Uploaded by Cherliz Cohen

Silent Spring

Cherliz Cohen
Professor Fanuzzi
English Literature and Culture
01 May 2020
Silent Spring / Soylent Green Paper
Rachel Carson’s publication, ​Silent Spring​, published in 1962, brings much awareness to
the environment and all the problems happening within it. While Carson’s novel created a lot of
controversy and anger amongst individuals, the publication slowly became a bestseller! The
novel covered the problems that could and would arise because of the use of pesticides on crops
and killing insects, warning individuals and somewhat inspiring them to do something about it.
She continues to describe the balance of the nature of soil, earth’s waters, and organisms. Carson
calls and almost suggests humans to act responsibly and carefully towards the environment
around them and others. The reasoning to the controversy was that her writings invalidated
scientific advances.
The cultural representation of environmentalism in Silent Spring is shown throughout the
novel. Along with the film Soylent Green, they both focus on taking care of the already-suffering
environment and warning people of the consequences if they aren’t more careful. The two [film
and novel] cover the effects of pollution and pesticides and the damages humans have caused.
Stuart Hall argued that the “process of representation itself constitutes the very world it aims to
represent, and explores how the shared language of a culture, its signs and images, provides a
conceptual roadmap that gives meaning to the world rather than simply reflecting it.” By this, I
believe Hall meant that media [and imagery] presentation produces, affects and represents
something. For example, the way Carson presents the environments and what it can and may be
in the future can become a reality. Soylent Green did a great job showing what may happen
[dystopian planet] to the environment if people don’t take the representation more seriously.
What I concluded from both the novel and film about environmentalism is that there are
concerns about and action aimed at protecting not just the environment, but the planet too. Us
humans need to do better. By writing about these issues, Rachel Carson is shining a light on
them, telling us to do something and take matters into our own hands.
Silent Spring​ is definitely a unique and well-written publication regarding protecting the
environment. Author ​Rachel Carson​ used science and compared it to real-life situations. She
talks about the negatives of pesticides and how it affected our world before it ever acknowledged
and studied them. She also covers the harm toxins have to the world and us as human beings,
painting a bigger issue that is how dangerous they can actually be. Wild and human life are
discussed as well as plant life, and how chemicals affect them. Discussing my two favorite
chapters, ​Elixirs of Death​ [3] and ​Earth’s Green Mantle​ [6], both topics that were written about
truly stuck out to me. Within the third chapter, Carson refers to harmful chemicals as “elixirs of
death.” She describes the history behind the use of arsenic as a pesticide as well as how
dangerous modern insecticides are still more harmful and deadly. In the next chapter, ​Earth’s
Green Mantle​, Carson talks about how man cannot exist without plants. We are dependent on
plants [growth] for air, food, and more. The chapter talks about how humans are dependent on
plants for its benefits and that we destroy plants that don’t exactly provide immediate benefits.
She talks about how each plant is a part of a complex web of life and has essential relations
between both plants and the earth. In today’s day, we’re all subjected to dangerous chemicals
that may be in places we don’t necessarily expect them to be or see. These chemicals affect
organisms, humans, and the environment. Chemicals could be found where we least expect it;
oceans, public transportation, or maybe even in your own home! All that being said, chemicals
aren’t taken as seriously as they should because people within the chemical business or
benefiting from it are doing well because the fact that people think of themselves and anything
that benefits them rather than the second perspective [environment].
On the topic of Elixirs of Death, us humans are practically “committing suicide through
chemicals.” ​Many chemicals we know of [or don’t], that contain minerals, can be the cause of
illnesses like cancer or the reasoning behind weak immune systems or the development of
allergies and asthma. By allowing these chemicals to be used and distributed, we’re basically
killing ourselves because of them. Carson continues to talk about how harmful they are to us and
that people should not ignore it. Some of these chemicals can be stored in the body and “travel
through a mother’s milk and probably in the tissues of an unborn child”, writes Carson. She
continues to say that “... a breast fed human infant is receiving small but regular additions to the
load of toxic chemicals building up in his body” (pg. 20). She explains that the chemical issue
doesn’t only affect crops and animals, they affect human life and possibly those closest to us. I
feel as if the reason she included human-examples is so people can feel and relate to it more and
maybe do something about the issue.
Us as humans “aren’t aware of the invisible world that sustains [supports and assists] our
lives.” As Carson mentions, “Water, soil, and the earth’s green mantle of planets make up the
world that supports the animal life of the earth” (pg. 40). Without plants grown from the ground,
we wouldn’t have air, a majority of foods, and more. I don’t think that the world that assists our
lives are invisible but I do believe that some may act as if it is. Some choose not to pay mind just
to save themselves some energy and earn the benefits received. People don’t realize what a big
impact plants have on our lives for generations to come and destroying plants that don’t have an
expedited time of receiving the benefits just harms the environment. The chemicals put down to
destroy these “slow” benefiting plants are putting humans, organisms, and the environment at
risk. These matters should be taken more seriously but it’s not because there are many parties,
“booming weed killer business’”, as referred to by Carson, that benefit from the destruction. The
way Carson worded this issue truly opened my eyes to this situation. She went straight to the
point, giving raw details and information on the issue that is still occuring till this day.
