of high-risk to living things. Obviously, her readers will not have any of these capitalists’ self-serving motives rendered at the expense of their well-being. They wrote letters to the editors denouncing chemical industry’s malpractice, questioning the biases against Carlson’s work or openly backing up Carlson in her organic mission.
It is true that “the chemical war is never won, and all life is caught in its violent crossfire,” but Carlson’s critics are unapologetic in their portrayal of her as a a non-scientist, a sentimentalist. Their attempt to put the woman down was prevalent in the public relations industry of the affected chemical manufacturers. Threats of libel, negative book reviews, parodies and antagonistic reception do not dampen the spirit of ecofeminists’ precursor that is Carlson. As the secondary text will attest, the negative reviews got counteractions from those who rally behind Carlson’s cause, and while the widely-criticized reception of Silent Spring—from the gleeful “See, there were plenty of birds this spring” rejoinders to the television advertisement portraying a lab gown-wearing man showing remorse for not using pesticides—tried to degrade the woman’s person instead of wholly censuring her errors in reasoning, the fact is, people today are more or less conscious of the present detrimental condition of the earth, and, as an active response to this plight, environmental-friendly drives are heightened in order to save what may be left to be enjoyed by today’s and the generation hence. The environmental cause that was championed by Carlson has gained considerable ground, then, and the world has more reasons to regain bliss.
It is indeed unbecoming of man to take control of nature inasmuch as this has ripped off the partnership that is supposed to be kindled between the two of them. For one, nature provides everything necessitated by the whole of humanity, but man is only too grateful to recompense nature by disturbing its balance. To cite Carlson, man has come up with chemical sprays purpoted to kill insects but the aim has widened to cover all other living things. In effect, humans get destroyed with the insects. Moreover, the very insects being targetted, if they ever endure the pesticides, go on to become stronger and “in numbers greater than before.” Science, therefore, cannot be trusted with regarding these misfires because instead of alleviating the situation, the products with which the situation gets mitigated are themselves the cause of faster destruction. The call for science handlers to bring about the best possible outcome for humanity’s progress has not stopped because ecologists get trained continuously but their wisdom get ignored. It is best to take heed of them since their studies are directed for the society’s welfare. The prime interest for their environmental address is to offer the greater good for life and not to compromise this life for the greater good of the chemical products that are slowly but surely killing the world.
Carlson’s proposition to abandon the use of pesticides will inevitably bring humanity back to organic farming, which means that unaided by science, farmers will find it rather difficult to work in farms if only to contribute in making the world a safer place. Critics feared that the consumers will be reduced into eating acorns or that the atmosphere will be replete with the overcrowding of flying or many-legged pests feeding on the fields, but this is ultimately better than sowing food that upset man’s welfare. While critics point out to the futility of having modern civilization and enjoying organic food at the same time, Carlson only appealed for science handlers to improve on their chemical sprays—for these not to be fatal to the living, and for life to abound. The world cannot consider science to be a redemption if its own existence will be sacrificed. This agrees with the point of Carlson to change people’s perception from being an ecological threat to being earth-friendly.
While Carlson must have overlooked the benefits humanity gets with the use of somewhat-helpful chemicals, enough for her to propose that they are unfit for farm consumption, she must have borne in mind that the concept of capitalism has time and again abused the virtual powerlessness of the consumers. The chemical manufacturers must have neglected to produce safe chemicals—unnatural they may be—seeing more the financial benefits of undertaking chemical ventures than the need to be environmentally responsible. Instead of loosening the grasp on the production surpluses and minding their share in providing a risk-free world upon the prodding of Carlson’s rally, they guiltlessly attacked through their paid hacks the arguments of Carlson, even assassinate her character, so as to maintain their corporate image and keep credulous customers at hand. Nevertheless, by refusing to admit the scientific mistake of the ecological hazards of using chemical sprays, these companies manifested their panic over scaring consumers away with defending their corporate interests and painting a gloomy scenario wherein humans will revert to savagery and barbarism with pesticides at bay. The world has been fueled by anxiety, and as people begin to doubt the potency of science, they also unmask the evil motives of corporations in bleeding consumers’ pockets’ dry. It must be contended, indeed, that the corporations manufacturing the chemical poisons be willing to undertake corrective measures in their products for these to be non-lethal and be conscientious regarding the putting of nature at prime in lieu of the venerated wisdom of the New Age that is science.
So much hype has been attributed to science and its offspring modernism that the world’s religion today seems the two. A huge following of both renders Carlson’s critics as a force to reckon with, especially the object of their wrath is a woman biologist—her gender and her variety of science setting her in a double-bind. It is not far that Carlson’s essay will be dismissed as too emotionally infused to be considered as no more than a scienfitic journal or a natural history, but the emergence of postmodernism as an interrogation to the illusory panacea offered by science and modernism opens a leeway for Carlson’s argument to be aired and to be taken seriously. That man has waged war with nature is true and the world feels its horrifying impact more today than it was originally perceived by Carlson and her predecessors decades ago, but man can prevent this by shifting a worldview that is lenient to both the earth and the life depending on it. Going back for the organic is not only an act of reciprocation for nature’s love but an act of man’s self-redemption.
Today, as may be gleaned by the increasing consciousness of the global community to take care of the environment, Carlson’s stake at ecological equilibrium sees positive results despite the whipping it received a generation ago. This goes in full swing with the radical change of women’s recapturing the mainstream, an affirmation that feminism has treaded a long way. With Mother Nature being pampered now with reforestation drives and more discriminate utility of chemicals, the female of the species garnered a more equal footing with the male in terms of rights and privileges. This is of special interest especially as far as feminism and ecofeminism are concerned because both women and Mother Nature have started for the centerstage only in the 70’s, a decade after Carlson’s Silent Spring saw publication. Such development cannot be ignored because the patriachal ideology still prevails in most cultures, and as long as the male of the species are allowed to imperialize, then this feminist growth will be stunted and silence will be cast in both nature and women.

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