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Rachel Carson's Ecological Genocide By: Lisa Makson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 31, 2003


A pandemic is slaughtering millions, mostly children and pregnant women -- one child every 15 seconds; 3 million people annually; and over 100 million people since 1972 --but there are no protestors clogging the streets or media stories about this tragedy. These deaths can be laid at the doorstep of author Rachel's Carson. Her1962 bestselling book Silent Spring detailed the alleged "dangers" of the pesticide DDT, which had practically eliminated malaria. Within ten years, the environmentalist movement had convinced the powers that be to outlaw DDT. Denied the use of this cheap, safe and effective pesticide, millions of people -- mostly poor Africans -- have died due to the environmentalist dogma propounded by Carson's book. Her coterie of admirers at the U.N. and environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund have managed to bring malaria and typhus back to sub-Saharan Africa with a vengeance.

"This is like loading up seven Boeing 747 airliners each day, then deliberately crashing them into Mt. Kilimanjaro," said Dr. Wenceslaus Kilama, Malaria Foundation International Chairman.

"[M]ost politicians today are more concerned about getting re-elected rather than doing what is right. [M]any of them have very poor scientific backgrounds and do not understand the impact of the policy decisions they are making . [and] are not able to teach their constituents that there will
be severe consequences to their decisions," said former Surgeon General and retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Dr. Harold M. Koenig.

"These poor public policies [i.e. prohibiting use of DDT] are being implemented because it is easier for politicians to go along with the noise coming from the hysterics rather than to learn the whole story and educate the general electorate that there are ways agents like DDT can be used
safely," said Koenig, who is currently president of the Annapolis Center, a nonprofit educational organization that "promotes responsible environmental, health, and safety decision-making by applying a science foundation" to the public policy process.

Although DDT "provides the most effective, cheapest, and safest means of abating and eradicating" infectious diseases, all changed with the 1962 publication of Carson's tome Silent Spring. And just as the world's leading scientists predicted 30 years ago, Carson's crusade against DDT has
caused the world's deadliest infectious diseases such as typhus and malaria, which "may have killed half of all the people that ever lived" according to the World Health Organization, to make a deadly comeback that will soon threaten the United States and Europe again.

"The resurgence of a disease that was almost eradicated 30 years ago is a case study in the danger of putting concern for nature above concern for people," said Nizam Ahmad, an analyst from Bangladesh that focuses on problems affecting developing countries.

"It's worse than it was 50 years ago," said University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill malaria expert Dr. Robert Desowitz said.

According to the WHO, "more people are now infected [with malaria] than at any point in history," with "up to half a billion cases [being reported] every year." The National Institute of Health reports that "infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death" in the world and is "the third leading cause of death in the United States." WHO estimates put the number of people in Africa dying from malaria annually is equal to the number of AIDS' deaths over the last 15 years combined!

"Carson and those who joined her in the crusade against DDT have contributed to millions of preventable deaths. Used responsibly, DDT can be quite safe for man and the environment," Koenig said, summing up what many infectious disease experts believe.

The discovery of DDT by scientist Paul Herman Muller, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948, was originally hailed as a major public health success because DDT kills mosquitoes, lice and fleas, which are carriers for more than 20 serious infectious diseases like the bubonic plague, typhus, yellow fever, encephalitis and malaria.

"To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It is estimated that, in little more than two decades DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that would otherwise have been inevitable," a statement from the National Academy of Sciences said. Before DDT, infectious diseases spread like wildfire, leaving millions dead in their wake. During World War I, typhus epidemics killed 3 million Russians and millions elsewhere in European. But during World War II, before it was blacklisted by Carson and her crew, DDT saved millions of Allied troops from becoming ill and/or dying from infectious diseases such as malaria, typhus and the plague. Plus, DDT also saved the lives of recently liberated Nazi concentration camp survivors by killing off typhus-causing lice.

Other reasons for DDT being hailed as a modern day miracle are legion. For starters, it is extremely cheap to produce, costing $1.44 to spray one house for a whole year. Alternative pesticides being pushed by the U.N. and environmentalists are 10 to 20 times more expensive.

"DDT is the best insecticide we have today for controlling malaria," said malaria expert Dr. Donald Roberts of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. "DDT is long-acting, the alternatives are not. DDT is cheap, the alternatives are not. End of story."

Another reason DDT is such a blessing is that it enables developing countries to make significant economic progress, thanks to plunging infectious disease rates. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, "The unparalleled benefits stemming from [public health] programs [in developing countries] are due almost entirely to the use of DDT. DDT provides the only safe, economically feasible eradication measure available today [that helps to promote economic development." 

