Silent Spring: Chapter 17

Summary of Chapter 17: The Other RoadThis chapter covers alternatives to chemical control of pests, and she names it “the road less traveled by” after Robert Frost’s poem, and calls it “our only chance” to preserve the earth (p. 244). All the solutions she offers are biological solutions based on the knowledge of living organisms. She speaks specifically of ecology that takes into account the whole fabric of life, not just a target insect. One method she discusses is insect sterilization; another is insect venom as a poison. Ultrasonic sound has killed mosquito larvae, and microorganisms like bacteria have also been successful in killing insects. Insect pathogens are only deadly to the target, unlike chemicals. She gives examples of biological controls that are inexpensive, permanent, and leave no poisonous residue.
Commentary on Chapter 17: The Other RoadCarson comments that the modern farm is highly artificial, not set up for natural checks and balances. Birds must be encouraged for insect control, as well as certain species such as fire ants and spiders. Some mammals like voles and shrews also eat insects. She urges that we gain humility and turn away from “the Neanderthal age of biology” and “Stone Age science” (p. 261) for more comprehensive knowledge of the life force around us.