SILENT SPRING - Rachel Carson 1961 (excerpt) #
There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seethed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchard’s where in spring white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of’ colour that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines. Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the autumn mornings.
Along the roads, laurel, viburnum and alder, great ferns and flowers delighted the traveller’s eye through much of the year Even in winter the roadsides were places of beauty, where countless birds came to feed on the berries and on the seed heads of the dried weeds rising above the snow. The. countryside was famous for the abundance and variety of birdlife, and when the flood of migrants was pouring through in spring and autumn, people travelled from great distances to observe them. Others came to fish the streams, which flowed clear and cold out of the hills and contained shady pools where trout lay.
Then a strange blight crept over the land and everything began to change. Some e spell had settled on the community: mysterious maladies. the flocks of chickens; the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was a shadow of death. The farmers spoke of much illness among their families. In the town the doctors had become more and more puzzled by new kinds of sicknesses appearing along their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among the adults but even among children, who would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within a few hours.
There was a strange stillness. The birds — where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; -they trembled violently and could not fly. It was spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus Of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of’ other bird voices there was now no sound. Only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.
On the farms the hens brooded, but no chicks hatched. The farmers complained that they were unable to raise any pigs the litters were small and the young survived only a few days. The apple trees were coming into bloom but no bees droned among the blossoms, so there was no pollination and.: there would be no fruit.
The roadsides, once so attractive, were no with browned and withered vegetation as though swept by fire. These, too were silent, deserted by all living things. Even the streams were now lifeless. Anglers no longer visited them, for all the fish had died.
In the gutters under the caves and between the shingles of the roof, a granular powder still shoed a few patches; some weeks before, it had. fallen like snow upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and streams.
No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.