I. Organic Pesticides and ddt



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Silent Spring and the Beginnings of the Modern Environmental Movement

I. Organic Pesticides and DDT


A. What are synthetic organic pesticides?

  • manufactured (not naturally occurring) chemicals that are based on carbon (earlier pesticides had been based on metals like copper, arsenic)

  • two main classes:

1. organophosphate pesticides (high toxicity to mammals, low persistence)

2. organochlorine pesticides (low toxicity to mammals, high persistence)

B. Proliferation of organic pesticides after WW2


  • no real regulation

  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) 1947

C. Controversy over DDT: Long Island Lawsuit, 1958

II. Silent Spring


A. Who was Rachel Carson?

B. Silent Spring as a product of the 1950s

1. proliferation of organic pesicides

2. fears about nuclear fallout

3. ecosystem ecology

4 suburbia as setting

5 audience of middle-class women

C. Carson’s analysis of the problem

D. Reactions to Silent Spring


  • political response?

  • Ribicoff Hearings

  • President’s Science Advisory Commission on Pesticides

  • 1964 minor amendment to FIFRA allowing Sec. Ag to ban pesticides posing “imminent health hazard”

III. The Beginnings of Pesticide Reform


A. DDT Lawsuits

  • EPA ban 1972

B. Legislative Reform

  • transfer of pesticide regulation from USDA to EPA (1970)

  • Federal Environmental Pesticides Control Act (1972)

  • amendments to FIFRA, 1988

  • limits of existing regulatory system

C. Material effects of reform

IV. The cultural impacts of Silent Spring


A. Distrust of government experts & dissident science

B. Connections between human health and the environment

C. The idea of “ecology”

V. From Silent Spring to Earth Day: roots of modern environmentalism


A. Nuclear fallout concerns and protests

B. Pesticides and Silent Spring



C. Changes in Landuse: suburbanization and pollution

D. New cultural productions of nature (e.g., Disney)

E. Wilderness Battles

F. Media coverage of environmental disasters



G. Anti-War movement and student activism

 Earth Day


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