Silent Spring's 50-Year History of Selective Data

Rachel Carson, more than any other person, created the politicized science that afflicts today's public policy debates.

This week Silent Spring will turn 50.

Rachel Carson’s jeremiad against pesticides is credited by many as launching the modern environmentalist movement, and the author, who died in 1964, is being widely lauded for her efforts. "She was the very first person to knock some of the shine off of modernity," says environmentalist Bill McKibben in a New York Times Magazine article from this past Sunday.

"The hostile reaction to Silent Spring contained the seeds of a partisan divide over environmental matters that has since hardened into a permanent wall of bitterness and mistrust," writes William Souder, author of a new biography of Carson, On A Farther Shore. He adds, "There is no objective reason why environmentalism should be the exclusive province of any one political party or ideology." That conclusion is flatly wrong.

In Silent Spring, Carson crafted a passionate denunciation of modern technology that drives environmentalist ideology today. At its heart is this belief: Nature is beneficent, stable, and even a source of moral good; humanity is arrogant, heedless, and often the source of moral evil. Rachel Carson, more than any other person, is responsible for the politicized science that afflicts our public policy debates today.

First, let’s acknowledge that Carson was right about some of the harms that extensive modern pesticide use could and did cause. Carson was correct that the popular pesticide DDT did disrupt reproduction in some raptor species. It is also the case that insect pests over time do develop resistance to pesticides, making them eventually less useful in preventing the spread of insect-borne diseases and protecting crops. In fact, the first cases of evolving insect resistance were identified in California orchards in at the beginning of the 20th century, when species of scale insects became resistant to the primitive insecticides lime sulfur and hydrogen cyanide. By 1960, 137 species of insects had developed resistance to DDT. To preserve their usefulness, pesticides clearly needed to be more judiciously deployed.   

Carson, however, realized that tales of empty birds' nests and bug and weed-infested crops were not enough to spur most people to fear the chemicals she opposed. The threat had to be made more immediate and intimate. Carson biographer Souder notes, "In 1960, at the halfway point in writing Silent Spring, just as she was exploring the connection between pesticide exposure and human cancer, Carson was herself stricken with breast cancer." Given the sorry state of medicine in the 1950s, few diseases were scarier than cancer. And deaths from cancer had been rising steeply. Carson cited government statistics showing that cancer deaths had dramatically increased from 4 percent of all deaths in 1900 to 15 percent in 1958. 

"The problem that concerns us here is whether any of the chemicals we are using in our attempts to control nature play a direct or indirect role as causes of cancer," wrote Carson. Her conclusion was that "the evidence is circumstantial" but "nonetheless impressive." She added the claim that in contrast with disease germs, "man has put the vast majority of carcinogens into the environment." She noted that the first human exposures to DDT and other pesticides were barely more than a decade in the past. It takes time for cancer to fester, so she ominously warned, "The full maturing of whatever seeds of malignancy have been sown by these chemicals is yet to come."

But hinting at cancer doom decades away was not enough. Carson was convinced that pesticides could wreak their carcinogenic havoc much sooner rather than later. As evidence she cited various anecdotes, including one about a woman "who abhorred spiders" and who sprayed her basement with DDT in mid-August. She died of acute leukemia a couple of months later. In another passage, Carson cites a man embarrassed by his roach-infested office who again sprayed DDT and who "within a short time … began to bruise and bleed." He was within a month of spraying diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

To bolster these frightening anecdotes, Carson cited data that deaths from leukemia had increased from 11.1 per 100,000 in 1950 to 14.1 in 1960. Leukemia mortality rose with pesticide use; suspicious, no? "What does it mean? To what lethal agent or agents, new to our environment, are people now exposed with increasing frequency?," asked Carson. Fifty years later the death rate from leukemia is 7.1 per 100,000. Half of what Carson cited in Silent Spring. In fact, the incidence rate is now 12.5 per 100,000.

Carson surely knew that cancer is a disease in which the risk goes up as people age. And thanks to vaccines and new antibiotics Americans were luckily living much longer; long enough to get and die of cancer. Average life expectancy was 46 in 1900 and the annual death rate was 17 out of 1,000 Americans. By 1960, life expectancy had risen to nearly 70 years and the annual death rate had fallen to 9.5 per 1,000 people. Today, life expectancy is 78 years and the annual death rate is 7.9 per 1,000 people. Today, although only about 12 percent of Americans are over age 65, they account for 56 percent of new cancer diagnoses and 69 percent of cancer deaths.

Did cancer doom ever arrive? No. In Silent Spring Carson cites data showing that American farmers were then applying about 637 million pounds of pesticides to their crops. The most recent Environmental Protection Agency estimate is that farmers used 1.1 billion pounds in 2007.  (The amount of insecticide applied to crops has been falling recently, as farmers adopt genetically enhanced insect-resistant crop varieties.)

