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September 7, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Lies about Rachel


Rachel Carson is considered to be the founder of the modern environmental movement. Born in 1907, she trained as a marine biologist and later became a nature writer in the 1950s. She began her writing career looking at life within the ocean. Her first three books became bestsellers. However, her next book changed the world. Carson set her attention to conservation and environmental problems caused by synthetic pesticides in the late 1950s. She published Silent Spring in 1962. This book brought environmental concerns to the forefront of the American public. She died a couple years later in 1964.

Silent Spring looked at how the unrestrained use of pesticides was harming and leading to the death of animals, including humans. The title suggested a bleak springtime due to all the birds dying from the overuse of pesticides. The book not only led to a change in the nation’s pesticide policy—seeing a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides in the US—but also led to a grassroots environmental movement, which in turn led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson argued that pesticides have damaging effects on the environment, as they are biocides, chemical substances capable of killing living organisms. They are often non-discrete, as the effects are rarely limited to target pests. Animals could build a resistance to pesticides. Many pesticides are capable of bioaccumulation, making their way up the food chain. Carson also accused the chemical industry of intentionally lying about the effects of pesticides and governments accepting industry claims without question.

However, even before the book was published, Carson was ridiculed and threatened with lawsuits. The chemical industry, led by Monsanto Company, Velsicol and American Cyanamid, organised a huge counterattack on her. Furthermore, many right-wing conservative groups still blame her for the death of millions of people around the world.

They claim her work caused the widespread ban of DDT in developing nations across the globe. For example, the climate change denialist who created the ridiculously ill-informed website ‘CO2: We call it life’, also created a website called ‘Rachel Carson: We call her a baby killer’. They state on their website:

“Rachel was wrong. Humans were exposed to massive amounts of DDT without showing ill effect. And unlike Carson’s fable, malaria is a harsh reality today, killing more than a million people a year and making 300 million seriously ill, mostly in the developing world.”

This is a common theme amongst these rabid critics. They believe the anti-DDT Campaign Carson inspired was responsible for almong as many deaths as some of the worst dictators of the 20th Century.

Yet these criticisms are easily refuted. DDT is not as safe as the proponents claim. The acute toxic effects caused by DDT have been classed as ‘moderately hazardous’ by the World Health Organisation. The pesticide can also cause chronic health effects. It has been labelled a chemical carcinogen. It can cause hormonal responses in the reproductive system of animals. In addition, DDT is linked to several other health effects, including asthma, diabetes and neurological problems.

The claim Carson was responsible for as many deaths as the worst dictators last century can be seen for what it is—an outrageous lie, when you examine the evidence. The reality is DDT has never been banned for anti-malaria use, only for agricultural use. In her book, Carson argued the overuse of pesticides would make the problem of insect-borne disease worse. Insects would build up resistance to pesticides. She wrote in Silent Spring:

“Malaria programmes are threatened by resistance among mosquitoes. … Practical advice should be ‘Spray as little as you possibly can’ rather than ‘Spray to the limit of your capacity’ …, Pressure on the pest population should always be as slight as possible.”

As it turned out, Carson was right. As DDT was used, not just for controlling malaria, but for general agricultural insect control as well, mosquitoes evolved resistance. The first known malaria mosquito to develop resistance to DDT was in Greece. DDT was used extensively in 1946, with great success. Although it was observed that adult mosquitoes were found in large numbers outside treated buildings. Evidently, adult mosquitoes had developed a tolerance of DDT to escape from the buildings. They would rest and recover outside. A few months later, they built up enough resistance to remain inside without feeling any effects from the pesticide.

In Sri Lanka, mosquito resistances resulted in a worsening epidemic and hundreds of thousands of cases of malaria as DDT became ineffective. This is just one example of many throughout the world.

It is important to use an integrated approach to insect control. DDT is only a temporary measure to control malaria in some cases. Other alternatives need to be used as well. For instance, long-lasting insecticide-treated nets are the most promising means against malaria through much of the world, as opposed to continuous spraying of food crops. The point Rachel Carson was trying to make was not to ban all pesticides, but a warning of the overuse of pesticides as a be all and end all solution. As the saying goes, “don’t put all your eggs in the same basket”—a more holistic approach would achieve greater results, actually saving millions of lives.


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    The ban on DDT was based on lies and junk science the SAVE THE RAINFORESTS was a fruad and GLOBAL WARMING is a hoax and AL GORE is also a liar

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