A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog


Malaria, DDT, and Rachel Carson

posted by Gus diZerega

April 25 has been named “World Malaria Day” and among the more positive develpments will be efforts by Christian and Muslim groups in Africa to cooperate against this killer. 

Among the less positive developments, we can expect a number of attacks on environmentalism as supposedly helping to spread malaria and even being guilty of genocide because millions supposedly died when DDT was banned.  It has long been a right wing meme.  I have even heard people associated with the Competitive Enterprise Institute accuse Carson herself of being guilty of genocide, although she had died before any DDT was banned.  They have a web site up arguing that her infuence led to millions of deaths.

As usually is the case with people attacking environmentalists, the lies and alsehoods outweigh the truth.  the truth is very different and more interesting.


While pretty useless on issues of spirituality, the excellent site science blogs has a good a post by Tim Lambert discussing the real facts concerning DDT and malaria. Lambert discusses and links to an excellent piece in Salon by Kirsten Weir that goes into greater depth on the truth behind DDT and malaria.

As a matter of fact, Carson did not oppose all use of DDT. She wrote “”No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored,” she wrote. “It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I contend … that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself.”‘ Further, Weir’s article points out that “In fact, the decline in DDT use coincided with a drop in malaria rates.”

Jim Easter at Someareboojums provides an interesting post on DDT and malaria, concluding:
“The 1972 DDT ban did nothing to restrict the chemical’s use against malaria, but had the effect of eliminating the single most intense source of selection pressure for insecticide resistance in mosquitos. As the rest of the world followed suit in restricting agricultural use of DDT, the spread of resistance was slowed dramatically or stopped.

“By this single action, William Ruckelshaus — and, credit where it’s due, Rachel Carson — may well have saved millions of lives.”

Why is it the truth is so often the opposite of what the critics of environmentalism say?



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kenneth

posted April 25, 2009 at 4:49 pm


This is an interesting dilema for those of us with an environmental bent. It is more complex than either side would like to admit. This is one of those many areas where our races knowledge outpaced our wisdom. Like so many things, it seemed like a wonderful idea. Easy to synthesize. Dirt cheap, and very stable. It stays where you put it and keeps on killing bugs long after the fact.
Of course it wasn’t the answer to everything because it wreaked hell on the environment. Legitimate concern probably did swing into a bit of hysteria, but it’s not a case of liberals and tree huggers wantonly dooming African kids to death. There have always been exceptions in place for controlled use to fight malaria, but if you were a chemical company, would you want to market the stuff after it got a bad rap and a general ban? It virtually guarantees a quadrillion-dollar class action suit. Secondly, DDT isn’t a magic bullet for malaria because mosquitoes become immune to the stuff.
Malaria is not primarily a problem of unkilled mosquitoes and overbearing environmental laws. It’s a problem of ass-grinding poverty. If people had houses with screens or air conditioners, and decent sewer systems, they’d still have malaria but they wouldn’t be dying by the millions from it. But they don’t have these things because the live in whatever slash and burn tract or mining town shanty they can find because they have to save up their 85 cents a day to buy a handfull of starch for dinner, the result of “free market” policies and globalization (and corruption). Another key is coming up with a vaccine or better drugs, but that brings us back to the market is god problem. You get your billion a year returns from developing a ninth-generation copy of an old cholesterol drug or by giving pasty white guys better erections. You don’t make bank developing cures for broke black kids.
The other side of this is that a lot of us today enjoy the benefits of environmentally damaging actions our ancestors took. Until very recent times, malaria was a hell of a problem in the southern US, parts of England, Holland and Italy. It was eradicated by draining millions of acres of wetland, by spraying lots of DDT, and before DDT, even worse chemicals. They used to dump salts of copper and arsenic into waterways!
Maybe it all circles back to the pagan notion of balance. Maybe environmental types have to get over some of our morbid fear of chemicals, and maybe conservatives need to entertain the idea that not all of the worlds evils can be laid at the feet of us hippies.



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thermal

posted April 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm


I question the need for *any* chemicals in mosquito control. There are existing highly effective biocontrols which are far more effective, very specific, (even species specific), and which don’t mangle whole biomes to reduce the population of a few species. As insects are vital to whole biome health, chemical controls for one species of insect nearly always have far more environmentally deleterous effects than helpful ones.
But you are right in pointing the finger at psychotic economic policies as the real culprit in poor-country mortality from preventable diseases.
Thermal



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Your Name

posted April 25, 2009 at 6:38 pm


The author tips his hand in his final sentence, in which he impugns “critics of environmentalism.” For here he reveals himself to be an “environmentalist,” an ideologue, a person with an agenda — just like the rest of us! “Environmentalism” is an “ism,” just as much as Roman Catholicism. The real question is, what is the source one’s most basic personal self-definition? The alcoholic’s is (obviously) alcohol. The environmentalist’s is the natural physical environment. The Roman Catholic Christian’s is Jesus Christ as revealed and interpreted through the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. “A Pagan’s Blog”:The candor is refreshing!



