Poor Rachel

Jasmine at the Worsted Witch just put up a post with what has to be one of the best titles ever: “The right bashes Rachel Carson on the anniversary of her birth, because they suxx0r and eat their own boogers.” (Leetspeak and boogers in the same sentence–nice.)

Rachel Carson wrote a book in 1962 called Silent Spring that argued that pesticide use was harmful to the environment, especially birds (hence the “silent spring”). It is considered one of the foundational works of the modern environmental movement, and though its original publication was surrounded by some controversy (namely in the form of attacks from the chemical industry) the scientific community (that is, the part of it not in the pocket of agribusiness and biochemical companies) generally agrees with Carson’s thesis.

The Worsted Witch links to an interesting piece in today’s Salon, “Rachel Carson’s birthday bashing,” that focuses on the debate over DDT use in malaria control.

Recent critics claim that Carson’s book led to the banning of DDT in the USA, which led to the spread of malaria in the Third World. Therefore, they say, all of those malaria deaths are her fault–and the fault of the environmental movement at large. (“[mutter] Bunch of goddam hippies…[mutter].”) The very best part is when they say that environmentalists are “worse than Hitler.” Yup.

Give me a break. The Salon article cites several experts–including the World Health Organization, which leads global efforts to eradicate malaria (so, um, yeah–I’d say those people know what they’re talking about)–who say that attempts to tie decreased DDT use to malaria deaths are ludicrous. In fact, death rates decreased at the same time treatment shifted from insecticides to medicine. DDT is still in use in many places today, and when used lightly and carefully, it can have some effectiveness. One important point–which Carson raised and which is still valid today–is that relying too strongly on only one solution, particularly one to which organisms can develop resistances, is a bad idea in the long run. DDT may be useful, but it can’t be the only option. And people who insist that it is and then blame Carson and all environmentalists for malaria deaths…well, they probably do eat their own boogers.

Oh, and it’s worth noting (thank you, Great Wik!) that the bastion of conservatism known as the National Review ranked Silent Spring #78 on its list of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century. Even they weren’t idiots on this point.

3 Responses to “Poor Rachel”

  1. Imperatrixon 02 Jul 2007 at 9:19 am

    I think there are two kinds of conservatives. Those with a brain, and those with their politeness gene turned off. Unfortunately, in the past 20 years or so, we’ve lost many of the first kind, and the second kind have proliferated (like mosquitoes).

    A solution that destroys the environment is no solution at all.

  2. Imperatrixon 02 Jul 2007 at 11:27 am

    Oh, and on the nerd-speak topic:

    My girls just shared this link with me, and I thought you might enjoy it:

  3. Marshaon 02 Jul 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I’m not one to put bumper stickers on my car, but I have to admit being awfully tempted by that one…