Dangerous environmentalism

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 mosquito.jpgThe proper use of DDT could prevent countless deaths.

Nearly every month almost as many people die from malaria as were killed by the tsunami waves in the Indian Ocean. Most of malaria’s victims, some 2 million a year, are children under the age of 5. More than 300 million annually suffer from this debilitating disease that drains survivors of their mental and physical energies. Incredibly, there’s an easy, proven and cheap way to eradicate most of the globe’s malaria–DDT. Yet in one of history’s more murderously myopic ongoing actions, most advanced countries and international agencies discourage its use. Why? Blame Rachel Carson’s seismically influential–and now largely discredited–book, Silent Spring, first published in 1962. In it she blames DDT for imperiling birds and people, portraying it as a blight of almost biblical proportions. It ain’t so. As Dr. Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science & Health once put it, there “has never been a documented case of human illness or death in the U.S. as a result of the standard and accepted use of pesticides.” The British medical journal The Lancet similarly notes that after 40 years of research no significant health threat from DDT has been found.

Indiscriminate use of DDT will indeed have a deleterious impact on certain birds. But we’re not advocating that. The use of tiny amounts inside a house or hut is all that’s needed. As Nicholas Kristof observed in one of his New York Times columns, “Four hundred fifty thousand people can be protected [from malaria] with the same amount [of DDT] that was applied in the 1960s to a single 1,000-acre American cotton farm.… Humans are far better off exposed to DDT than exposed to malaria.”
Yet Carson’s book has made DDT taboo–with ghastly results. Some 30 million to 60 million people have perished unnecessarily. In 1996, for example, South Africa stopped using DDT, and its malaria cases increased tenfold. Four years later South Africa reversed itself and employed DDT again. The result: The incidence of malaria promptly dropped almost 80%. Nevertheless, too many health officials cling to alternatives that are only fractionally as effective. That various agencies, governments, health officials and environmentalists have deliberately dissuaded the world from using DDT is one of the most immoral moves of modern times.

Steve Forbes

And more . . .

Though Africa’s sad experience with colonialism ended in the 1960s, a lethal vestige remains: malaria. It is the biggest killer of Ugandan and all African children. Today, every single Ugandan remains at risk. Over 10 million Ugandans are infected each year, and up to 100,000 of our mothers and children die from the disease. Yet it remains preventable and curable.

The U.S. banned DDT in 1972, spurred on by environmentalist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring. Many countries in Europe and around the world followed suit. But after decades of exhaustive scientific review, DDT has been shown to not only be safe for humans and the environment, but also [to be] the single most effective antimalarial agent ever invented. Nothing else at any price does everything it can do. That is why the WHO has once again recommended using DDT wherever possible against malaria.

We must be able to use DDT. Environmental leaders must join the 21st century, acknowledge the mistakes Carson made and balance the hypothetical risks of DDT with the real and devastating consequences of malaria. Africa is determined to rise above the contemporary colonialism that keeps us impoverished. We expect strong leadership in G-8 countries to stop paying lip service to African self-determination and start supporting solutions that are already working.

–Sam Zaramba, director general of health services for the Republic of Uganda, Wall Street Journal

Mosquito nets are another inexpensive solution.  See Nothing But Nets if you want to help.

Hat tip: Forbes

Also see DDT by Dan over at The Christian Alert.

27 thoughts on “Dangerous environmentalism”

  1. This is sad. The environmental movement would rather save the mosquito than the children. I do wish this policy would get reversed. It will take someone on a national level to really get it going. Hopefully that will happen soon.


  2. Neil thanks for this post. The environmentalists have too much invested in Carson, since they earned a lot of capital with Silent Spring. They will not allow the facts to get in the way of their religion. To them, 2 million a year is a worthy price to pay to advance their agenda, especially when the victims have a different skin color and live very far away. DDT, nuclear power and global warming are the boogeymen of the enviro-Nazis.

    I suspect any politician who pointed out the EPA study of DDT showed no harm to humans would be run out of office. However, it is nice to see a more mainstream pub. write this up. This battle has largely been a fringe issue in the last few decades.


