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Pesticides, pollution and the UK's silent spring, 1963-1964: Poison in the Garden of England.

Authors
  • Clark, J F M1
  • 1 School of History, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9AL, UK.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Notes and records of the Royal Society of London
Publication Date
Sep 20, 2017
Volume
71
Issue
3
Pages
297–327
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2016.0040
PMID: 31390414
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Despite being characterized as 'one of the worst agricultural accidents in Britain in the 1960s', the 'Smarden incident' has never been subjected to a complete historical analysis. In 1963, a toxic waste spill in Kent coincided with the publication of the British edition of Rachel Carson's Silent spring. This essay argues that these events combined to 'galvanize' nascent toxic and environmental consciousness. A seemingly parochial toxic waste incident became part of a national phenomenon. The Smarden incident was considered to be indicative of the toxic hazards that were born of technocracy. It highlighted the inadequacies of existent concepts and practices for dealing with such hazards. As such, it was part of the fracturing of the consensus of progress: it made disagreements in expertise publicly visible. By the completion of the episode, 10 different governmental ministries were involved. Douglas Good, a local veterinary surgeon, helped to effect the 'reception' of Silent spring in the UK by telling the 'Smarden story' through local and national media and through the publications of anti-statist organizations.

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