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Silent Spring: what will you do about it?

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Silent spring.

You are seeing it happen around you. Your family is living in it. Your children and pets are breathing it.

But what is it exactly, you may wonder?

Well, stop to think about the context. Close your eyes and picture those two words in your mind.

What is the first thing that appears to you when you think of “spring”?

Isn’t it plants swaying in the breeze, bees buzzing and birds chirping happily in the warm sun?

And don’t you think that this stands in immense contrast with the “silent” that precedes it?

Of course it does.

The expression “silent spring” was first used by Rachel Carson, American biologist, in her most famous (and homonymous) publication. This book, published in 1962, is the cornerstone of modern environmentalism.

You certainly recall all the agitation around DDT and its effects on the living world from not so long ago? Well, Rachel was the one to start it all. And she did so through this book, and more than 50 years ago.

In essence, she explains and proves that DDT, along with pesticides and herbicides with a similar chemical composition, are behind our silent spring. After spraying on crops, in fact, these chemicals travel in the air straight to bees, butterflies, pollinators and birds – killing them. Killing their gentle buzzing. Killing their springtime chirping. Making the world around us silent.

And this is only the beginning. Because after this, they seep through the ground into waters, and become part of the ongoing water cycle. Once spraying happens, these “elixirs of death” – as Rachel calls them – last in the soil for years. And, since “nature does not exist alone”, they reach humans and animals.

It is true that DDT is no longer welcome in most countries, nowadays. But similar compounds – like chlorinated hydrocarbons – are.

And these, too, travel. From the crops they are meant to liberate of pests straight to us. To our children and to our pets. They amass in our body and stay there for years, slowly degenerating it.

These substances are legal, they are widespread and of daily use. They are distributed by governments and paid for by tax-payers (us). And, in most cases, these tax-payers are not even aware of the damages these chemicals cause.

How does knowing all of this make you feel?

At a loss for words? Angry? Scared? Rightly so.

But don’t you also feel the need to do something? To live differently, with more attention to the beauties that surround us and more respect for Mother Nature? To contribute to erasing this “altering of nature” which man is responsible for?

How, you may ask?

It’s actually quite straightforward. You can find slews of articles on the subject, but here is what we are currently doing as a family. It’s simple and easy.

  • Grow your own food. This way, you will always know where what you have on your plate comes from.
  • Grow it organic.¬†Look for organic seeds at your local farmer’s market or at your organic store. Use natural pest and herb management practices. From companion planting to homemade, natural bug repellers, there is an immense variety of ways to make sure your food grows well. Water from a secure source. If your water comes from a rain water collecting container, make sure it has not been contaminated by pesticides. Use homemade compost to feed your soil.
  • If you can’t do the above, buy your food at the local organic farmer’s market.
  • Help raise awareness about pesticide and herbicide impact. Find your local group, join its meetings and work with the team on communal projects. Many of these groups also conduct policy dialogue at local government level, organize surveys and petition signing, and teach the community the basics of organics.

We can all do our part, within our own world. It’s just a matter of starting.

For your children, for your children’s children, for you.


  • Carson, Rachel. “Silent Spring”, 1962.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAOSTAT, 2014.
Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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