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"It's a paradox that right now we are using pesticides at a greater rate than when 'Silent Spring' was published," Diana Post, executive director of an environmental nonprofit called the Rachel Carson Council, told the Washington Post. Paradoxically, widespread use of DDT for malaria control would likely result in fewer pounds of insecticide being released, not more, since countries struggling with malaria are now using much larger quantities of less potent alternatives. Spraying houses in the whole country of Guyana required the same amount of DDT once used on a single cotton field in a single growing season.
Carson didn't have the benefit of more than 40 years of additional data, but her successors do. DDT remains the cheapest and most powerful tool for stopping malaria. When sprayed on interior walls, it has virtually zero interaction with wild ecosystems. Yet when the topic of relaxing restrictions in order to save millions of lives comes up, someone inevitably brandishes a copy of "Silent Spring" and opposition is silenced so completely that you could hear a mosquito buzzing in the next room.
Katherine Mangu-Ward is an associate editor for
reason. This article originally
in the Wall Street Journal.
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