Michael Pollan

by Andy Peterson

Michael Pollan

(06.Feb, 1955 – )

Michael Pollan was born in 1955 in Long Island, New York.  He received his Master’s Degree in English at Columbia University in 1981, having previously studied at Bennington College and at Oxford University .  His first published article, “Gardening Means War,“  appeared in the New York Times in June of 1988.  In this piece, he tells the story of moving his home from the city into the countryside, where he strikes forth in a grand struggle with nature that most of us call gardening.  This article is extremely comparable to the book, “Epitaph for a  Peach,” (Masumoto) through each writer’s coming to terms with the natural world as he attempts to dominate nature (with mixed physical results and ethical realizations), and is awakened to his connection (or lack thereof) with nature.  The reader is called to a new way of looking at the land we cultivate, and that which we do not:

The forest, I now understand, is “normal”; everything else—the fields and meadows, the lawns and pavements and, most spectacularly, the gardens—is an ecological “vacuum” that nature will not abide for long. Here the soil is richest and most frequently turned over. What softer, sweeter, more hospitable bed could an airborne weed seed ever find to lie down on? Other weeds don’t even have to find your garden: thousands of their seeds lie dormant in every cubic foot of garden soil, patiently waiting for a pleasing combination of light and moisture so they can move on your plants.

And your plants are sitting ducks. Just as cultivated soil constitutes a kind of vacuum in the environment, so do most of the plants grown in it. Most cultivated fruits and vegetables contain nutrients in greater concentration than ordinary plants. They stick out in the natural landscape like rich kids in a tough neighborhood. Enter the animals. The woodchucks and deer are the flora’s great levelers, making sure there are no undue concentrations of nutritional wealth in the landscape. They want to redistribute my protein.”

Pollan continued down this literary path, continuing to delve into the history, quandaries, and the veil that are all interlaced in the common-knowledge “truths” about food and agriculture.  His article “Weeds Are Us” was published in the New York Times in November of 1989 and was selected for the Norton Book of Nature Writing.  Other articles have been used in  anthological books like “Best American Essays”, “Best American Science Writing”, and “the New Kings of Non-Fiction”.  He is still a regular contributor to the New York Times, and served as the executive director for Harper’s Magazine. He has written 6 books since 1991, beginning with “Second Nature–a Gardener’s Education”.  Subsequent to this came “A Place of My Own” (1997),  “The Botany of Desire–a Plant’s Eye View of the World” (2001), “The Omnivore’s Dilemma–a Natural History of Four Meals” (2006), “In Defense of Food–an Eater’s Manifesto”(2008), and most recently, “Food Rules: an Eater’s Manual” (2009).  He also released an updated version of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” adapted especially for young readers in 2009.

Pollan has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards.  “Eater’s Manual”, “Eater’s Manifesto”, “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Botany of Desire” were all New York Times bestsellers.  “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  He also received the James Beard Award in 2003 for best magazine series,  the John Burroughs prize for best natural history essay in 1997, the QPB New Vision Award for his first book, “Second Nature”, Reuter’s Global Award for Environmental Journalism (2000), Humane Society Genesis Award in 2003, Truth in Agriculture Journalism Award, given by the American Corngrower’s Association (2008), the  President’s Citation Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the 2009 Voices of Nature Award from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Since the spring of 2003 he has been teaching in graduate school, and is now the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California in Berkley; his most recent course option titled, “Edible Education-The Rise and Future of the Food Movement”.  Pollan is one of the most significant environmental authors of our time, urging us as a community to come to grips with fallacies regarding the way “we” grow food, how we mutilate it into other products, and how it gets onto our kitchen tables, medicine cabinets, and gas tanks.  He addresses themes of “Other”, domination, language, history, food, childhood, humans, animals, plants, and hierarchy in his many literary works.


-”Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

-”You are what you eat eats.”

-“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ”

-“… the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds.”