  3. Beautifully done, Neil.

    Bill Gates is considering using the Gates Foundation to start research for a malaria vaccine. While that is a very noble end, and he is certainly entitled to do with his own money what he wishes to do, it is absolutely insane, IMHO, to disregard a solution that is readily available.

    Ann Coulter discussed Silent Spring/malaria/DDT in one of her books. That was right after she crucified the anti-alar movement, which removed a cheap pesticide from the market. Her classic line on the whole thing: “Now poor people have to go back to eating Twinkies instead of healthy fresh fruit.”

    Yes, it’s always the poor who suffer. Can we afford their environmentalism?


  4. Two points:

    1. Why does anyone wait for permission? Get the stuff by whatever means possible and save lives.

    2. Science has proven that tobacco is very harmful, but it’s still legal. What in the world is wrong with this picture?


  5. I forgot about the Alar thing. We shouldn’t be sloppy about the research, but no one ever does the trade-offs. The Twinkie / fresh fruit thing is so apt. Making fresh fruit less expensive would save way more lives than the hypothetical damage some of the pesticides might cause.


  6. Does this make sense? On the one hand, the environmentalists outlaw DDT and cause untold deaths as a result. These same types of people turn around and work to eradicate AIDS in the same countries – because of the untold deaths that it causes.

    Something here is not sounding logical to me. Is it just me? Dead is dead, right?


  7. Marshall, that might have been the comment I deleted. I didn’t read the whole thing. The guy must have changed his email address, because my filter usually blocks him. He was the first guy I ever had to block for repeated inane arguments and personal attacks. I gave him a lot of chances but in the end he was just not worth the time to discuss anything with.

    Here’s a sample of the kind of comments that got him banned. One of his methods for advancing Darwinism is to accuse opponents of being like Joseph Stalin, who allegedly persecuted some Darwinists (I say “allegedly” because the source is so unreliable and because Stalin had a reputation for persecuting and killing anyone for anything).

    Here are excerpts from the thread that got him banned from my site (He was corrected multiple times in between these comments but didn’t catch on, and there was other silliness as well):

    “I fail to understand why you advocate Stalin’s doctrine against Darwin.”

    “If one chooses not to read the information Stalin tried to destroy, doesn’t one run the risk of advancing Stalin’s agenda?”

    “Well, can you explain how your view differs from Stalin’s?”

    “And, I’m still waiting for you to explain how your views on Darwin differ from Stalin’s.”

    His logic is similar to that of Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After all, if a duck floats in water and a witch does as well, then of course a woman that weighs the same as a duck on a bad scale must be a witch. In the same way, if you have the most remote thing in common with Stalin then you are just like him. And if you have a mustache you are like Hitler, I suppose.

    It takes a lot to get me to ban someone, but this guy is so completely irrational that it is best just to ignore him. It has taken me a while to learn this, but I’ve discovered that my initial instincts are right 95% of the time and I’ve taken to wasting a lot less time here and other blogs by following that.


  8. “Something here is not sounding logical to me. Is it just me? ”

    I’m afraid it is not only you, Mrs. Green, it is most of the posters so far who are illogical.

    You should have suspected that there is more than one side to the story as soon as you realized that Ann Coulter was in favour of using DDT. As she is willing to have most of the so called third world bombed into oblivion, so it cannot be the poor victims of malaria she feels pity for. Then what is on her agenda to make her condone the use of DDT? Could it be money from the chemical industry?

    To be quite clear, the issue of DDT to fight malaria is highly controversial and I do not think that any of the posters here – and that includes me as well (although I was trained as a chemist) – has the expertise and therefore justification to comment on the subject. Prior to any judgement one should study the issue in detail, hear both sides, juxtapose the arguments for and against and look for any hidden agenda that is not openly discussed.

    Most of the posters here have just jumped to some conclusions without giving the thing more than a few seconds of proper thought and they definitely lack the knowledge to substantiate their claims.

