Rachel Carson has been one of my heros for a long time. An early prophet of the environmental movement, her book Silent Spring (published just a few weeks after I was born in 1962) made the problems with pesticides public for the first time. As a result DDT was banned in the US. That this is a good thing should be a no-brainer, right? But apparently she is still being vilified for it 40 years later. The reason given - malaria kills millions of people annually worldwide. Because DDT has been used against the mosquitos that spread malaria, some say it's her fault that people are still dying from it. This is not only spurious, it's based on ignorance and possibly corrupt science.
I had no idea there was a controversy about it until I found this on enviro blog, Celsias:
Rachel Carson - is she friend, or foe?
There has long been a debate over the effects of Rachel Carson’s work Silent Spring, and that debate came to a head recently when a U.S. Senator effectively blocked a resolution to honor Carson on what would have been her 100th birthday:
"A Republican Senator known for his criticism of various environmental causes is single-handedly holding up two bills in the US Senate that would honor the life of Rachel Carson, author of the well-known book Silent Spring, RAW STORY has learned. The bills were introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators from Carson’s home-states of Pennsylvania and Maryland on the occasion of the centennial of her birthday on May 27. “This week, Dr. Coburn blocked two bills intended to honor Rachel Carson on the 100th anniversary of her birth (one bill to name a post office after her in PA, and a resolution honoring her),” said a press release at Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) website." - Raw Story
My initial thought was: “Why on earth would someone block an attempt to honor someone posthumously, unless that person was someone heinous, like maybe Hitler or Stalin?” What I found was shocking. The Senator apparently subscribes to a theory that actually does compare Carson to Hitler and other brutal dictators....
read the rest here.
Rachel Carson never advocated a total ban on DDT. Instead she pointed out that the indiscriminate spraying of the time was not only poisoning birds and fish and people, it was making the target insects and the diseases they carry even stronger:
"No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are rapidly making it worse. "
Human exposure to DDT has long been linked with low birth weight babies and harmful reproductive effects. The politicians leading the crusade to undermine Carson’s legacy are also aggressively disputing other significant scientific evidence in the news lately. Can you guess what it is? That car and coal power plant emissions contribute to climate change! HA! That should tell you something about who's paying their bills.
For more about why Senator Coburn's claims have no scientific weight, see Who’s Promoting DDT in the PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) newsletter.
It's far too easy for corporate mouthpieces to make incorrect scientific statements and get away with it. It's outrageous that the NY Times is publishing stories like this one What the World Needs Now Is DDT. I do not claim to be an expert in any way on this subject but I do know that the world does not need more DDT.
I wonder how restoring the bat and dragonfly populations might help fight malaria? They love to eat mosquitos - one Little Brown Bat can eat 200 in one night. How about finding better ways to get clean drinking water to the people at risk? I know there are many solutions that don't mutate the insect into an even stronger and deadlier threat, while poisoning rivers, animals and people.