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Science Technology and Society: A Commentary on Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
Science and technology, as we have learned, work hand in hand to sustain a progressive society, attempting to make the world a more satisfying, convenient, and a generally better place to live in. It is observed, however, that in this constant process of acquiring knowledge and applying it for the betterment of society, oftentimes the results obtained may be a combination of both advantages and disadvantages, for instance, one product may prove to be beneficial to achieving the goals of humankind, however it is at the expense of other critically important aspects such as the environment. This problem is illustrated further through the issue regarding the chemical substance DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), its acceptance in the 40’s and its consequential effects to society in the 50’s. It was presented how the substance used to be effective in controlling malaria and typhus, as well as used as agricultural insecticide, however was proven to pose a threat to the environment. This paper will then aim to revisit this event, discuss it further, and relate it to our understanding of science and technology’s role in society.
DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is known for its insecticidal properties and is colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless. DDT had been formulated in almost every conceivable form there is, which includes solutions in xylene or petroleum distillates, aerosols, smoke candles, as well as charges for vaporizers and lotions.
DDT was invented with an intention to aid mankind. However, although the motive of its invention was solely for the good of many, DDT in some ways betrayed mankind by affecting their bodies and their offspring. This problem was pointed out by Rachel Carson who wrote book “Silent Spring” which sparked a revolution and saved many lives. Silent Spring tackled the issue of using DDT in our everyday lives despite it being detrimental to our health. It exposed the negative effects of DDT on the food web that could harm entire humanity. The book, Silent Spring, discussed and revealed the harmful effects of DDT to the environment and most specially, DDT’s effect on the human body. The thing that was wrong with the relentless spraying of DDT had been shown to cause cancer and other illnesses.
Regardless of the criticisms passed on Rachel Carson, she maintained a strong will to oppose the use of DDT. Due to what she had exhibited, eyes were opened and lives were saved. I, for one, think it was acceptable to recognize DDT for its potential in contributing more to our society’s growth and overall development, and we believe that the substance still possesses that great deal of a potential. It is actually commendable that society is constantly studying its surroundings and looking for ways to improve it, however in our opinion, it may be important to bear in mind that if development is to be achieved in our society, it should always be one that is sustainable. Sustainable development would mean that during our pursuit of improvement, it should not be at the expense of extremely endangering the resources actually enabling us to aim for progress. In this case, it would not be true development to use a substance that could instantly solve our pest problems if it causes cancer, other genetic damages, and gradual degradation of our environmental resources.
It must have been a big revelation in Science and Technology when DDT was found to be detrimental to humans, animals, and even to the environment. While it is true that it has been helpful as an insecticide, it is significant to note that it is more of a threat. This discovery only proves that Science has its own way to create and recreate the knowledge that it shows to the society. Knowing the harmful effects of DDT also posits that Science is not infallible. Scientists can reinforce and at the same time debunk existing claims. Thus, as “consumers” of Science, people actually have a responsibility. They must be very careful in accepting and using the discoveries presented to them. Being proactive in seeking information about any scientific discovery or invention helps people utilize such wisely.