    I find Dan’s comment “DDT, nuclear power and global warming are the boogeymen of the enviro-Nazis.” utterly disgusting. His ability to perceive the world seems to be restricted to black and white, no shades in between. But calling people with environmental awreness “Nazis” beats everything. I will abstain form any further argument with such people.

    For those of you who are really interested in the matter I suggest you do a little research on the internet. You may come up with quite a different view, unless of course, you have already made up your mind and are not suceptible to any facts that do not fit in with your prejudice.

    A good start may be this website, which then leads to other obejective sources:



    “Thanks to reader Jim Norton, who points to this letter to the Oz on DDT from parasitologist Dr Alan Lymbery, demolishing the nonsense peddled by Christopher Pearson (it’s on Keneth Miles site). My take on Pearson’s nonsense was here, with links to earlier pieces. I’m pleased to see it matches Lymbery almost point for point.

    One fact Lymbery adds, of which I was not aware, is that Rachel Carson, who has been much maligned in the debate on this topic, explicitly noted, in relation to the growth of resistance arising from indiscriminate use of DDT

    No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored . . . The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are rapidly making it worse

    Lymbery concludes

    Malaria is responsible for enormous suffering and death. The facts are readily available in the scientific literature. To blame a reduction in DDT usage for the death of 10-30 million people from malaria is not just simple-minded, it is demonstrably wrong. To blame a mythical, monolithic entity called the environmental lobby for the total reduction in DDT usage is not just paranoid, it is also demonstrably wrong. Your article is not only poor journalism, it is an insult to the people who work for the control of parasitic diseases that afflict developing nations.

    The same could be said of the dozens of junk science sites in the blogosphere that have reproduced the same nonsense, usually with no attempt to check original sources.”

    YOu might also want to research for “coartem”, a vwery effective medicine used to fight malaria. Should money be the real issue at the bottom of the debate?


  9. “The British medical journal The Lancet similarly notes that after 40 years of research no significant health threat from DDT has been found.”

    Just passing through and caught this comment. I love Brits and hate disagreeing with them but I must on this one.

    They used to spray DDT around the Wildwood Crest area of New Jersey every summer back in the early 1960s and I would get deathly sick for about a day afterwards. So would my brother. Our parents were fine except for headaches, but it made us kids sick as dogs. If there’s any other means to get rid of mosquitos I would recommend using it!


  10. Hi CurrentPoster – I think it is safe to say that they may have used a bit too much back in the ’60’s. I think the key to success is just using the right amount in the huts/houses in Africa.


  11. Hey Neil, you might not have noticed that you recently were cited by Ed Darrell’s much publicized but little read blog, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

    [An aside: Seriously, how could a blog that makes the front page of WordPress so often garner so few comments? I am sure Ed would probably claim that it is due to his raging and insurmountable intellect.]

    BTW, he claims he tried to post a comment. Please post his comment (if he did indeed post one) since his brand of annoying condescension is well worth the price of admission.


  12. Hi John – Ed is the fellow I referenced above (re. Stalin). I saw that he linked to my blog a couple times but can honestly say I didn’t go to his site. Seriously, it is not worth running around the web trying to refute people like him. Yes, he tried to post a comment but I just deleted it without reading it. He knows precisely why his comments aren’t permitted here, though I doubt he admits it.

    It isn’t like we mind differing opinions around here. We must have had 1,000 comments from the Dawkins crowd. But life is too short to waste with people Ed & Co.

    Proverbs 26:2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.


  13. correct me if i’m worng, but doesn’t a ban have to actually involve stopping from using the stuff, and punishing them if they do? since the international treaty specifically states that any country is free to use DDT for purposes of diseas fighting, and since many countries continue to use DDT (as we’re always being told in conjunction with how bad the “DDT ban” is), doesn’t the DDT ban amount to
    1) the belief that spraying vast quantities of DDT on agricultural crops, mostly cotton, causing a degree of resistance in mosquitoes which is problematic still 30 years later would somehow fight malaria, and
    2) the belief that these silly gullible natives would absolutely use DDT all over the place, if they were only privy to the True Facts, which the proDDT people have suddenly discovered over the past couple of years?
    Not much of a ban. I wish more people would wash their hands more often, you don’t see me complaining about the ban on hand soap.


