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The Forum > Article Comments > Birdsong, wilderness and bio-fuels > Comments

Birdsong, wilderness and bio-fuels : Comments

By Peter Vintila, published 29/10/2009

Two books, one from 50 years ago, the other 150 years ago: both are pioneering works and essential reading for all green activists.

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And yet Rachel Carson's book is responsible for the deaths of millions upon millions of people in countries where DDT was banned for use against malaria.
Posted by Bernie Masters, Monday, 2 November 2009 10:18:21 AM
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That's BS Bernie, increasing insect resistance to DDT was responsible for its reduced use. But I guess you don't know any better, so that's forgivable, now you know better, you can stop repeating the myth.
Posted by Bugsy, Monday, 2 November 2009 11:56:21 AM
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Bugsy, I'm not sure why you're so aggressive in your post. Common courtesy never hurt anyone.
Carson's book caused DDT to be totally banned which resulted in millions of deaths from malaria. Fortunately, the World Health Organisation allowed its use in 2006 subject to restrictions. So the problem in the early days wasn't the DDT itself but its inappropriate use. We've learned from these early mistakes and now DDT is sprayed onto the inside walls of African homes and in mosquito nets. Peter Vintila's article simply needs to have a reality check, incorporating the lessons learned from an excessive reaction to an emotionally-based book which, while containing a very important message about excessive use of biocides, shouldn't have led to the deaths of millions of innocent people.
Posted by Bernie Masters, Monday, 2 November 2009 1:30:09 PM
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Sorry if my post came across as aggressive Bernie, my reaction to unadulterated BS tends to do that to me sometimes. Please pretend that Iím delivering it an even monotone.

ďCarson's book caused DDT to be totally banned which resulted in millions of deaths from malaria. ď
Ah, how about no. DDT was not Ďtotally bannedí because of Carson. If you donít believe me, then why donít you look up when DDT was banned in those countries in the firing line? Like South Africa, when did they ban DDT? How about Kenya? Iíll give you hint, it was more than 25 years after Carsonís book was written, hardly an excessive emotional reaction I should think (even the UK didnít ban it until 1984).

ďFortunately, the World Health Organisation allowed its use in 2006 subject to restrictionsĒ While the WHO has allowed its restricted use, itís also attempting to reduce its use and encourages alternatives as much as possible. http://apps.who.int/malaria/docs/WHOpositiononDDT.pdf

ďSo the problem in the early days wasn't the DDT itself but its inappropriate use.ď Nope-DDT itself is a problem. The environmental concerns over its use are valid. Itís just that the case for the short term goal of malarial control currently outweighs the risks of environmental pollution when used under strict guidelines.

Besides, Carson wasnít writing about spraying it on the walls of African dwellings, it was about the contemporary agricultural use and itís affect on wildlife, most notably birds.

Carsonís book had no temporal correlation with why and when DDT was actually banned in the countries that eventually did it (except perhaps the US). It was merely the first popular publication that raised the growing concern of DDT use (post hoc ergo prompter hoc). Since then, there have been literally thousands of scientific studies and publications establishing DDTís effects and environmental persistence, as well as the persistent threat of insecticide resistance to anti-malarial campaigns. Carsonís book is not responsible for millions of deaths from malaria,
I think if you look a little deeper, youíll find that the history of DDT use is a little more complex that you think.
Posted by Bugsy, Monday, 2 November 2009 10:38:18 PM
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Bugsy,
This page - http://www.malaria.org/bateftddt.html - may be of interest. The most telling quote is "the rest (of the African countries) may be concerned that they will lose donor aid if they ask for exemptions to spray DDT for malaria control." Who is the world's largest foreign aid donor? The USA. Where did Carson's book have the most emotional impact? The USA? The USA has a long history of punishing developing countries because of policy decisions made in the USA and forcibly applying those policy decisions onto other countries (abortion is the best/worst example). The USA was the first (or one of the first) countries in the world to ban the use of DDT, with consequent impacts right around the planet, leading to the death of millions.
Posted by Bernie Masters, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 5:52:32 PM
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Bernie, if you are going to play link wars, it helps to read what you are linking to. That particular authors argument supports my position, not yours. The constant use of the future tense throughout is a dead giveaway, as in "banning the use of DDT WOULD [emphasis added] cost lives and wealth in the developing world" and then discusses maintaining the current and previous use in anti-malarial programs, I don't know about you, but this would suggest to me that DDT was NOT BANNED in those countries that you suggest have had millions die because of an imaginary ban brought about by imaginary environmental hysteria (in the 1980s, 90s?) caused by a book written 47 years ago.

The concerns listed by Roger Bate (http://www.malaria.org/bateftddt.html) were of course about the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. While DDT is on the restricted list, there are and always have been exemptions for disease vector control. You'll find it in Annex B of the Convention:
http://chm.pops.int/Portals/0/Repository/convention_text/UNEP-POPS-COP-CONVTEXT-FULL.English.PDF

While we're at it the Convention website (http://chm.pops.int/)could be interesting to you, as it's maintained by people who like to be serious and have an interest in reality, unlike most of blogsites that like to repeat that Carson-bashing myth.

It's far more rewarding actually researching history rather than imagining it I reckon.
Posted by Bugsy, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 8:37:30 PM
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