The nation of India provides an illustrative example. Before the World Health Organization began its worldwide malaria eradication program in the 1940s, India had more than 100 million cases of malaria and 2.5 million deaths annually; produced less than 25 million tons of wheat per year; was host to widespread starvation; and spent 60 percent of its GDP on malaria control. But by the '60s, India's malaria cases dropped to fewer than 100,000 reported cases, with less than 1,000 deaths. Thanks to this stability, India produced more than 100 million tons of wheat annually.

But most importantly, DDT is also not hazardous to humans or the environment -- despite all the propaganda to the contrary. According to tests conducted by Dr. Philip Butler, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Sabine Island Research Laboratory, "92 percent of DDT and its metabolites disappear" from the environment after 38 days. (See Environmental Protection Agency's DDT hearings transcript, page 3,726.)  Plus, humans have nothing to worry about small exposures to DDT.

"DDT is so safe that no symptoms have been observed among the 130,000 spraymen or the 535 million inhabitants of sprayed houses [over the past 29 years of its existence]. No toxicity was observed in the wildlife of the countries participating in the malaria campaign," said the WHO director in 1969. "Therefore WHO has no grounds to abandon this chemical which has saved millions of lives, the discontinuation of which would result in thousands of human deaths and millions of illnesses. It has served at least 2 billion people in the world without costing a single human life by poisoning from DDT. The discontinuation of the use of DDT would be a disaster to world health."

The only reason millions of lives are being lost to infectious disease is because of Carson's crusade against DDT in her 1962 doomsday book "Silent Spring." Carson predicted that pesticides -- namely DDT -- would cause "practically 100 percent" of the human population would be wiped out from a cancer epidemic after one more generation. This would come about because a race of super-insects, impervious to pesticides, would come about threatening U.S. farms. Desperate farmers then would triple the amount of pesticides they were using so they could stop the super-bugs from destroying their crops. As a result, DDT would eventually work its way up the food chain, killing off first the bugs, then the worms, then the birds (hence her title), the fish and finally mankind.

Although this sounds pretty scary, all of this was mere speculation on Carson's part, based upon erroneous analysis of data (junk science). For example, Carson argued that the rise in cancer rates from 1940-1960 was proof that DDT was the cause because spraying began in 1940 and continued. However, if Carson would have looked at Center for Disease Control data from the 1900-1960, she would have noticed that her theory was way off the mark because cancer rates started to skyrocket in direct correlation to a surge of tobacco use.

"Sure more people are dying now of cancer than did in the past, because they are no longer dying of other causes at earlier ages, especially infectious diseases. The longer people live, the greater chances they have of dying of cancer," Koenig said. "We know of some things that have greater association with cancers.  These include the use of tobacco in any form, excessive sun
exposure, obesity, stress and lack of exercise. There are a few chemicals that are suspected to be carcinogenic. As far as I know there is no known association between DDT or any other insecticide and cancer. To categorize Carson's work as research is a big stretch. It was really just hysterical speculation."

Despite the constant banshee call of environmentalists that DDT causes cancer -- their main reason for justifying a worldwide DDT ban -- there is no scientific data to back that up.

"The scientific literature does not contain even one peer-reviewed, independently replicated study linking DDT exposures to any adverse health outcome [in humans]," said Dr. Amir Attaran, who is with Harvard University's Center for International Development and is a former WHO expert on malaria who used to support the environmentalists' call for using alternatives to DDT. Attaran changed sides on the DDT debate after he witnessed what happened when South Africa. After intense U.N. and environmentalist pressure, South Africa stopped using DDT and switched to
the U.N. Environmental Program's alternative pesticides as a way to control malaria. But the mosquitoes quickly developed resistance to the new pesticides and malaria rates increased 1,000 percent. And despite UN threats to cut off funding for South Africa's public health programs, the nation started DDT again because its politicians could not stand idly by and allow millions of its citizens to become sickened and/or die from malaria. "They really tried to phase this stuff out, and had the budget to afford the alternatives," Attaran said. "[But if] South Africa can't get by without DDT, it's pretty much as if to say that nobody can."

In addition to Carson's unfounded cancer claims, Silent Spring is also chock full of other "untruthful and misleading" statements that have absolutely no grounding in scientific reality whatsoever, said San Jose State University entomologist Dr. J. Gordon Edwards. Edwards is an environmentalist "with a desire to keep truth in science and environmentalism." He has even has a book published by the Sierra Club.