Soylent Green​ is similar to ​Silent Spring​ in quite a few ways. Both ​Soylent Green​ and
Silent Spring ​discuss nature and saving the environment. Soylent Green shows and talks about a
future dystopian, denoting, Earth AKA, shows the “end of the world”. The Earth is shown as
destroyed. There are no animals or fresh produce, unless you were rich, while the poor
(supposedly) lived off of soybeans. The government lacked sharing information and awareness,
leaving people lost or unaware. People weren’t aware of how harmful and deadly chemicals
actually were and weren’t informed that they were being sprayed out into nature.
A line from the film that summed up how bad the dystopian world was, with examples
within it, was a line said by Sol to Det. Thorn; “You know, when I was a kid, food was food.
Before our scientific magicians poisoned the water, polluted the soil, decimated plant and animal
life. Why, in my day, you could buy meat anywhere. Eggs, they had. Real butter. Fresh lettuce..”
It’s sad to think that if we don’t begin taking care of our world and environment, we could be the
ones saying [quoting] this same line. Humans are taking the world [and environment] in the same
track as the ​Soylent Green​ film, and unless we do something drastic, we’ll end up in the same
circumstance. We need to do better. Politicians and other people in power need to normalize a
better environment and let people know the benefits and risks of what they’re doing [or not
Carson’s book definitely inspired me to use ​Soylent Green​ as my secondary source.
Carson’s novel discusses the destruction of the balance of nature done by chemicals. She
explains what that balance is and what the cause and effects are too. She warns her readers of
what could happen if people don’t begin to take the chemical issue seriously. Chemicals don’t
just travel through the environment, but food chains as well. ​Soylent Green​ is not only a great
source but a good film to be made because it showed the dark-side and threat that comes with
ignoring environmental issues. The film showed the consequences of pollution and what
damages to the environment can do. The film opened many peoples eyes because they were able
to see the true reality of avoiding real world issues. Being shown something rather than being
told the same information has a larger impact just because visually, it does a better job.
You can see little pieces of what Carson advocated for within ​Soylent Green.​ While
Carson spoke on and gave examples of the problem, the film ​Soylent Green​ showed them
[imagery]. What also stood out to me was for the film's flyer, you see an overflowing sanitation
truck with humans rather than human waste. I find it to be quite ironic since they’re displaying
humans rather than the waste humans spread and throw away. Humans throw away items that
bring harm to the environment like plastic and possible toxins, making them [somewhat] the
blame to those issues. To me, this demonstrates how “we are committing suicide through
chemicals” and other bad types of waste.
Reading ​Silent Spring​ by Rachel Carson taught me many things I didn’t really know nor
think of when it came to the environment. I knew there was a chemical problem but I didn’t
think it was this big of an issue. I had no idea that it affected so many things like: people,
animals, the environment, and food chains. While the novel did start a movement and inspire
others to fight for change, an article about Carson and her novel written by NY Times claims that
environmental issues have grown larger and more urgent than ever before! It makes me almost
afraid since I watched ​Soylent Green​. Both the film and novel are truly eye opening and
shocking because it may become a reality.
After doing some research, I learned that pollution was the main environmental issue that
people focused on in the 1970’s. The movement successfully pressured the Congress to pass an
action to promote cleaner air and water. There wasn’t much focus on chemicals until Rachel
Carson was introduced to the people. Today, our environmental issues list has expanded!
Distressed whales, pollution, floating islands of plastics, the use of straws and its effects on
turtles and other sea animals, nuclear energy, chemicals and more. The list goes on! Global
warming has to be taken more seriously and sadly, we’ll never get there unless the people in
power push the movement and push others to do something. Taking COVID-19 for example, just
from the people in power, like the president, speaking on the issue, people over-stocked their
toiletries, meat, and lysol. But again, they’re recommending people to stay home and social
distance from others but they aren’t taking it seriously. Individuals, including those in power,
need to educate themselves or get educated and maybe they’ll begin to take it seriously.
Works Cited
Carson, R. (1962). ​Silent Spring​. Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin).
Stuart Hall: Representation & the Media. (1997). Retrieved from
Soylent Green. Dir. Richard Fleischer. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1973. iTunes.
Griswold, Eliza. “How 'Silent Spring' Ignited the Environmental Movement.” ​The New York
Times,​ The New York Times, 21 Sept. 2012,