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environment and science

Echoes of Silent Spring: 50 Years of Environmental Awareness

Click here to view the online version of the exhibit

In the modern, human-dominated world, a wide variety of pests threaten our environment, agriculture, and health, and must be controlled. Part of the strategy for controlling pests is the use of chemicals that kill or reduce the numbers of the pest; and 50 years ago, a publication alerted the people of the world to potential dangers in pesticide use. This book was Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson and published in 1962. The MSU Museum revisits the publication of this landmark book, credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

"While pesticides are important agents in pest control, they also can carry significant risks if not used carefully and strategically," notes MSU Museum Director Gary Morgan, the exhibit's curator. "We now know that some pesticides that were once widely used can be extremely dangerous to organisms other than the target pests."

As a direct result of the publication of Silent Spring, practices of pesticide use were subjected to much more intense scrutiny and much has changed since then. Most observers say the changes have been for the better, but some suggest the impacts of Silent Spring may have been negative. "Echoes of Silent Spring: 50 Years of Environmental Awareness" invites visitors to experience the exhibit, read the book, and be the judge.

Close to home, research presented in the best-seller Silent Spring had a very close connection to Michigan - particularly the major case study citing the observation of birds on the campus of Michigan State University that experienced tremors then death after consuming large amounts of the pesticide DDT as it accumulated in soil, and consequently, in their food source, earthworms. Part of the exhibit showcases ongoing correspondence between Carson and MSU ornithologist George Wallace, whose papers are now part of the MSU Museum's collection.

Beyond the book itself, "Echoes of Silent Spring" considers many interrelated issues such as environmental sustainability and agricultural practices, ethics, law, and women in science.

This exhibition has been displayed at the Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, MI; and Alma College, Alma, MI.

  Rental fee (12 weeks) $2,000, plus shipping
  Number of pieces: 31
  Running feet required: 140 running feet
  Insurance Value: $32,000
  Security requirement: Lockable, limited access display area;temperature and light controls; fire protection according to local ordinances
  Additional materials available: Press materials.

This exhibit is supported, in part, by a gift from Sarah W. Newman.

Silent Spring exhibit postcard


 



 

 


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