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Gus diZerega

posted April 25, 2009 at 8:15 pm


No Name is utterly mistaken. I am an environmentalist. So is everyone who believes we should seek to live sustainably on the earth, and cannot take that reality for granted. There are {agan environmentalusts, Christian environmentalists (Thomas Berry), atheistic or agnostic environmentalists (EO Wilson, Buddhist environmentalists (Joanna Macy), Jewish environmentalists (Bob Marshall), anarchist environmentalists (Murray Bookchin), free market environmentalists (Karl Hess, jr.), and the list goes on and pn and on.
There is no ‘ism’ here beyond a concern for the well-being of the earth. In my view anyone who does not share it is truly ignorant.



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Ignorant yet again

posted April 25, 2009 at 11:32 pm


Concern for the “well-being of the earth” as an end in itself is the root cause of the pernicious damage for which environmentalism has too often been responsible. When this concern impinges upon the overall well being of humanity than the measure of excessive concern has been reached. Incidentally, a common characteristic of the “truly ignorant” is self complacent indulgence in excess of every kind.



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Turmarion

posted April 26, 2009 at 12:56 am


Ignorant yet again: Concern for the “well-being of the earth” as an end in itself
As C. S. Lewis pointed out many times, anything as an “end in itself”, even noble things such as love or duty (or, yes, the “well being of humanity”), becomes hellish.
is the root cause of the pernicious damage for which environmentalism has too often been responsible.
I won’t say environmentalism has never caused any damage, but I think anyone in his or her right mind would grant that orders of magnitude more damage has been caused before the environmental movement and continues to be caused by non-environmental forces.
When this concern impinges upon the overall well being of humanity than the measure of excessive concern has been reached.
The “well being of humanity” to a large extent depends on the health of Earth and its ecosystem, doesn’t it? One can go too far in the direction of dismissing human needs altogether; but one can go too far in the other direction, too–that is, to say that any environmental concerns are just a smokescreen to oppose “progress”. A little balance here, please?
I might also point out that some of us Christians don’t see “Christian” and “ecologically concerned” as being antonyms.
Anyway, kudos to Gus for exposing the “Rachel Carson killed Third World kids by opposing DDT” canard for the lie that it is!



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Ed Darrell

posted April 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm


Nice of you to compliment the great work done by Tim Lambert and Jim Easter. Your readers also may want to check out posts on the topic at the blog called Bug Girl: http://membracid.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/world-malaria-day-2009-2/
If we don’t lose our reason, there’s a chance we can beat this disease.



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Your Name

posted April 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm


I like DDT. I don’t like mosquitoes. I don’t like death by malaria. So, you see, I am not an intellectual, just a person who feels sorry for the children that are allowed to die for the glory of environmentalism.



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Cheryl

posted April 26, 2009 at 3:35 pm


For those who only care about human life – there is concern that DDT causes harm to more than “just” wildlife.
My mother grew up in an area regularly sprayed with DDT. They would drive the trucks down the street and fog each side of the street with it. They were doing that every few weeks during the Summer from the early 40’s (when my Mom’s family moved there) through the 1960’s and I remember seeing it myself when visiting my grandmother (same house where my Mom grew up).
There was never a history of breast cancer in my family. My mother had NONE of the risk factors. She developed breast cancer and died from it in 1995.
Was there a connection to her being exposed to DDT as a child and later developing cancer? I don’t know. But there are articles suggesting that exposure to DDT may cause breast cancer. Here’s one of them:
http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/FactSheet/Pesticide/fs2.ddt.cfm
DDT is a toxin. We have to be careful when dumping ANY toxins into the environment or they’ll come back and bite us in the butt. We don’t want to trade one killer for another.



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parkie

posted April 27, 2009 at 10:00 am


Better go back and actually read the article, Your Name. Saying that not using DDT kills kids by not killing mosquitos is like saying that not using penicillin kills kids by not killing staphylococcus. Mosquitos had developed nearly as much immunity to DDT as bacteria have now developed to antibiotics. It’s not that either chemical is automatically bad; it’s that we have misused both to the point that they can no longer help us all that much. In fact mosquitos develop resistance to DDT so quickly and dramatically that the example is used in beginning biology to teach the principle of evolutionary adaptation.



