How could this happen?
We don’t need to use pesticides nearly as much as agrichemical companies (the folks that make and sell pesticides) tell us to— the same folks who tried to stop the New Yorker magazine from first publishing excerpts of Carson’s book. A pest can be defined as an organism (insect, spider, rodent, reptile, plant, fungus, etc.) that competes with humans for food, water, shelter, or attention. The pests associated with the school
environment seek out, utilize and inhabit the environment that the human population has created for the education of its children. Whereas Heliothis zea (cotton bollworm) competes with humans because a cultivated field represents their required habitat, Musca domestica (housefly) competes with humans because our habitat also represents their required habitat. Humans are fierce competitors. If we don’t like it, and it competes with us, we want to kill it.
Agrichemical manufacturing and pest extermination companies spend lots of money to convince us that we should hate or, worse, fear all invaders. You have seen the commercials showing roaches and warning of diseases — spray inside; potbellied men whispering about the lethargic homeowner whose dandelion-infested yard is ruining the neighborhood – spray outside; ticks and mosquitoes sucking your blood and transmitting
diseases - spray yourself! Did you ever ask yourself whose idea it was to have a perfectly green yard, red apple, or sterile house? Come on, admit it. Even if you do decide to buy those advertisements, and spray that nasty old roach, do you follow the label (it’s the law!) and just give that sixlegged monster one quick squirt? Horse pucky! You douse it! Scream at it! Drown it! And, if you don’t have Raid® you use oven cleaner or hairspray. Hell, I know some of you (usually tough guys) have even used WD40® as
a blow torch to incinerate it! Admit it. Entomologists love media stories about people burning down their houses this way. Even more fun are those who blow their houses up by overusing pesticide “bombs” in their airtight houses with the gas pilot light on. Bug humor.
We have been trained well through the manipulations of billions of dollars worth of advertising to be fierce competitors, and we have been given the weapons to succeed. How sexy is having “Robo-exterminator” patrolling the perimeter of your house to protect you? The agchem companies even have farmers believing that they are more patriotic if they use pesticides.
No kidding. Listen to the ads on early morning TV before planting season. To my great sadness (in that I spent more than 10 years working with the USDA to develop and extend less expensive and more environmentally sound pest management technology to farmers) it has been and still is their policy to promote the use of pesticides. It broke my heart when I found out that my agency, my government, also tried to prevent Rachel Carson from publishing her book. But, that’s for later. There is a better way, and that is
what most of this book is about.