DDT and Attacks on Rachel Carson: The CliffsNote Version

I thought this might be a good time to put up a collection of different posts I (and others) have written about the ongoing attacks on Rachel Carson.

What’s the issue?

A Salon article (with more from May Berenbaum!) provides a nice introduction:

Socrates Litsios, a historian and former scientist for the World Health Organization (the agency that has headed global malaria control efforts since the 1960s), says the assertion that “Silent Spring” and the DDT ban led to millions of deaths is “outrageous.” May Berenbaum, head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has studied mosquitoes and malaria, says that “to blame environmentalists who oppose DDT for more deaths than Hitler is worse than irresponsible.”

Here’s the “CliffsNote” version of every link that’s on this post:

DDT is NOT a cure-all solution for malaria. It has to be used–if it is used–carefully, with planning, evaluation, and forethought. It’s easy to understand why some folks want DDT to be a panacea–Malaria is a horrible disease, and children suffer the most. But jumping in and randomly spraying DDT can have the potential to make things worse, not better, in the long run.

Is DDT Safe, and a way to “fix” malaria?

Short Answer: No.

Whose idea was this, anyway?
The people who seem to be orchestrating some of the attacks have been masterfully tracked down by Deltoid, et al. over at ScienceBlogs.

Other interesting items:

If you read the “why I care” perhaps you’ll do me a favor.

First, if you know of good online resources that should be added to this list, please mention them in the comments. (Note that all comments with links are moderated). Second, if you have a blog, please link to this page, or to one of the other blogs or articles in this post. Right now, when you search for “Rachel Carson and DDT” on Google, all you get are hate sites. It’s amazing how full the net is of this misinformation.
If you have pages that discuss Carson as the talented writer and observer of nature, add her name to your tags. Let’s take Rachel’s reputation back!

EDITED 7/1/07 to add the next in the MFB/Ed’s series.
EDITED 8/10/08 to add more links

14 thoughts on “DDT and Attacks on Rachel Carson: The CliffsNote Version

  1. Interesting. I have met Socrates Litsios. Fine man, nice guy. Didn’t know he was involved.

    I wonder if he has friends in Oklahoma who might prevail on Sen. Tom Coburn to drop his opposition to honors for Rachel Carson?

  2. It’s going to take me all weekend to read all the resources you’d provided here. Excellent Cliffs’ Notes. Thanks, and I’ll link as well.

  3. Woah! You warned us you were going to change your format. I like it! Can’t go wrong with green. But can you possibly increase the font size? It’s almost as bad as insect labels…

  4. Boy, BG, you put a lot of effort into these posts. Thank you for your energy!

    I’m ashamed to admit that I have not read Silent Spring, but by coincidence (or maybe not?!) Paul Hawken – in his new book “Blessed Unrest” spends quite a lot of time writing about what a struggle she had fighting the pesticide manufacturers, and all the BS she had to endure.

    Hawken writes that it was a pivotal moment in the history of the environmental movement because the tactics that arose from Carson’s work i.e. discreditation, patronization – and worse – of the author have only been refined and sharpened since then. (We don’t have to look much further than the petroleum industries responses to discussions on global warming.)

    I think I need to hit the library! :)

  5. Yeah, once I get pissed off, I can be a bit tenacious :)
    Definitely take some time to read some of Carson’s writings, Dave! Parts of the book are just poetry. (And this, of course, is why scientists didn’t like it. I once had a journal manuscript criticized myself for being too “literary.”)
    Also look at the book group for some additional books–her ocean books are just lovely.

  6. Thanks for the great resources you’ve posted! I’m writing an article on this topic and your links are a great help. Keep fighting the good fight!

    ps. great blog.

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