Botany of Desire


Omnivore’s Dilemma


Open-Source Food & Genetic Engineering


Until the romantics, the hierarchy of plants was generally thought to mirror that of human society.  Common people, one writer held in 1700, may be “looked upon as trashy weeds or nettles.”  J.C. Loudon, an early 19th century gardening expert, invited his readers “to compare plants with men, consider aboriginal species as mere savages, and botanical species…as civilized beings.””  (Norton, pp. 1081)

Pollan is, in this section of “Weeds Are Us”, trying to understand what a weed is. Why are weeds “weeds” and plants not?  In a subsequent article, he compares the botanical species we plant and slave over to “rich kids standing in a tough neighborhood”.  What does this passage say about the way we decide what ethnicities, cultures (both plant and human), and states of land are cast into the “other”, and, since we eat many of these plants, what does it imply we are doing when we ingest them?

“But by the end of the chapter, Thoreau trudges back lamely to the Emsonian fold: “The sun looks on our cultivated fields and on the prairies and forests without distinction…Do these beans not grow for woodchucks too”…How, then, can our harvest fail?  Shall I not rejoice also at the abundance of the weeds whose seeds are the granary of the birds?”

Sure, Henry, rejoice.  And starve.”

Here, Pollan is wrestling with different schools of thought on weeds, and sees in text that Henry Thoreau had preceded him in this battle of ethics and survival.  Emerson’s “Weediness is in the eye of the beholder” was the philosophy that Michael tried to embrace, but is reminded by Thoreau that if we are to sustain ourselves by growing crops, we must tend to those crops.  What similar dilemmas have occurred throughout history on the human stage,  where “live and let live” has turned to a choice between “die and let live”, or “live and let die”–whether the weeds are plants, animals, or human?

“Working in concert, European weeds and European humans proved formidable ecological imperialists, rapidly driving out native species and altering the land to suit themselves….In a sense, the invading species had less in common with the retiring provincial plants they ousted than with the Europeans themselves.  Or perhaps that should be put the other way around.  “If we confine the concept of weeds to species adapted to human disturbance,” writes Jack R. Harland in Crops and Man, “then man is by definition the first and primary weed under whose influence all other weeds have evolved.”

Weeds are not the Other.  Weeds are us.”

Written and presented by

Andy T.K. Peterson


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Barbara Kingsolver

By Kaitlyn Roble


Born in 1955, Kingsolver was raised in Kentucky.  She received degrees in biology from DePauw University as well as University of Arizona.  Since 1985 she has worked as a freelance writer and author.  Before settling in southwest Virginia she lived in Tucson Arizona for twenty years.  Kingsolver has traveled frequently, living in England, France, and Canary Islands also taking work in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America.

She has received many of the following awards:

-Named one of the most important writers of the 20th century by Writers Digest

-Mulitiple awards from the American Booksellers Association

-Multiple awards from the American Library Association

-National Humanities Medal (which is the highest honor given to servers of the arts)

The Poisonwood Bible received a:

-Pulitzer Prize

-Orange Prize

-national book award of South Africa

-as well as an Oprah Book Club selection

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle received the:

-James Beard Award

Publications (in order of publication)

1988-The Bean Trees


1989-Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike

1990-Animal Dreams

1992-Another America

1993-Pigs in Heaven

1995-High Tide in Tucson

1998-The Poisonwood Bible

2000-Prodigal Summer

2002-Small Wonder

2002-Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands

2007-Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

2009-The Lacuna

Barbara Kingsolver at the Orange Prize ceremony.


“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.”  -From Animal Dreams (featured quote on her biography website)

“I try to avoid giving advice.  Maybe I’ll offer just this: if you’re a young writer and a smoker, you should probably quit, because that will increase your odds of getting old enough to accumulate wisdom.  That is the main thing readers want, I think: wisdom.”

-Barbara Kingsolver on advice to other writers

Do you consider writing to be a form of activism? Do you think novelists have a duty to address political issues?

“I think of “activism” as a simple action meant to secure a specific result: for this purpose I go to school board meetings, I vote, I donate money, and occasionally fire off an op-ed piece.  But that’s not what I do for a living.  Writing literature is so much more nuanced than these things, it’s like comparing chopping vegetables to neurosurgery.  Literature is one of the few kinds of writing in the world that does not tell you what to buy, want, see, be, or believe.  It’s more like conversation, raising new questions and inspiring you to answer them for yourself.

