Physician, vaccine maker and advocate Dr. Paul Offit penned a necessary but confusing drubbing of the Mother Goddess of the environmentalist movement, Rachel Carson. His criticism is uneven, though. Despite referring to her as a hero he goes on to point out because of what she said about DDT in her book Silent Spring, he holds her responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Offit says:
Although DDT soon became synonymous with poison, the pesticide was an effective weapon in the fight against an infection that has killed—and continues to kill—more people than any other: malaria. By 1960, due largely to DDT, malaria had been eliminated from eleven countries, including the United States. As malaria rates went down, life expectancies went up; as did crop production, land values, and relative wealth. Probably no country benefited from DDT more than Nepal, where spraying began in 1960. At the time, more than two million Nepalese, mostly children, suffered from malaria. By 1968, the number was reduced to 2,500; and life expectancy increased from 28 to 42 years.
After DDT was banned, malaria reemerged across the globe:
• In India, between 1952 and 1962, DDT caused a decrease in annual malaria cases from 100 million to 60,000. By the late 1970s, no longer able to use DDT, the number of cases increased to 6 million.
• In Sri Lanka, before the use of DDT, 2.8 million people suffered from malaria. When the spraying stopped, only 17 people suffered from the disease. Then, no longer able to use DDT, Sri Lanka suffered a massive malaria epidemic: 1.5 million people were infected by the parasite.
• In South Africa, after DDT became unavailable, the number of malaria cases increased from 8,500 to 42,000 and malaria deaths from 22 to 320.
Since the mid 1970s, when DDT was eliminated from global eradication efforts, tens of millions of people have died from malaria unnecessarily: most have been children less than five years old. While it was reasonable to have banned DDT for agricultural use, it was unreasonable to have eliminated it from public health use.
Environmentalists have argued that when it came to DDT, it was pick your poison. If DDT was banned, more people would die from malaria. But if DDT wasn’t banned, people would suffer and die from a variety of other diseases, not the least of which was cancer. However, studies in Europe, Canada, and the United States have since shown that DDT didn’t cause the human diseases Carson had claimed. Indeed, the only type of cancer that had increased in the United States during the DDT era was lung cancer, which was caused by cigarette smoking. DDT was arguably one of the safer insect repellents ever invented—far safer than many of the pesticides that have taken its place.
Two cheers can be given to Dr. Offit for this due to his calling her a hero despite his criticism of Rachel Carson. He is right to ridicule her for her misinformation since her book contributed to the banning of DDT that lead to the deaths of millions of innocent lives.
The basis of environmentalist opposition to pesticides isn’t just their disdain for human life but it is also grounded in Rachel Carson’s book. Carson made numerous false claims about DDT. The entire environmentalist movement is a movement based soley on lies which is a result of the moral relativism they subscribe to. A few years ago journalist John Stossel dedicated a segment of one of his show’s programs to address the false claims Rachel Carson made in her book Silent Spring.