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.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!

17 Comments

  1. Now, is there any chance we can get Sen. Tom Coburn to back down, and remove his hold from the bill to name a post office in Rachel Carson’s honor?

  2. […] Carson’s honor defended Bug Girl sleuthed around a bit, and found information from official sources that really demonstrates the critics of Rachel Carson […]

  3. Thanks for your participation in our Rachel Carson Centennial blog discussion which centers around her books and has a number of formidable moderators who lead the discussion. Please go to http://rcbookclub.blogspot.com and also to the book schedule at http://library.fws.gov/rcbookclub/schedule.html The “malaria topic” has been out there for discussion recently

  4. Dear Bug Girl,

    I’ve read your posts on DDT and I’d like to send you an article that might make a good post, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to submit something or contact you through the blog. Can you please email me at the address above to get in touch?

    Thanks,
    AFM

  5. Well, given that Africa Fighting Malaria is a front organization for CEI, which is the source of the attacks on Carson, I’m not interested. Thanks.
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Africa_Fighting_Malaria

  6. I approved Beck’s comment for entertainment value.
    He’s dancing on the head of a pin about the IPM thing; sure, lots of past control strategies can match bits and pieces of an IPM program. But it wasn’t called IPM, or implemented as a *systematic program* until much, much later this century.
    Silly semantics.
    As for the racist claim that the developing world can’t implement IPM, try looking at the Rice Institute: http://www.irri.org/
    I don’t know why these people seem to think that you can simply show up with a tank of DDT and things will magically improve. As I mentioned in other posts, in addition to having to train applicators and have a distribution and control system for the DDT, there is a not-trivial issue of getting community buy in.
    If I show up at your house, unannounced, and want you to let me come in and spray a white powder everywhere, will you let me in?

  7. I asked for dialogue, not ideologue – now approve that for entertainment value! :D

  8. Actually, I have both a spam filter and a moderation rule that makes anything with a link go into moderation.
    I also have put some abusive posters into a moderated or banned group. (You don’t get to threaten me, for example.)
    While some innocent posts get swept up in the spam filter, most get through. I rarely actively censor.
    However: This is MY blog, and MY rules apply.
    The rest of the internet is available to you to spread your message, including your very own web domain.

  9. “Well, given that Africa Fighting Malaria is a front organization for CEI, which is the source of the attacks on Carson, I’m not interested. Thanks.”

    This is an ad hominum attack. V ery sloppy, bug girl.

  10. Annabelle, an ad hominem fallacy is when you dismiss someone’s arguments because of irrelevant personal characteristic (eg “Rachel Carson was a hysterical woman.”). But it is not a fallacy to ignore stuff from the AFM. Just because they are not on the up and up, doesn’t mean that they are wrong, but there is no need to waste time on their stuff. If it’s sound, then you should be able to come up with a reputable source.

  11. To me the central point of the Criton/RWDB claim is that Carson wanted to *ban* (as opposed to intelligently regulate) DDT. Which makes this point particularly telling:

    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”

  12. Bah; Criton -> Crichton.

  13. Chrichton’s involvement is just another one of the baffling things about all this.

    I should probably do a count for how many times I’ve use the term “WTF?” in the last few months. :)

  14. […] Girl has a post on setting the record straight on Rachel Carson, quoting US Fish and Wildlife Service, who, unlike Carson critics, know what Carson actually wrote […]

  15. Not sure why AFM posted this on this page, but sure, I’ll bite. (Ha! Pun! Mosquito bite! Oh, ok.)
    Anyway–
    I’m guessing that you are posting this because it suggests DDT has a repellent effect? A context would be helpful.
    First:The paper you’ve linked to used ONE species of mosquito, Ae. aegypti.
    My point in other things I’ve written is that not all mosquitoes are the same. They react differently. Not all of them have the kbr issue. And I have already said that there are both neurotoxic and repellent effects from DDT.

    Sigh.
    Also, from your paper:

    “On the other hand, DDT showed very little if any knockdown (1–2%) at all test concentrations…estimates of proportions repelled were taken from hut entry data. For DDT, alphacypermethrin and dieldrin the proportions repelled were 59%, 0% and 0% respectively.

    In huts sprayed with DDT, 59 of the 100 mosquitoes would not enter. Of the 41 that enter, 2 would die and fall to the floor. Of the 39 survivors, 12 would exit prematurely. One of the 12 mosquitoes that escaped would die within the next 24 hours. This leaves 27 mosquitoes that theoretically could bite and survive.”

    So, using DDT as only a repellent, with no mortality of the insect, and repelling less than 60% of the mozzies, would be beneficial…how, exactly?
    Color me unimpressed.

    This paper does propose an interesting way to classify insecticides, but looks at a very tiny slice of compounds potentially available to use–mostly cyclodienes. I’m really surprised they even considered dieldrin, a known bad actor.

    I’m on the road again, but will reply with more later.

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