Edwards at first supported Carson but quickly changed his mind once he began checking her sources. What he discovered was not only did Carson rely upon "very unscientific sources," but she cited many of the same sources over and over again in order to make her book appear incontrovertible. Even more startling is that Edwards "found" many of Carson's statements based upon sound, scientific sources were actually -- his word -- "false."

"They did not support her contentions about the harm caused by pesticides," Edwards said. "She was really playing loose with the facts, deliberately wording many sentences in such a way as to make them imply certain things without actually saying them, carefully omitting everything that failed to support her thesis that pesticides were bad, that industry was bad, and that any scientists who did not support her views were bad. It slowly dawned on me that Rachel Carson was not interested in the truth about those topics, and that I really was being duped, along with millions of other Americans."

For example, Carson wrote that the Audubon Society's annual bird census from 1940-1961 showed widespread declines in the bird population so since this was the same time period that DDT spraying began, DDT was to blame. However, Edwards noted that the Audubon census figures actually show the inverse -- bird populations were increasing! In fact, some birds were benefiting so much from DDT, such as the blackbird and redwings, that they had become "pests."

"The phenomena of increasing bird populations during the DDT years may be due, in part, to (1) fewer blood-sucking insects and reduced spread of avian diseases (avian malaria, rickettsial-pox, avian bronchitis, Newcastle disease, encephalitis, etc); (2) more seed and fruits available for birds to eat after plant-eating insects were decimated [by DDT]; and (3) Ingestion of DDT triggers hepatic enzymes that detoxify carcinogens such as aflatoxin," stated a May 1967 Virginia Department of Agriculture Bulletin.

Yet, despite Carson's research inconsistencies and dearth of solid scientific evidence, DDT was eventually banned in the U.S. This is due to the work of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Ruckelshaus, an attorney with ties to the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus ordered a hearing on a possible ban of DDT after EDF, which was started and financed by Audubon, and Audubon launched a lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the newly created EPA because of DDT.

After seven months of hearings, which produced 9,362 pages of testimony by 125 witnesses, EPA Judge Edmund Sweeney ruled against EDF, Audubon and the Carson coterie, saying that according to the evidence, "DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man...is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man...[and the] use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." But Ruckelshaus quickly overruled Sweeney and banned DDT on Jan. 1, 1972. His decision had nothing to do with science or concern for the American people -- Ruckelshaus never attended a day of the hearings and admitted that he never read the transcripts. Instead, it was due to Ruckelshaus' ties to EDF and environmentalists.

"The ultimate judgment [on DDT] remains political," Ruckelshaus wrote to American Farm Bureau Federation President Allan Grant on April 26, 1979. "Decisions by the government involving the use of toxic substances are political with a small 'p.' In the case of pesticides in our country, the power to make this judgment has been delegated to the administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency."

Although the ban was appealed, Ruckelshaus' ban on DDT remained intact because Ruckelshaus stacked the deck in the environmentalists' favor -- he appointed himself as the appeal judge. After the appeal was foiled, Ruckelshaus began soliciting donations on behalf of EDF on his personal
stationery, writing: "EDF's scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won." Scientists decried the decision.

"The news that the Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S.A. has now imposed almost a total ban on the use of DDT may be welcomed by partisans of the antipollution movement, but will cause concern to well-informed public health workers, since it increases the difficulty of controlling several tropical arthropod-borne diseases," said Dr. L. J. Bruce-Chwatt in the British medical journal, The Lancet. "The rich countries, preoccupied with their own environmental problems and degenerative illnesses related to affluence should be reminded of the fact that the old plagues have not been banished from the world and that any apparently beneficial move may have an unexpected rebound effect and jeopardize the health gains achieved elsewhere over the years."

Thirty years later, Ruckelshaus' legacy is alive and well. The Green lobby, lead by the WWF and Greenpeace, refuse to stop Carson's crusade against DDT until DDT is banned worldwide. They almost succeeded in 1999 when Germany, which held the European Union presidency, threw its weight behind the issue and began lobbying the UN Environmental Program. Although the resulting Persistent Organic Pollutants treaty never passed, in the meantime, environmentalists and UN politicians from the West are determined to do what they can to stop DDT use.

For example, Mexico, which was one of the few remaining producers of DDT in the world, was forced by the Clinton Administration to stop producing DDT if it wanted the North American Free Trade Agreement to pass. The U.S. State Department's Agency for International Development, under intense pressure from environmentalists, even changed its funding priorities in developing nations, noting that DDT funding would no longer be supported (but birth control would).