As a literary novelist I spend my days tasting the insides of words, breathing life into sentences that swim away under their own power, stringing together cables of poetry to hold up a narrative arc.  I hope also to be a fearless writer: examining the unexamined life, asking the unasked questions.  In most of the world, people call that literature.  For some reason, people in the U.S. are fond of putting me in a box labeled “political,” which could mean anything: “this is about the world,” or “this makes me uncomfortable.”  If it means “inclined to change people’s minds,” that seems ludicrous as a category because great literature will always do that.  Fiction cultivates empathy for a theoretical stranger by putting you inside his head, allowing you to experience life from his point of view.  It can broaden your view of gender, ethnicity, place and time, power and vulnerability, things that influence social interaction.  What could be more political than that?

I think the novelist’s duty is to own up to the power of the craft, and use it wisely.”


1. What authors do you feel are subtly hinted at in the excerpt from High Tide in Tucson?  Where does the title come from?

2.  Kingsolver writes about reapplying to the Animal Kingdom “the wonder of it is that our culture attaches almost unequivocal shame to our animal nature. . .” (1074).  Do you see yourself as a human or animal first?  Is there a difference?

3. Do you think literature has the power to “change people’s minds” as Kingsolver has pointed out above or is it just for leisure and entertainment?  Do you feel the literature we have read in class has changed any of your perspectives?



Barbara Kingsolver, MPR talks about being a writer and her hometown


1:17, Barbara Kingsolver accepting Orange Prize and acceptance speech


Barbara Kingsolver, MPR, talks about characters


Barbara Kingsolver, Miami Book Fair on developing imagery


Poisonwood Bible Preview done for English class by another student






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Helena Maria Viramontes

By Justin Luther


Helena Maria Viramontes was born in Los Angeles on February 26, 1954. She grew up in a large family with 8 siblings (3 brothers and 5 sisters) and a large number of relatives spread throughout Mexico and California.  She graduated from Garfield High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Immaculate Heart College.

After she graduated, she won first place in a Chicano Literary Fiction competition at UC Irvine, where she later enrolled in a Graduate Writing program.  The main themes in her literature are that of the Chicano movement, feminism, and other social injustices.  The Chicano Movement is a movement dealing with the civil rights of Mexican Americans.  The issues involved range from farming rights to the cultural identity of the Mexican American people.

In her novel, Under the Feet of Jesus, Viramontes tells a story of a young boy is drenched in poisonous pesticide by a low flying crop duster.  While the book focuses on hardship in the Chicano community, it also acknowledges the issue of pesticide use and its harmful effects on low income communities.

The Issue

The World Health Organization estimates a staggering 3,000,000  cases of severe pesticide poisoning occur annually on a global level.  A minimum of 300 of those cases have a fatal outcome.

  • About 75% of pesticide use takes place in agriculture.
  • A large part of the agricultural work force in the U.S. is made up of Mexican American workers
  • Female workers experience nearly twice the risk as male workers

Acute Pesticide Poisoning – Poisoning due to direct exposure of pesticides, usually for a short duration of time.  The four possible routes of exposure are through the skin, inhalation, oral, or through the eyes.

Possible effects:

  • Birth Defects
  • Tumors (Both Benign and Malignant)
  • Toxicity to Fetus
  • Blood Disorders
  • Nerve Disorders
  • Endocrine Disruption

More Information at: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uo198.pdf

Acute Pesticide Poisoning Among Agricultural Workers in the United States Study:
3,271 Acute Pesticide Poisoning cases that took place between 1998 and 2005 were      examined.

  • 71% were Farm Workers
  • 12% were Processing and/or Packing Plant Workers
  • 3% were Farmers
  • 19% were Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers

More information on the study at: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/AJIM_final.pdf

Discussion Questions

Considering the author’s ethnic background, its easy to see how she could invest herself in the issue of pesticide poisoning among the Chicano people.  How much would it take for get us involved in the issue?  Why do you think we have to wait for the problem to be at our doorsteps for us to acknowledge it?

What other authors have we discussed that tackle similar issues?  What are some of the major themes that pesticide poisoning touch on?

The effects of pesticide poisoning not only hits the residents within the United States, but the low to middle income population throughout the entire world.  In South India, 50% to 75% of all deaths among women ages 10 to 19 are caused by pesticide poisoning.  If people were more aware of these statistics, do you think that there would be a stronger push to reduce the use of pesticides, or would it just become another back-burner issue?