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Thermal

posted April 27, 2009 at 12:14 pm


Your Name said;
April 26, 2009 2:57 PM
I like DDT. I don’t like mosquitoes. I don’t like death by malaria. So, you see, I am not an intellectual, just a person who feels sorry for the children that are allowed to die for the glory of environmentalism.
—————————————-
The relationships between chemicals and the environment are complex, and even the best science about them is fraught with errors. I don’t think any children are “allowed to die for the glory of environmentalism” but I know very well that many children are dying now as we speak because people who are “not an intellectual” are making decisions based on ignorance, propaganda, and emotion rather than the best hard science.
Thermal



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Gus diZerega

posted April 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm


Apparently ‘No Name” (I’d be ashamed to use my name as well) didn’t bother to read my post before bombarding us with his opinions.
By the Gods I get tired of these jokers.



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Cassaundra

posted April 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm


We’re all tired of illiterate knee-jerkers Gus. The problem is, the ones with the least intelligent contributions to make, are so often the ones making the loudest contributions. What concerns me, is how much power the people who think “Intellectual” is an insult really do have. Why are the stupid so self-congratulatory about their very stupidness? And why don’t those of us who ARE capable of thinking our way out of a wet paper bag get together and create a better “mousetrap” to rid ourselves of these fools. Let them HAVE the DDT.



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mike

posted May 1, 2009 at 12:02 pm


I see. So as long as the comments praise and support Gus and don’t pose a differing oppinion that’s fine? How nice for you.



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tehdude

posted June 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm


Malaria eradication involved f**king the environment. There is no way around it. By trying to find a way to eradicate malaria by not f**king the environment you are condemning millions of human beings to slow painful deaths.
Get over your green messiah complex, real people are dying over it.



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Your Name

posted July 3, 2009 at 10:59 am


Well, you are too clever by one half on two counts; firstly, although Carson may have written what she did about not completely banning Chemicals, it is somewhat like me giving a speach in which I wip up racial hatred and then claim that “I did not want or tell anyone to kill those Ni—s” While I do not hold her personally resopnsible in a criminal sense, she is responsible in initiating a chain of events which led to the deaths of more than Stalin, Mao and Hitler combined. Also, I have read several studies in which gross amounts of DDT was fed to chickens and eggs shell densities were constant. ALso, aledgedly affected bird population were in decline in the 30’s according to Audobon and royal society for the preservatin of birds…several years before DDT was even envented much less , widely used. SO I gues you are saying so nafarious is this chemical that it can affect things in both directions of the time scale :-) Cheers, Terry



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terry

posted July 3, 2009 at 11:01 am


Well, you are too clever by one half on two counts; firstly, although Carson may have written what she did about not completely banning Chemicals, it is somewhat like me giving a speach in which I wip up racial hatred and then claim that “I did not want or tell anyone to kill those Ni—s” While I do not hold her personally resopnsible in a criminal sense, she is responsible in initiating a chain of events which led to the deaths of more than Stalin, Mao and Hitler combined. Also, I have read several studies in which gross amounts of DDT was fed to chickens and eggs shell densities were constant. ALso, aledgedly affected bird population were in decline in the 30’s according to Audobon and royal society for the preservatin of birds…several years before DDT was even envented much less , widely used. SO I gues you are saying so nafarious is this chemical that it can affect things in both directions of the time scale :-) Cheers, Terry



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JC

posted September 4, 2009 at 11:51 am


Wow the level of ignorance that exists about DDT is literally mind boggling. The green movement doesn’t give a shit about people, all they care about is their cause. That billions of people (mostly babies) have died as a direct result of the ban on DDT is of no concern to these people. And don’t confuse them with fact after fact which all point to the safety of DDT. My own father who was in WWII used to dust himself from head to toe with DDT in the 1940’s. He just died last year at the ripe old age of 90. As a child I used to run through the thick white clouds of DDT as the trucks rolled through my neighborhood spraying. I’m still chugging along at 50.
The fact is that the organophosphates that we now use in place of DDT are far more harmful to the environment then DDT ever was. The very agency that banned DDT in the US in 1971 concluded after 7 months of testimony from hundreds of scientist that there was no evidence to show that DDT was harmful to humans, birds, or the environment. People need to wake up and realize that the green movement is out to kill as many people as they can.



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Gus diZerega

posted September 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Have you actually read the article? You haven’t read the post apparently. Take the time some time to study what the words mean? Some of us use them to communicate meaning rather than bellows.
Seems not.
Like the imbecile above you who could not get his name right, actually thinking in patterns other than “THIS GOOD THAT BAD” seems beyond your level of skill. I am getting very tired, over tired, of conservatives and their supporters consistently lying about and distorting every position they disagree with.
Given your level of incompetence at reading what was posted, why o why should I take he time to check out your unlinked reference to DDT being off the hook?
I won’t.



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Rene

posted September 16, 2009 at 1:26 pm


VGery good blog.. i think you should network with the moms in the bizymoms Carson community & share you ideas & thought on this topic



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Alex Blaken

posted March 16, 2011 at 9:17 am


Malaria has been a killer disease which is common in most part in africa, it is reported to cause more death than the so called HIV.thanks for sharing this topic.



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