The new environmental health problems are multiple—created by radiation in all its forms, born of the never-ending stream of chemicals of which pesticides are a part, chemicals now pervading the world in which we live, acting upon us directly and indirectly, separately and collectively. Their presence casts a shadow that is no less ominous because it is formless and obscure, no less frightening because it is simply impossible to predict the effects of lifetime exposure to chemical and physical agents that are not part of the biological experience of man. ‘We all live under the haunting fear that something may corrupt the environment to the point where man joins the dinosaurs as an obsolete form of life,’ says Dr. David Price of the United States Public Health Service. ‘And what makes these thoughts all the more disturbing is the knowledge that our fate could pe rhaps be sealed twenty or more years before the development of symptoms.’ Where do pesticides fit into the picture of environmental disease? We have seen that they now contaminate soil, water, and food, that they have the power to make our streams fishless and our gardens and woodlands silent and birdless. Man, however much he may like to pretend the contrary, is part of nature. Can he escape a pollution that is now so thoroughly distributed throughout our world?

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)


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-Mummy, Why is that smoke yellow?

-Because it’s poisonous.

-Then, if a little bird flies through there, it dies!

-By now the little birds know.
They don’t fly through there any more.

-Let’s go.

Michelangelo Antonioni, Deserto Rosso (1964)