impairment of normal physiological function
Some evil spell had settled on the community: mysterious
maladies swept the flocks of chickens; the cattle and sheep sickened and died.
being on the point of death
The few birds seen anywhere were
moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly.
of an instrument of certain death
The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even
threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the
sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world — the very nature of its life.
a pseudoscientific forerunner of chemistry in medieval times
Or they pass mysteriously by underground streams until they emerge and, through the
alchemy of air and sunlight, combine into new forms that kill vegetation, sicken cattle, and work unknown harm on those who drink from once pure wells.
characterized by undue haste and lack of thought
The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the
impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature.
the everyday speech of the people
Since the mid-1940’s over 200 basic chemicals have been created for use in killing insects, weeds, rodents, and other organisms described in the modern
vernacular as “pests”; and they are sold under several thousand different brand names.
of the condition in which an organism can resist disease
This has happened because insects, in a triumphant vindication of Darwin’s principle of the survival of the fittest, have evolved super races
immune to the particular insecticide used, hence a deadlier one has always to be developed — and then a deadlier one than that.
any event that changes genetic structure
But we may easily be doing so now by inadvertence, for many chemicals, like radiation, bring about gene
decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation)
Such thinking, in the words of the ecologist Paul Shepard, “idealizes life with only its head out of water, inches above the limits of toleration of the
corruption of its own environment . . .
withstand a poison or strong drug or pathogen or condition
Why should we
tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity?
The crusade to create a chemically sterile, insect-free world seems to have
engendered a fanatic zeal on the part of many specialists and most of the so-called control agencies.
a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease
Epidemics of chronic arsenical poisoning involving whole populations over long periods are on record.
a stable situation in which forces cancel one another
On the other hand, Dr. Wayland Hayes of the United States Public Health Service contends that in every individual a point of
equilibrium is reached, and that DDT in excess of this amount is excreted.
an animal organism in the early stages of growth
In experimental animals the chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides freely cross the barrier of the placenta, the traditional protective shield between the
embryo and harmful substances in the mother’s body.
a disease caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite
As soon as dieldrin was substituted for DDT in malaria-control work (because the
malaria mosquitoes had become resistant to DDT), cases of poisoning among the spraymen began to occur.
an ancestor in the direct line
It makes the
progenitor of all this group of insecticides, DDT, seem by comparison almost harmless.
anything short-lived, as an insect that lives only for a day
Indeed, its existence is so
ephemeral that medical researchers are unable, without special procedures, to sample it before the body has destroyed it.
having or showing a ready disposition to fight
Honeybees become “wildly agitated and
bellicose” on contact with it, perform frantic cleaning movements, and are near death within half an hour.
a remedy that stops or controls the effects of a poison
Paralysis followed so instantaneously that he could not reach the
antidotes he had prepared at hand, and so he died.
an animal or plant that lives in or on a host
Use of animal systemics has concentrated chiefly on control of the cattle grub, a damaging
parasite of livestock.
cause to become widely known
The legend that the herbicides are toxic only to plants and so pose no threat to animal life has been widely
disseminated, but unfortunately it is not true.
dangerous to health
Some are general poisons, some are powerful stimulants of metabolism, causing a fatal rise in body temperature, some induce
malignant tumors either alone or in partnership with other chemicals, some strike at the genetic material of the race by causing gene mutations.
working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way
While the results of weed killers such as sodium arsenite or the phenols are grossly obvious, some other herbicides are more
insidious in their effects.
in a manner incapable of being disentangled or untied
inextricably mixed with domestic and other wastes discharged into the same water, these chemicals sometimes defy detection by the methods in ordinary use by purification plants.
aggregate of small organisms that float or drift in water
Fish from the lakes were also found to contain insecticides; so did samples of
clouded as with sediment
Clear Lake lies in mountainous country some 90 miles north of San Francisco and has long been popular with anglers. The name is inappropriate, for actually it is a rather
turbid lake because of the soft black ooze that covers its shallow bottom.
an increase by natural growth or addition
Plankton organisms were found to contain about 5 parts per million of the insecticide (about 25 times the maximum concentration ever reached in the water itself); plant-eating fishes had built up
accumulations ranging from 40 to 300 parts per million; carnivorous species had stored the most of all.
any animal that feeds chiefly on grass and other plants
It was a house-that-Jack-built sequence, in which the large carnivores had eaten the smaller carnivores, that had eaten the
herbivores, that had eaten the plankton, that had absorbed the poison from the water.
all the animal life in a particular region or period
Mosses took hold in the little pockets of simple soil — soil formed by crumbling bits of lichen, by the husks of minute insect life, by the debris of a
fauna beginning its emergence from the sea.
so surprisingly impressive as to stun or overwhelm
staggering task of dealing with the tremendous amount of plant material in the annual leaf fall belongs to some of the small insects of the soil and the forest floor.
soften and cause to disintegrate as a result
macerate and digest the leaves, and aid in mixing the decomposed matter with the surface soil.
the complete destruction of every trace of something
Yet the program of sage
eradication has been under way for a number of years.
causing shock, dismay, or horror
Justice William O. Douglas, in his recent book My Wilderness: East to Katahdin, has told of an
appalling example of ecological destruction wrought by the United States Forest Service in the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming.
a type of tree or shrub bearing cones
An unknown but very large acreage of timber-producing lands is now aerially sprayed in order to “weed out” the hardwoods from the more spray-resistant
in a joyous, carefree, or unconcerned manner
The “agricultural engineers” speak
blithely of “chemical plowing” in a world that is urged to beat its plowshares into spray guns.
One of the conservationists wrote of that August pilgrimage to a Maine island: “I returned . . . angry at the
desecration of the Maine roadsides. Where, in previous years, the highways were bordered with wildflowers and attractive shrubs, there were only the scars of dead vegetation for mile after mile.
an insufficient quantity or number
There is no
dearth of men who understand these things, but these are not the men who order the wholesale drenching of the landscape with chemicals.
a source of danger
hazards, more obscure, may also attend the use of 2,4-D.
a threadlike strand of DNA that carries genes
It has been shown experimentally to disturb the basic physiological process of respiration in the cell, and to imitate X-rays in damaging the