Setting the record straight on Rachel Carson

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a very nice post about DDT, in which they are quite clear that Rachel Carson is not the anti-Christ. I specifically refer you to their “Common misconceptions about DDT” section:

#3. Rachel Carson Called for the Elimination of All Pesticides.

“It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of person largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.” (3)

Carson encouraged the responsible use of pesticide with an awareness of the chemicals’ impact on all living things, not the all-out banning of pesticides. In fact, in the context of malaria control, she argued that DDT users should “spray as little as you possibly can” rather than “spray to the limit of your capacity.” (3)

In Audubon magazine she wrote, “We do not ask that all chemicals be abandoned. We ask moderation. We ask the use of other methods less harmful to our environment” (4). Countering claims that she was advocating a back-to-nature philosophy, she said, “We must have insect control. I do not favor turning nature over to insects. I favor the sparing, selective and intelligent use of chemicals. It is the indiscriminate, blanket spraying that I oppose” (5).

This approach of controlling pests today underlies Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which integrates a number of useful strategies — cultural, mechanical or physical, biological, and chemical — into an ecologically sound and economically viable program. This management technique is used extensively in managing the Service’s National Wildlife Refuges.”

Told you so!

For those of you interested in reading source material (rather than letting others interpret it for you), a book club is discussing Carson’s books. If you haven’t read her nature writing other than “Silent Spring,” you’re in for a treat. I remember “The Sea Around Us” as especially good.

BTW, Newton Marasco sponsors a Rachel Carson Scholarship for High School Students involved in service to the environment.

Lastly, I wanted to mention Ed’s very nice posts that sum up some of the evidence that Carson is not any of the nasty things people have said about her. And I have a big summary of all that we’ve written on this topic here.  Sigh.