“No sense in talking tough unless you do it.” (Under the Feet of Jesus, 45)

“Picking the food for other people to eat” – Helena Maria Viramontes

“Writers of novels need to sustain a whole world in their head.” – Helena Maria Viramontes


Migrant workers get sick from pesticide poisoning:


Helena Maria Viramontes speaks about her experience in writing Chicano based fiction:


Interesting Links

Interview with Viramontes:


Website about Pesticide:


Website about migrant workers:


Biography of Helena Maria Viramontes:


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Linda Hogan

by Kyrsten Parmeter

Linda Hogan was born in 1947 in Denver, Colorado.  Her father was a full Chickasaw Indian and her mother came from pioneers of Nebraska.  She started writing in her 20s and moved to the East Coast to work with physically challenged after divorcing Paul Hogan.  She eventually moved back to Colorado to start at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and earned her M.A. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1978.  She has been teaching in the American Indian Studies Program and in the English department of the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1989.  Her poetry is recognized for the realism and insightful imagery of nature.


Her first collection of poems was published in 1978, Calling Myself Home, and was influenced by her mixture of white and Native blood.  Seeing Through the Sun was published in 1985, and was also influenced by her different ethnicities.  Daughters, I Love You, published in 1981, and Eclipse, published in 1983, were both influenced by her daughters.  She talks about preserving the Earth so her daughters can enjoy it throughout their lives also in the previously mentioned books.  In Savings: Poems, which was published in 1988, she writes more about politics, poverty, and racism.  The Book of Medicines was published in 1993, and talks about healing powers and making the world a peaceful place for the future.  She recently had two new books published: Rounding the Human Corners (April 2008), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and People of the Whale (August 2008).

– 1980 – the D’Arcy McNickle Memorial Fellowship at the Newberry Library
– 1982 – the Yaddo Artists Colony Residence Fellowship
– 1986 – the National Endowment for the Arts grant for fiction
– 1990 – the Guggenheim fellowship for fiction
– 1994 – a Lannan Award
Mean Spirit won the Oklahoma Book Award and the Mountains and Plains Book Award; this book was also a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize.
Solar Storms and Power were both finalists for the International Impact Award

Interesting Facts:

She adopted two girls, Sandra Dawn Protector and Tanya Thunder Horse, in 1979.
She has served on the National Endowment for the Arts poetry panel.
Linda Hogan has also volunteered at wildlife rehabilitation clinics in Minnesota and Colorado!
She will be coming out with a new book called INDIOS soon.

Critics’ Quotes:

“She vividly brings to life the realities of the natural world, its seasons, and their effects, observed with precision and understood with uncanny sympathy; time and again, she hits the exact metaphor that conveys the feeling of being truly alive. …” – Joseph Perisi says about Linda Hogan and her poetry.

“Deer Dance” from Rounding Human Corners:
This morning
when the chill that rises up from the ground is warmed,
the snow is melted
where the small deer slept.
See how the bodies leave their mark.
The snow reveals their paths on the hillsides,
the white overcrossing pathways into the upper meadows
where water comes forth and streams begin.
With a new snow the unseen becomes seen.
Rivers begin this way.

At the deer dance last year,
after the clashing forces of human good and evil,
the men dressed in black,
the human women mourning for what was gone,
the evergreen sprigs carried in a circle
to show the return of spring.
That night, after everything human was resolved,
a young man, the chosen, became the deer.
In the white skin of its ancestors,
wearing the head of the deer
above the human head
with flowers in his antlers, he danced,
beautiful and tireless,
until he was more than human,
until he, too, was deer.

Of all those who were transformed into animals,
the travelers Circe turned into pigs,
the woman who became the bear,
the girl who always remained the child of wolves,
none of them wanted to go back
to being human. And I would do it, too, leave off being human
and become what it was that slept outside my door last night.

One evening I hid in the bush south of here
and watched at the place where they shed their antlers
and where the deer danced, it was true,
as my old grandmother said,
water came up from the ground
and I could hear them breathing at the crooked river.
The road there I know, I live here,
and always when I walk it
they are not quite sure of me,
looking back now and then to see that I am still
far enough away, their gray-brown bodies,
the scars of fences,
the fur never quite straight,
as if they’d just stepped into it.