What happened to cancer incidence rates? According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, age-adjusted incidence rates have been dropping for nearly two decades. Why? Largely because fewer Americans are smoking and lots of women stopped using hormone replacement therapy, which researchers have now concluded significantly increased the risk of breast cancer.

Back in the early 1990s, based on sketchy research, environmentalists began pushing the hypothesis that past exposure to organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, was fueling a breast cancer epidemic. However, after years of research a major review article in 2008 in the journal Cancer found that exposure of organochlorine compounds like DDT "is not believed to be causally related to breast cancer."

With regard to overall cancer risks posed by synthetic chemicals, the American Cancer Society in its most recent report on cancer trends concludes, "Exposure to carcinogenic agents in occupational, community, and other settings is thought to account for a relatively small percentage of cancer deaths – about 4 percent from occupational exposures and 2 percent from environmental pollutants (man-made and naturally occurring)." What factors really do increase cancer risk? Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much food. In fact, while overall cancer incidence has been falling, cancers related to obesity — e.g., pancreatic, liver, and kidney — have risen slightly.

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  • Mr. FIFY||

    Even with her death, she failed to atone for her sins.

  • Brett L||

    Maybe if she's living in a malarial hell where she dies painfully and is resurrected to be reinfected every time a child dies of the disease.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    That would be soooo fuckin' sweet. Let's hope karma provided her with just such an eternity.

  • Mo||

    DDT is still legal and widely used in countries where there is a malaria epidemic. It's still on the WHO's list of approved pesticides. The problem is it's ineffective against malaria carrying mosquitos in much of the world. The malaria epidemic is due more to biology and incorrect use of pesticides than Silent Spring.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    That's not the point - Carson should still be derided and mocked and spat upon for what she did.

  • michael.langdon@learninge||

    No stupid bigots like you who never actually read the book Silent Spring. There aren't any politics in it, it is just facts.

  • Harvard||

    You're right of course. The tried and true method of mosquito control is to cover swamplands with recycled motor oil. Wait. Did I say that?

  • The Hammer||

    Recycled? HIPPIE!!!!

  • entropy||

    BRAWNDO has what insects fear.

  • ||

    Oh, cut him some slack. I too would like to use the motor oil to assist me in burning thousands of gallons of fossil fuels BEFORE pouring it on wetlands.

    Double plus good.

  • Mo||

    A strip mall works just as well.

  • Loki||

    Did you know you can use old motor oil to fertilize your lawn?

  • Brett L||

    Sorry, no. DDT is plenty effective in malarial regions. What you conveniently ignore is that DDT has been produced in America since 1985 due to a ban. Europe quit about the same time. India is the only country that currently producing it, making this effective product made with cheap inputs very expensive.

  • Mo||

    It was produced in China until just a few years ago. DDT resistance of mosquitos has gone up significantly in the past decades. The best way to get rid of malaria is drain wetlands and pave over it.

  • The Hammer||

    You mean to pave paradise and put up a parking lot?

  • entropy||

    Wait... paradise is a malarial swamp in Africa?

    SHIT!

  • ||

    But...

    ...teh duckz!

  • Pudgeboy||

    ...but millions of lives could have been saved until the mosquitos acquired the resistence. Rachel Carson was a liar.

  • John C. Randolph||

    What I want to know is how the hell I can get some. I've just about had it with the ants coming into the house.

    -jcr

  • Marshall Gill||

    Actually, the numbers indicate that the banning of DDT was the result of millions of deaths.

    http://www.eco-imperialism.com.....sts-lives/

    In Sri Lanka, in 1948, there were 2.8 million malaria cases and 7,300 malaria deaths. With widespread DDT use, malaria cases fell to 17 and no deaths in 1963. After DDT use was discontinued, Sri Lankan malaria cases rose to 2.5 million in the years 1968 and 1969, and the disease remains a killer in Sri Lanka today

  • The Hammer||

    Just a coincidence. Mo is quite sure that the two are unrelated. Sure enough to have provided no references, links or data whatsoever.

  • Mo||

    They stopped spraying because they thought they beat malaria. When it resurged and they sprayed again, it didn't work.

    Sri Lanka went back to the spray guns, reducing malaria once more to 150,000 cases in 1972; but there the attack stalled. Anopheles culicifacies, completely susceptible to DDT when the spray stopped in 1964, was now found resistant presumably because of the use of DDT for crop protection in the interim. Within a couple of years, so many culicifacies survived that despite the spraying malaria spread in 1975 to more than 400,000 people.


    So in 1977 they switched to the more expensive malathion and were able to reduce the number of cases to about 50,000 by 1980. In 2004, the number was down to 3,000, without using DDT.

