Saturday, March 2, 2013

'From Silent Spring to Silent Night'

Dr. Tyrone Hayes from the University of Berkeley visited my campus this week and presented on "From Silent Spring to Silent Night: A Tale of Toads and Men."

Unfortunately I had to miss the event because I was at another university event. I offered my students extra credit for attending and writing up a summary of the event.

Samuel Moore, one of my students, wrote a very nice review of this interesting talk and its relevance for "consumerism," the topic of the course I'm teaching

Dr. Tyrone Hayes’s lecture “From Silent Spring to Silent Night: A Tale of Toads and Men” was largely about how “a boy who likes frogs” comes to discover how harmful a pesticide known as Atrazine is. 

Dr. Hayes started off by telling us his lifelong love of frogs and how he eventually had found a frog that changed colors due to what type of estrogen you give it. His renowned research on frogs caught the attention of a pharmaceutical company that develops a pesticide called Atrazine. The company wanted him to research effects of Atrazine on frogs and Dr. Hayes found out and reported disturbances such as hormonal birth defects (among other things) stemming from the effects of Atrazine. 

The company didn’t want any bad press and decided to part ways with Dr. Hayes. Dr. Hayes has gone on to publicly report the devastating effects on the pesticide through websites, public papers, and documentaries among other things. 

I have related his lecture to the consumer culture because Atrazine is one of the biggest pesticides used today in the agriculture business. Dr. Hayes reported that 85% of lettuce, for instance, comes from the same place in Nebraska and is distributed all over the U.S. 50% of the U.S.’s agricultural food in general comes from California and almost all it is dowsed in Atrazine. 

As a consumer myself, I was completely ignorant to this information and I can only imagine most of America is as well. If this one company is producing this harmful substance in an incredibly sneaky way, I can only imagine what other companies produce that Americans are completely oblivious to. 

As a consumer culture though, it is just the way it is. We want our things right now. We don’t want to worry or even think about what it took for our stuff to be produced, distributed, marketed, etc. In a way, our general culture has become a selfish, demanding, and ignorant culture. Dr. Hayes respectfully reminded us that knowledge demands duty and we shouldn’t be so ignorant. We must do something to protect ourselves.

Majia here: I think this is a fine review and reflection and want to thank Samuel for allowing me to post it here.

Background on Atrazine

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