Never before there’s been so many startups cropping worldwide. Some of them will undoubtedly disrupt their markets. They’ll take innovative technologies and use them to push disruption forward. And that’s good. We need change. We need things to keep improving.
However, despite their numbers, very few will deliver solutions to humanity’s most significant challenges
. One of these challenges, that of sustaining our environment, is the topic of Rachel Carson’s extraordinary Silent Spring
book. Published in 1962, it brought up the dangers of pesticides to the White House.
While I was reading it, I became curious about the current state of affairs. I wondered how much we had improved since the 60s. The answer was staggering, not much
. Virulent, toxic pesticides are widespread
. Water, crops, forests, and animals are widely polluted. The most shocking discovery wasn’t to learn how toxic these compounds are, but that, even though we now know about them, they’re still broadly used.
“The fact that chemicals may play a role similar to radiation has scarcely dawned on the public mind, nor on the minds of most medical or scientific workers.
Although chemical manufacturers are required by law to test their materials for toxicity, they are not required to make the tests that would reliably demonstrate genetic effect, and they do not do so.”
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring (1962).
One would think we’ve become better, and while we’ve banned many of these highly toxic compounds, similar ones are extensively used in developing countries like China, India or Africa. Let me remind everyone that most of our food, clothes or products come from developing countries.
“[…] Pesticides are responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year, 99 per cent of which occur in developing countries,3 where health, safety, and environmental regulations are weaker and less strictly applied. While records on global pesticide use are incomplete, it is generally agreed that application rates have increased dramatically over the past few decades.”
There is an increasing body of work that links the pollution of our environment with deadly diseases. Cancer, dementia, autism, and infertility are some of the conditions related to pesticides.
The irony is, there are plenty of biotech companies developing biomarker detectors for cancer, dementia and whole startups devoted to improve your fertility. Nonetheless, there are very very few companies trying to tackle the root of the problem, toxic chemicals in our environment. And it is shocking and sad and discouraging.
While we keep on chatting away on our smartphones, our interactions with nature, water, food, and air, keep becoming deadlier. Toxicity of our own design.