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Silent Spring is a 1962 publication authored by Rachel Carson. The theme of the book greatly contributed to the launch of the environment movement and more especially the campaign against the use of chemical pesticides. The author exposed the agricultural chemical industry’s disinformation about the consequences of pesticides on all living things. Carson argued that if the use of pesticides was not going to be under tight control, the harm caused would worsen the death of useful insects, human beings, birds and other animals. The title of the book ‘Silent Spring’ was based on an assumption that in future, there would be spring seasons with no bird songs being heard, because birds would varnish due to pesticide poisoning which would result from the proliferated use of poisonous pesticides (McLaughlin 3). Carson uses a deductive form of argument in which she employs the classical approach to argument. The structure of her arguments lends itself to the movement of arguments from the general to the specific, through elaborations backed by examples and data. She also makes a good use of the three pillars of argument which form the basis of a classical argument.
In her structure of argument, Carson begins by stating her case which is the initial step in a classical argument. She makes use of both quantitative and qualitative data in the book to present the negative effects that the pesticides have on the environment and all living organisms within its ecosystem. Her particular use of the example of dying birds is based on the fact that she was able to receive information from a friend on the death of birds due to aerial spraying of pesticides. In this initial part of the structure of her argument, Carson seeks to create awareness that nature and the constituents of its ecosystem were vulnerable to human’s interventions on the ecosystem. This is in line with the first pillar of classical arguments of pathos, where an author or orator seeks to create a logical structure to his/her argument by ensuring that the message has sense by basing it on facts, evidence and statistics. Her presentation of logic can be evidenced by the following quotes derived from ‘Silent Spring.’ “These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes-nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the 'good' and the 'bad,' to still the song of birds… (173)” After stating this case she argues that: “Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called 'insecticides,' but 'biocides (173).” Raising the issue and posing a question serves to create a logical form of flow of ideas and direction of argument as witnessed in her text. Carson draws on various examples to put forth her argument and state the purpose of her work. For example, Carson states that: “In Florida, two children found an empty bag and used it to repair a swing. Shortly thereafter both of them died and three of their playmates became ill. The bag had once contained an insecticide called parathion… (209)” This quote of human deaths due to pesticides shows how she presents her argument through the use of examples that logically present the negative effects of pesticides without explicitly stating that they cause death by explaining the mechanisms of operation and complicated chemistry that may be involved. In a plain non-argumentative approach an author may simply present the dangers of parathion for example, by stating how the chemical gets into the system and affects the biochemical systems of the body. But Carson chooses to simply give logical and self explanatory statements that state her case in the argument.
After stating her case, Carson moves to her second step of creating the structure of a classical argument by making a proposition on the argument. This is akin to the presentation of her central thesis in the argument. In this step of her structure, Carson uses data to outline the threats of pesticides such as cancer which results from food contamination and genetic mutations that are chemically caused. In this part, Carson makes good use of the second pillar of argument which is pathos. Pathos denotes the qualitative nature of an argument that makes its persuasive nature appealing to emotions of the readership in order for them to side with the author. Carson makes use of quantitative data, where she offers some statistical evidence in her work to show the damage caused by pesticides. For example, in chapter two of her book Silent Spring, she identifies the source of diseases described in chapter one. For instance, she says that the recent design of potent synthetic poison proliferates was at the rate of around 500 in one year. The outcomes of the spread of these chemicals everywhere in large quantities were short term as well as long term disastrous damages to human and wildlife (Carson 7). The portrayal of the potent dangers in pesticides by show of deaths caused serves the purpose of eliciting the necessary emotions and feelings to support the arguments against the pesticides, because the readers are made to identify with the potential dangers. Carson’s use of imagery and poetic language serves well the purpose of pathos in eliciting the right feelings and sentiments in relation to the points she tries to argue for. This may be exemplified by this quote from the ‘Silent Spring: “As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life…destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways (Carson 297).” The earlier stated arguments followed by propositions of extensive harms presented in such a language full of imagery enriches the readers imagination in figuring out the position of the argument and the weight of the points being presented by the author. Still within the application of the pathos pillar of argument, Carson presents the causes and toll of dangers posed by pesticides. Her presentation portrays a grim picture of death and still life which indeed makes most readers to agree and identify with the course of her argument.
In her structural building of the argument, Carson furthers the argument by introducing substantiations and proof meant to overcome any possible refutations in order to strengthen her argument. In this section, the pillar of ethos in arguments’ structures becomes evident as she uses her professional standing and that of other scientists and professionals that she interviews to back her points of the arguments presented. The professional nature of evidence that she offers and substantiates by stating the professional sources strengthens her arguments and makes her stand out as an author presenting objective and concrete points based on facts, rather than mere speculation or hearsay. Carson also uses the appeal to character (ethos) to expose to the public the hazards of chemical pesticide use. Her background as a marine biologist lends greater credibility to the statements that she makes on the issues she presents. She tries to draw people’s attention to the environmental issues which had never been addressed before. She tries to influence people to give a second thought to environmental issues and not just concentrate on the industry. Industrial revolution depends on the natural environment to prosper, hence there is no way industrialization can work on its own. Carson also incorporated poetic evocation and meticulous research in her work to prove her point. An example is her work on brochures of fish and wildlife service and how they are vulnerable to chemical pollutions like pesticides. She took time to describe how pesticides like DDT entered the food chain and concentrated in the fatty tissues of people and animals causing genetic damage and cancers. She says that a single application remain toxic to the environment even after being diluted by rain water (Carson 12).
Any reader of Carson’s work Silent Spring reflects on the importance of environment and how life can be disastrous without nature. As much as industrialization is important for development, we should embrace it, but at the same time give the environment the first priority, because without the environment, industrialization is not possible. If it is inevitable to avoid the use of these chemicals, we should be more careful when applying these chemicals, because all living things, including human beings, are dependent on each other and killing one species may endanger the rest. The few individuals who oppose Carson’s work have given priority to farmers and other supporters of pesticide industry, who do not care about the future of this universe but only think on the abundance of agricultural produce. Carson has received enormous public support on the conservation of the environment worldwide from the lovers of nature (Carson 36).
In conclusion, Carson makes use of the classical model of argument in which she presents her argument in logical manner (logic), which is supported by the grim evidence of destruction that calls the reader to action and makes him/her to identify with the problem (pathos). Thereafter, she furthers her argument by offering evidence from her professional perspective as well as that of other scientists that share in her view (ethos) in order to generate more objective credibility. Her structural plan simply presents facts, proposes the stands of the argument and later follows by offering supportive evidence that proves and offers ground to counter any possible refutations.