Rachel Carson
June 2, 2008 11:20 PM   Subscribe

Rehabilitating Carson: "Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?"

A reply: Contra John Quiggin and Tim Lambert, DDT is usually the most cost-effective anti-malaria treatment, and remains scandalously underused

More on the debate, including links to the authors' replies to Bate: Big Tobacco and the war on science
posted by homunculus (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Response-responses from John Quiggin and Tim Lambert.
The pain of this argument that will never end, make it stop.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:29 PM on June 2, 2008


Because they are crazy. Carson never tried to ban the use of DDT to fight malaria, and yet right wingers constantly say she did. It's a lie just like their lies about global warming.
posted by delmoi at 12:05 AM on June 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


"Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?"

Because people love iconoclasm, especially when the icon is someone who has made them feel guilty for their behavior, for not living up to some standard the icon represented. Environmentalists are particularly annoying to people who don't like to think about the long-term consequences of their personal actions.

And because people who think profit should come before almost anything else (that profitability is proof of validity) love to stomp on people who get in their way. Environmentalists are particularly annoying to people who want to make a quick profit without regard to the long-term consequences of their business decisions.

So whether it's true or not, many people want to believe it. It is true enough for them, and, if you argue with them, they can point you to a number of sources that also insist on the truth of this accusation. Insist on something enough and it becomes the truth.
posted by pracowity at 12:56 AM on June 3, 2008 [30 favorites]


Because people love iconoclasm, especially when the icon is someone who has made them feel guilty for their behavior, for not living up to some standard the icon represented.

Thank you so much for that. This pretty much sums up Christopher Hitchens in four words.
posted by psmealey at 2:31 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


And, let's not forget that there's money to be made from it. DDT resistance may have been looming by the time Silent Spring was first published but if the tobacco companies and right wing think-tanks want to pretend it was a silver bullet there will always be someone who decides that $100K for a 30-hour work-week beats ethics.
posted by adamsc at 6:02 AM on June 3, 2008


On a side note, not too much of a derail, the National Wildlife Visitor Center at the Patuxent Research Refuge holds an open house event each year and for that one day allow the public in to see the whooping crane rehab center and the research lab where Rachel Carson did her work. Some of her expiraments are still ongoing. One spot which was well barricaded and vastly overgrown, was apparently a test patch where they took annual samples of and surveys where a very large volume of DDT (they did not say just how much, but emfasized that it was a lot) had been placed in the soil to observe the long term effects and half life. One think I could observe right off was the large number of birds flitting about using the overgrown patch for a sheltered nest area.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:22 AM on June 3, 2008


"Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?"

DDT is not banned for use on mosquitoes.
posted by Brian B. at 6:39 AM on June 3, 2008


The WHO did stop anti-mosquito spraying indoors for 30 years though:
Nearly 30 years after phasing out the widespread use of indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides to control malaria, the WHO announced on Monday that this intervention would once again play a major role in its efforts to fight the disease.

The WHO said in a statement that it "is now recommending the use of indoor residual spraying not only in epidemic areas but also in areas with constant and high malaria transmission, including throughout Africa."
- WHO follows SA's lead on DDT
posted by PenDevil at 6:52 AM on June 3, 2008


"Because the people responsible for millions lung cancer deaths have payed other people very well to lie on their behalf."

http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/denialmachine/

Here's a good documentary about a small group of whores with degrees and how they've been successfully used to distort the debate about scientific issues.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:06 AM on June 3, 2008


To be fair, DDT did kill J. Gordon Edwards, the guy who famously used to eat spoonfulls of the stuff to prove it didn't do anything to people, though he did survive to age 85.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:08 AM on June 3, 2008


I think it goes back further than just the Tobacco lobby. The willingness of people to absorb these messages has a lot to with anti-communist propaganda that taught trying to do good is bad.
posted by srboisvert at 7:09 AM on June 3, 2008


Robert S. Desowitz's the Malaria Capers is an excellent book on the history of the disease and the battle to eradicate it.

From what I remember, it was lack of willpower, rather than DDT resistance or bans, that killed the malaria eradication programme.
posted by SciencePunk at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2008


I realize in review that my two posts above might lead people to think I am somehow anti-ban. I am not. My comment about the birds in the test patch was only to highlight the fact that the populations of birds in the patch seemed normal after the many decades that the test had been going on. My post about Edwards was more sarcasm, meant to highlight the lengths he went to prove his point and bring up that he did appear to be right at least in his human toxisity claims.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:20 AM on June 3, 2008


For ye have the right wing liars with you always...
posted by jamjam at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2008


I think I may have spotted the problem here. To come to a worldview in which Carson is innocent of horrible crimes against humanity, it is necessary to accept the reality of evolution.
posted by Naberius at 4:49 PM on June 3, 2008


Am I missing something? I'm fairly familiar with Rachel Carson and her work. But I've never seen anything blaming Rachel Carson for the spread of malaria. Would someone provide some links to mainstream articles/pubs/authors that do?
posted by dchase at 5:00 PM on June 3, 2008


It's a pity nicotine can't be used on mosquitoes. That would cut down on all the bullshit.
posted by Coaticass at 6:40 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm just oddly horrified that there's such a thing as a "pro-DDT campaigner."

It's like being "pro-strychnine" or "pro-arsenic."
posted by FormlessOne at 7:36 PM on June 3, 2008


It's a pity nicotine can't be used on mosquitoes.

I know it's not what you were going for with your comment there, but tobacco tea actually does make a pretty potent organic pesticide for use in the yard and garden.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:07 AM on June 4, 2008


Come again? That was what I meant, in part. Nictotine derivatives are widely used in agriculture apparently, not just by home gardeners.
posted by Coaticass at 6:45 AM on June 5, 2008


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