1.  Can you think of a time when you stumbled upon an area an animal used for bedding?  Did you stop and check it out and try to figure what animal was there?  How did you feel?
2.  Have you ever thought of an animal you would like to change into for a day or so?
3.  How did this poem make you feel in comparison to some of her other poems? (“Wild,” “Awake,” etc.)

Linda Hogan reading a poem, 2 minutes




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Rick Bass

by Elizabeth Hacken


Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas on March 7, 1958. He received a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Geology at Utah State in 1979 and then worked as a gas and oil geologist in Jackson Mississippi.

He and his wife moved to the Yaak Valley in the northern Rockies in 1987. Bass is active in working to protect the Yaak area from roads and logging, and serves on the board of the Forest council and Round River Conservation Studies in Yaak Valley.

He is the author of over twenty books. His first short story collection, The Watch, set in Texas, won the PEN/Nelson Algren Award, and his 2002 collection, The Hermit’s Story, was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Bass’s stories have also been awarded the Pushcart Prize and the O. Henry Award and have been collected in The Best American Short Stories.

Yaak Valley Forest Council

The Yaak Valley Forest Council (YVFC) was formed in 1997 because the residents were concerned with the health and management of the forest land. YVFC is led by residents of the Yaak Valley, residents who know the landscape intimately, who have a high level of field experience, and who have developed strong collaborative projects with other grassroots groups, as well as county, state, and federal officials toward habitat conservation, restoration, and connectivity, as well as the cutting edge of community economic development.

Yaak Valley Forest Council mission statement:

Our mission is to: 1) Permanently protect the last remaining roadless cores in the Yaak Valley, which total nearly 180,000 acres in the northern tier of the Kootenai National Forest through Wilderness designation and other management tools; 2) Maintain and restore the valley’s ecological integrity by conserving and improving habitat for populations of native species; 3) Encourage and support the development of local economies increasingly based on stewardship principles, value-added forest products, habitat conservation and ecological restoration; and 4) Empower local residents through education and solidarity toward the above mission.  YVFC is committed to cultivating and encouraging meaningful dialog between historically polarized groups within the valley as well as the region, bringing these groups to the same table to find common ground on ecosystem-based forest management practices.

For more information on the Yaak Valley Forest Council go to:


Discussion Questions

  • After reading the first chapter of The Ninemile Wolves, what did you think about the topic?
  • Can you think of a better (reasonable) way to handle wolf populations in places where people live?
  • Which theory do you think is the reason the wolves are returning to the Yaak Valley? (Norton, 1118)
  • What do you think of the first quote below? Is there truth behind it?


“To pretend anything else-to pretend that we are protecting the wolf, for instance, or managing him-is nonsense of the kind of immense proportions of which only our species is capable.” -Rick Bass (The Ninemile Wolves) Norton, 1115

“[Wild animals], and the beautiful landscapes that sustain them…possess a value and a virtue regardless of our dwindling connection with them. It seems that there is a virtue and a wisdom in keeping some things beyond our reach: that the protection of wilderness itself is imperative… We have touched, and are consuming, everything. The world is very old, and we are so new. I like the feeling of awe–what the late writer Wallace Stegner called ‘the birth of awe’–in beholding wild country not reduced by man. I like to remember that it is wild country that gives rise to wild animals; and that the marvelous specificity of wild animals reminds us to wake up, to let our senses be inflamed by every scent and sound and sight and taste and touch of the world. I like to remember that we are not here forever, and not here alone, and that the respect with which we behold the wild world matters, if anything does.” -Rick Bass

“I do not concern myself with my inability to feel such comfort amidst humans (other than with very few friends and family), but, rather, am simply thankful that at least dogs exist, and I’m humbly aware of how much less a person I’d be – how less a human – if they did not exist. “
— Rick Bass (Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had)


creative writing:


links to more information



link to the Rick Bass picture:


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Rachel Carson

By Ashley Detloff


The biologist, writer, and ecologist, Rachel Carson, was born on May 17th, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania.  She started her career as an ecologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, which is where she first encountered the pesticide DDT.  The product was marketed as a “bug bomb” after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Appalled at obvious dangers that DDT posed, Carson tried to publish an article about the dangers of DDT, but no newspaper or magazine would touch it.  The information Carson had uncovered about DDT (that it was responsible for a massive bird kill-off near Cape Cod) was swept under the rug.  DDT was lauded as a miracle cure for farmers and pest control workers everywhere.  When the book was finally published in 1961, it was met with mixed reviews.  While her book did help facilitate the ban on DDT in 1973, many people believe that DDT is necessary to protect people, especially in third world countries, from malaria. (See “The DDT Controversy”) Nevertheless, Carson’s courageous effort to shed light on such a controversial issue helped to save many of the bird species in the United States (most notably, the Bald Eagle) and helped spark the modern environmentalist movement.