  14. Gzuckier, I didn’t quite understand all that. Let me repeat what I typed in the original post. It really isn’t that complicated, though apparently some people find it controversial:

    “The proper use of DDT could prevent countless deaths.

    Mosquito nets are another inexpensive solution.”

    Everybody got that?


  15. Gee, Wolf Potter. Your quotes basically say that Carson opponents are wrong. I’d think from a link you could provide quotes that offer some substance. Is the whole link like that? Your examples make it hard for me to want to spend the time on the link. Way to sell it. I’ll pass.


  16. What happened to the comment? I wasn’t snarky or anything. Just ‘splaining where the content was found, in case you had missed it. In any case, the purpose of having the link was to refute your source — which it did — leaving the substance of your claim without a leg to stand on.

    You’re right — nets do work. You’re also right — the proper use of DDT could prevent countless deaths.

    Unfortunately, DDT — unlike nets — works only until the mosquitos adapt to it. By the time people stopped using DDT to kill mosquitos, the little buggers had already become more-or-less immune to it, leaving only the marginal-to-fatal side effects on all the other life in the area.


  17. Hi Eyeingtenure – sorry, looked snarky to me. And based on your follow up comment I’m pretty sure I was right. Welcome to the world of moderation! I’m actually pretty familiar with how links work.

    “You’re also right — the proper use of DDT could prevent countless deaths.”

    So we agree! The proper use of DDT could prevent countless deaths. Be sure to let your buddies know. So let’s use it while we work to stay one step ahead of the pesky mosquitos. I’m pretty sure the folks whose lives are saved (and their families and friends) would be very, very grateful.

    And since the “substance of my claim” was clearly spelled out (“The proper use of DDT could prevent countles deaths” and “Mosquito nets are another inexpensive solution”), and we agree on both items, the rest of your comment is a bit incoherent to me.

    Update: No need to be bitter, buddy! You can let people post whatever you like on your blog. Your reasoning skills are right up there with Ed Darrell’s. It is tragic that people like you teach in the public schools. I can see why so many people are eager to homeschool.


  18. Well, it’s clear that Steve Forbes has not read Rachel Carson,– why should we trust him if he cant’ do even the basic research? Carson warned of mosquito resistance to DDT (I note Forbes does not mention the issue at all). She was an advocate of spraying only what is necessary for insect vector control.

    And DDT is being used the way Forbes wants, and has been for years.

    But I know the “environmentalists killed millions” argument is just too compelling for some folks to bother with actual facts. But that’s the nature of he conspiracy theory.


  19. When my Dad was in the South Pacific during World War II, they lined the men up, told them to close their eyes and sprayed them with DDT.

    Part of the problem here is that atl DDT is not created equal. Commercial DDT, at least what I was exposed to, is not 100% DDT. DDT liquid conentrate was really less that 20% and probably less that 10% DDT. The rest ot the product consisted of a carrier and “inert” materials. The carrier and the inert materials sometimes consisted of industrial waste products, so there was not necessarily consistency in the product.
    This was not thought to be a problem since the product would be diluted so that anything in it would be spread over such a large area that it would not matter.

    So it is possbile that the problems apparently caused by DDT were actually caused by something else.

    I also use some spray products that contain an additive that will cause the spray operator to get a headache if exposed to too much of the product. This is designed to cause a headache long before toxic exposure occurs. I don’t know if this was ever done with DDT.


  20. How many people have so far been killed by the different religious groups who discourage and actively prevent the use of condoms to fight AIDS?

    Answer: Millions!

    And the death toll is going on.

    Says Pauly Kirby:

    “Under the influence of Christian notions of the sinfulness of sex outside marriage, the US government has required that one-third of its AIDS prevention funds allocated to Africa be squandered on teaching abstinence rather than condom use. It is no exaggeration to say that millions could die as a direct result of this single efflorescence of religious dogmatism.”
    Says Pauly Kirby

    Neil said: Hi Wolf – Africa has many cultural challenges when fighting AIDS. Many men won’t use condoms because they think it is unmanly. If the women push the men to use condoms they are often beaten. Just as in the U.S., condoms will not solve the problem of sexual immorality.

