The Hypervisibility of the Environment

When one thinks of the environment, they will likely think about nature, wildlife, the outdoors, etc. Over the years, as human curiosity has taken advantage of various advancements in technologies, humans have begun experimenting with these aspects of the environment We have studied the environment, to better understand its role in relation to humans, and of course, how to use its resources to meet our own needs and wants.

In 1945, the use of DDT (a pesticide) was popularised to be used in US agriculture. DDT was extremely efficient at poisoning insects that were preventing maximum efficiency and output of crops. The discoverer of the chemical was even awarded the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948. This discovery got rid of the pesky pests that were preventing maximum potential of food output in very needed crops.

In 1962, Rachel Carson, a nature author and marine biologist published a book called Silent Spring, which recognized (for the first time on such a scale) the harmful effects of the use of these pesticides on agriculture.

This challenged the many corporations that were distributing pesticides to farmers all over the US, and were making a huge amount of profit on pesticides that had not been properly researched to fully understand their effects. These were sold as crop-saving miracle sprays, and with instant results were very popular amongst farmers. Silent Spring descries how DDT enters the food chain and accumulates in the fatty tissues of animals (humans included), leading to cancer and genetic damage. Carson outlined how DDT not only killed the targeted insects, but countless non-intrusive insects that were part of the ecosystem.

This interpretation and expression by Carson can be seen as a way of making the environment hypervisible. This is because of its isolation of different aspects of the situation, making visible a different reality than was understood prior.

The outcome of this book had a huge impact on agriculture policy in the US. President Kennedy ordered the President’s Science Advisory Committee to examine the issues the book raised, which were quickly seen as correct, resulting in the banning of DDT. This changed the public debate from whether pesticides were dangerous, to which pesticides were dangerous. Furthermore, this hypervisibility emphasized to the US public that the environment was vulnerable to human intervention, showing the implications hypervisibility can have on policy.


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