Issues about DDT

The formula for DDT (and other insecticides) was adopted by the United States Military and was used predominantly in Vietnam and Korea as a deforesting agent to protect the military from the threat of malaria.  (For more information go here: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/1996/104-12/focusvietnam.html)

People and animals who have been in contact with DDT have been known to show these symptoms/problems:

  • Risk of premature birth or a low birth weight for babies born to DDT infected women
  • DDT affects the liver, nervous system, kidneys, and immune system in animals
  • DDT causes reproductive problems on small mammals (eg. Rodents) and some become sterile
  • DDT has been shown to store in human fat cells indefinitely.  There has not been enough evidence to determine if DDT is carcinogenic
  • DDT has a high potential to bioaccumulation in the ecosystem, thus making certain game animals (especially fish) unsafe to eat
  • Birds that have encountered DDT through direct contact or bioaccumulation have reproductive problems.  The egg shells in many birds become too thin and then break, causing the embryo to die.
  • DDT is an endocrine suppressor thus also affecting the reproductive system
  • DDT is easily transported via water and air current to places where they have never been used.

–          http://www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/Actives/ddt.htm

–          http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/oncompounds/ddt/2003/2003-0808chenandrogan.htm

The DDT Controversy (http://www.aaenvironment.com/DDT.htm)

The African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) believes that DDT should be used in African (and other third world countries) to eliminate malaria.  They say:

AAEA did not come to this position lightly. We recognize that the misuse of pesticides threatens not only bird communities but human communities too. It is for this reason that we do not support gigantic broadcast spraying programs. We also accept the science of bioconcentration of pesticides in birds high on food chains, such as eagles, pelicans and falcons. However, we believe that the benefits derived from eliminating malaria through the use of DDT far outweigh any dangers. We will leave readers with one question to answer in this regard: Would you exchange the life of one child for all the eagles in a country? (Your child?)

Besides the fact that their website is full of spelling errors, many people share in AAEA’s belief.  If you google, “DDT + lifting the ban” and “DDT + criticism” you will find information on both sides of the argument

Discussion Topics

  • After reading the first three chapters of Silent Spring on D2L, what were your thoughts on the topic?
  • What central themes that we have already mentioned in class reappear in Carson’s book?
  • Can you propose a better solution to protect people from contracting malaria, than spraying DDT?
  • (Going off of the quote from “The Other Road”) What must we as a society (or even as a person) do to get off the superhighway and venture out onto roads less traveled?



“The more clearly we focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction” – Rachel Carson

“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem” (“The Obligation to Endure,” 12-13).

“Incidents like the eastern Illinois spraying raise a question that is not only scientific but moral.  The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized” (“Needless Havoc,” 99).

“We stand now where two roads diverge.  But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair.  The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at the end lies disaster.  The other fork of the road – the one “less traveled by” – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth” (“The Other Road,” 271).


Happy folks, enjoying a shower of DDT

A Graph showing a correlation between DDT usage and Polio diagnosis

Video Clips

DDT spraying.


More about Carson


A clip of “A Small Wonder” a bibliographical play about Rachel Carson, actress Kaiulani Lee plays her


Links to the pictures I used

Top picture:


DDT Picture


Polio Graph






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Memorable Eco-quotations

Good writers often provide us with insights in a sentence or two, insights that capture a feeling, standpoint, or vision that resonates with many readers.  What are your favorite quotations from our environmental writers?  Post a reply that gives us the author, the source essay, and the quotation.

Then tell us, in a sentence or two, what it is about this quotation that resonates with you.  Collectively, we’ll compile a list of memorable eco-quotations that will articulate the many themes of U.S. environmental literature!

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