    I’m sure you can find a group to donate to if you want to help provide condoms.

    Please do some more research on what the most effective solutions are. The Ugandan model has worked the best so far, even though the libs love to mock it. The ABC model (Abstinence, Be faithful, use Condoms if you don’t do A & B) does well. I guess it depends if you are really after results or not, or whether you just want to engage in gratuitous religion bashing.

    Since you mock Christianity for opposing sex outside of marriage, I assume that you wouldn’t mind if your wife slept with other men or women?


  21. “I assume that you wouldn’t mind if your wife slept with other men or women?”

    Using the red herring type of argument? When you love your partner, it is the most natural thing in the world to be faithful.

    But what about all those people who are not married for a variety of reasons? Do you really think that abstinence can be a solution for them? It does not even work with catholic priests, does it?


  22. Hi Wolf,

    That isn’t a red herring argument, or any other logical fallacy. You said that you disagree with “Christian notions of the sinfulness of sex outside marriage.” If you want to clarify or retract that comment, that is fine. Otherwise, I don’t see how you could object to your wife cheating on you.

    People use many different definitions for “love.” If you mean that in the romantic sense, then that kind of love can come and go. I think of marital love in the sense of committing to be faithful regardless of whether you feel “in love” at the time.

    Yes, I think abstinence can work for people. You think you can convince them to use condoms. I think they can be convinced of the benefits of abstinence. Of course neither of us will convince everyone.

    Your dig at Catholic priests fails on several levels (I assume you are referring to the pedophile priests- if not, please clarify).

    First, I am not the right person to defend Catholic teachings (except the ones that agree with the Bible). The celibate priest thing is a man-made convention. Peter wasn’t the first Pope, but even if he was he was married.

    More importantly, to say that the vows of abstinence caused heterosexual men to molest young men (primarily) is a non sequitor.


  23. No, I do not want to retract my comment. Sex outside marriage also includes pre-marital sex. That is quite a different story from extra-marital sex. As long as noone else’s feelings are not hurt, I do not see a problem with that.

    Neil said: OK, leave the comment as is. Just know that it included extra-marital sex in its meaning. The “as long as no one else’s feelings get hurt” is an idiotic liberal mantra.

    Abstinence might work with some people, it definitely does not work with most people, not even with Catholic priests. And I am not primarily thinking of priests molesting young men.

    Neil said: That sentence is wrong (abstinence works for many people) and even if it wasn’t it cuts both ways. Insert “condoms” for abstinence and you’ve disproven your own point.

    Some of them molest young females, even children and in many parts of the world it is an accepted fact that the local priest sleeps with his housekeeper or is the father of a number of illegitimate offspring. Thus the sex-drive is obviously stronger than any religious conviction.

    Neil said: You are assuming that all professed religious confessions are authentic (not true).

    I could not agree more when you say that celibacy is man-made and has nothing to do with original Christian teachings.

    Neil said: As long as you are talking about Catholic priests then we agree. Otherwise, celibacy outside marriage is always the best strategy.


  24. “I find Dan’s comment “DDT, nuclear power and global warming are the boogeymen of the enviro-Nazis.” utterly disgusting. His ability to perceive the world seems to be restricted to black and white, no shades in between. But calling people with environmental awreness “Nazis” beats everything. I will abstain form any further argument with such people.”

    I just came back to read through the comments since Ed Darrell has commented on my DDT article.

    I noticed that Wolfie has extrapolated my characterization of Enviro-Nazis to mean “people with environmental awareness”. Since Wolfie supports abstinence, I don’t need to respond to him. I’m certain everyone else can see that “Enviro-Nazis” does not equal “people with environmental awareness”.

    I’m sure there is a Latin term for this fallacy someone here knows. No point in telling the abstinent one, but I would like to know what it’s called.


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