Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 28, 2007

Silent Spring, silent children

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:44 am

Contrast these two articles. First, this one from the Washington Post, May 18, 2007, by David A. Fahrenthold:

Here, in a study that faces the garden, is where Rachel Carson would sit and write on days when she felt well. Here, in a bedroom with a dogwood outside the window, is where she would lie down and write on days when she felt worse.

On her sickest days, as Carson struggled with cancer and radiation therapy, she came back to her brick house on Berwick Road in Silver Spring and couldn’t write at all. Instead, an assistant read her words back to her, allowing her to edit even when she couldn’t sit up.

“She had such a sense of responsibility, that it was all on her. It had to succeed,” said environmental activist Diana Post, giving a tour of the house this week. “Once she took something up, she couldn’t put it down until it was finished, and finished well.”

Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, led to the banning of the pesticide DDT, the launch of modern environmentalism and her enshrinement as a kind of patron saint of nature. In this region, Carson’s name has been given to two schools, a park and a hiking trail — and it is evoked seemingly whenever environmentalists gather.

But this year, as the 100th anniversary of her birth approaches, people across the Washington area are also remembering the personal story that goes with Carson’s legend. She was a former government press-release writer who managed to captivate official Washington. Her public victory came at crushing private costs.

“She could not live with herself if she didn’t speak out,” said Post, president of an educational group, the Rachel Carson Council Inc., now run out of the Silver Spring house.

And what did the banning of DDT achieve?

Let’s hear from Fiona Kobusingye, coordinator of Congress of Racial Equality Uganda, writing in the PostChronicle.com:

I just got out of the hospital, after another nasty case of malaria. I’ve had it dozens of times. I lost my son, two sisters and three nephews to it. Fifty out of 500 children in our local school for orphans died from malaria in 2005.

Virtually every Ugandan family has buried babies, children, mothers and fathers because of this disease, which kills 100,000 of us every year. Even today, 50 years after it was eradicated in the United States, malaria is the biggest killer of African children, sending 3,000 to their graves every day.

In between convulsions and fever, I thought about the progress we’re making – and about those who would stop that progress. I ask myself, why do some people care more about minor, hypothetical risks to people or animals than about human life?

DDT has worked in South Africa and Swaziland. USAID is now using it in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia. Uganda and other African countries are preparing to add DDT to indoor-spraying programs.

We don’t see DDT as a “magic bullet” that can eradicate malaria by itself. We don’t advocate outdoor spraying with it. But we strongly support spraying tiny amounts on houses – as part of comprehensive strategies that also include other insecticides, larvacides and better sanitation to control mosquito populations, Artemisninin-based combination drugs to treat patients, and bednets, education, better hospitals and sound management practices.

No other chemical, at any price, does what DDT does. It keeps mosquitoes from entering homes, irritates the few that do enter, so they don’t bite, kills those that land, and reduces malaria rates by 75% – all with a single inexpensive spraying once or twice a year.

DDT was also used 46 years ago to slash malaria rates in western Uganda’s Kanungu District. It can and must be used again – according to storage, handling and indoor spraying guidelines – to stop disease and save lives.

Why do some people want to prevent its use? Pesticide Action Network exists solely to battle life-saving insecticides. The environmental movement became a powerful political force, by embracing Rachel Carson’s erroneous claims. But what about other opponents? What is wrong with them?

WHO Public Health and Environment Director Maria Neira wants to stop all use of DDT. The Uganda Network on Toxic-Free Control plans to sue NEMA, if it doesn’t stop the DDT spraying program. Both worry about its hypothetical health effects.

We wish they would worry more about malaria, and focus on DDT’s health benefits – on the diseases it can prevent, the lives it can save.

Three thousand African children die every day from malaria — that’s another 9/11 every single day slaughtered on the alter of environmentalism, all in the name of “protecting health.”

One Response to “Silent Spring, silent children”

  1. Yoga, Nazis and Good Intentions « blueollie Says:

    [...] understand science, and some who do don’t know how to balance the issues (example, see Different River’s post about DDT which argues that being unreasonable about tiny amounts of DDT could have well HURT a population). [...]

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