The reason for this shift away from DDT towards an emphasis on population control reveals the Malthusian philosophy behind the anti-DDT movement.

"[Any known alternative to DDT] only kills farm workers, and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes. So what? People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as any," said Dr. Charles Wurster, chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund's Scientific Advisory Council and a key promoter of the DDT ban.

Another anti-DDT Malthusian is Sierra Club director Michael McCloskey, who said that the "Sierra Club wants a ban on pesticides, even in countries where DDT has kept malaria under control...[because by] using DDT, we reduce mortality rates in underdeveloped countries without the consideration of how to support the increase in populations."

This rationale of the anti-DDT crusaders is much like Carson's Silent Spring -- it is based on nothing more than a pack of unscientific hypothesizing. Much like Silent Spring, Thomas Robert Malthus' Principles of Population paints a horrific doomsday scenario: a worldwide "population explosion" will occur, but man's food production cannot keep pace, so millions will die from starvation. But just like Carson, Malthus only used data that supported his argument, citing  birthrates from affluent areas where population was growing, while ignoring birthrates (and death rates) in all areas. And just as with Silent Spring,"environmentalists bandy about Malthus' notions even though he made these predictions before the Industrial Revolution and the widespread availability of contraception. It is interesting to note that despite the anti-DDT crowd's banshee-like cries of overpopulation, statistics -- yet again -- show that the opposite is true: deaths are outpacing births worldwide by a wide margin. So much so that many countries in Europe are trying to encourage their citizens to have more children. For example in Spain, which has the lowest birthrate of all European nations, the government is even awarding families in rural communities highly valuable Serrano pigs; in Valencia, women are given a "fertility" reward of $3,000 just for having a second child.

Today's anti-DDT crusaders' actions, which have caused the deaths of millions, are portrayed as compassionate. "Unquestionably [the DDT ban] places an unfair burden on poor countries," Koenig said.  "In fact, this is just a modern day form of imperialism, the more developed and richer nations forcing the poor of the world to do their bidding just to survive."

It is impossible for developing countries to survive on their own without DDT because their populations, those who actually survive the deadly infectious diseases, never regain their full health.

"We have got to stop pressuring countries to stop using DDT," Roberts said. "It is immoral."

"Malaria perpetuates poverty by debilitating people. Unable to work, its victims cannot afford to feed themselves or their children. Sick and malnourished, they are prone to a vicious cycle of future infection and debilitation," said Dr. Roger Bate, author of When Politics Kills: Malaria and the DDT Story. "To break the cycle, to save lives, it is imperative that we have all the tools, including DDT, that work to help control malaria, protect health and ensure development."

Sujatin, a resident from the Irian Jaya province Indonesia, told Smithsonian Magazine what it is like to live with malaria. "My husband works as a logger in the jungles. He's gone for weeks at a time and he gets malaria. It is a terrible thing to have. Sweating. Very bad headaches. High, high fever. You vomit. You are so weak...when malaria comes every few days, you feel like you want to die," she said.

"Malaria keeps Africa down, and down is where the rest of the world wants us to be. If this was a disease of the West, it would be gone," Mamadou Kasse, medical editor of Senegal's largest newspaper, Le Soleil, told Atlantic Monthly's Ellen Ruppel Shell for her August 1997 article, "Resurgence of a Deadly Disease."

If Carson's crusaders are really concerned about saving lives and helping developing countries, then must allow DDT to be used without repercussions.

"Malaria kills a few million every year; each life lost is a potential Mandela, Shakespeare, or Edison, and nothing is less reversible than death, nor more tragic than the death of a child," Dr. Roger Bate said. "Hundreds of millions suffer chronic illness, which creates a painful economic burden and perpetuates poverty. This may not be the intention of those who are debating a DDT ban, but it surely will be the outcome."

If that is not enough to convince them, Carson's crusaders should realize that their actions against DDT might eventually boomerang.

"[B]anning DDT worldwide is beyond ignorance, it is just plain stupid," Koenig said. "[Although m]alaria still is prevalent in the countries in the equatorial regions . [it] is only a matter of time, a short time, before we see these diseases again in the regions between the tropics and the poles."

Until that time comes, the malaria plague seems to be off the public radar. However, let there be no mistake: Rachel Carson and the worldwide environmentalist movement are responsbile for perpetuating an ecological genocide that has claimed the lives of millions of young, poor, striving African men, women and children, killed by preventable diseases.




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