    And the reason why they stopped spraying in 1964? It wasn’t environmentalist pressure. With only 17 cases in 1963, they didn’t think it was needed any more. And this wasn’t an unreasonable belief. In the countries where malaria had been eradicated, once the number was this low, treating the remaining cases with drugs to kill the malaria parasite was sufficient to completely eradicate it.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2005/02/17/ddt3/

  • Marshall Gill||

    In the countries where malaria had been eradicated, once the number was this low, treating the remaining cases with drugs to kill the malaria parasite was sufficient to completely eradicate it.

    And how, pray tell, was malaria "eradicated"? Happy thoughts?

  • Mo||

    treating the remaining cases with drugs

    That. The problem is drugs are more expensive than pesticides. And indiscriminate use of pesticides, like indiscriminate use of anti-biotics leads to restitance, which means you have to develop new stuff.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Yes, I don't have a preview and mistyped that. How did the numbers becomes so low that they didn't think they needed to spray anymore? Oh, that's right, DDT.

    Strange how you claim that it's use was ended because of resistance right around the same time it was banned. Why ban something that doesn't work? If resistance has made it so worthless, why is it on the "WHO's list of approved pesticides."

  • Mo||

    It was never banned in Sri Lanka or Africa, just for agricultural use in the US. Vector control use uses were still allowed. Also, it wasn't banned in the US until 1972, which is 8 years after they stopped spraying in the Sri Lanka example.

    Yes, DDT still has some effectiveness, but not what it used to be. Just like the existence of penicillin resistant bacteria means that the anti-biotic is useles. Now it needs to be used in combination with other pesticides and/or medicines. The problem was that indiscriminate ag use leads to more resistance (which Bailey notes). Targeted vector control use reduces the incidence of resistance and uses a lot less.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Mo,

    It was never banned in Sri Lanka or Africa, just for agricultural use in the US.


    Mo, you're missing the point. Saying that "DDT was not banned in Sri Lanka or Africa" is like saying that Nine West bags are not banned in those places. Who the FUCK cares? It is not like those places had the wherewithal to massively produce the pesticide they needed. The problem is that the MANUFACTURE of DDT was banned in THOSE countries with CAPITAL RESOURCES to make it.

    That process RAISED the cost of DDT, making it imperative for non-profit organizations to ask for money from rich donors which would NOT commit to using something that was BANNED in Western countries. Do YOU get it now?

    The fact that NOW the pesticide is ineffective comes entirely as a result of the ban, precisely because a big WINDOW was left for the resistant strains of mosquitoes to totally replace the more succeptible strains and reproduce with little hindrance, from DDT or any other thing. This was a MANMADE disaster but not because of DDT - it was because of the BAN.

  • Bill||

    They would have eventually developed resistance but many fewer people would have died in the meantime.

    The countries that got rid of malaria got rid of most of their swamps is my take on it.

  • Bill||

    I thought the US and WHO, etc. (other organizations?) did the same thing congress does now with student loan money and highway money and did not "ban" it in those countries but said if you don't stop using it you won't get international aid money?

    And was it actually banned here and forbidden to be made and sold elsewhere or was it just not profitable once the US stopped allowing its use here?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Mo,

    You should read the comments section of that blog. The story is not a clearcut as you want to believe.

    One commentator gives several useful sources. I link to one of them here:
    The Economist, "DDT: A useful poison", Dec 14th 2000

    In the early 1990s, for example, the United States Agency for International Development stopped the governments of Bolivia and Belize from using DDT. In Madagascar, the United Nations Development Programme tried to persuade the government to replace DDT with Propoxur, a less effective pesticide. To its credit, Madagascar refused. In Mozambique, both NORAD, the Norwegian development agency, and SIDA, its Swedish counterpart, said that they could not support the use of DDT, as it was banned in their own countries.

    Which shows that it was the BAN itself and not the supposed ineffectiveness of the pesticide that curtailed its use around the world.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Carson described the choice humanity faced as a fork in the road to the future. "The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress at great speed, but at its end lies disaster," she declared. "The other fork of the road – the one 'less traveled by' – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth."

    This is cribbed from Christian fundamentalism.

    You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.

    Notice the similarity?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I also find it interesting that any leftist eco-pussy would give a shit about the survival of humanity - after all, it's humanity that's supposedly destroying the planet.

  • Restoras||

    That's why they don't care about the millions who've died of malaria in Africa over the past 50 years. It's for the good of the planet...oh, and it doesn't effect them.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    That's why they don't care about the millions who've died of malaria in Africa over the past 50 years. It's for the good of the planet...oh, and it doesn't effect them.

    It's also why SWPL goons on the coasts are so worked up about Glowball Wormin'--because they think they'll have to leave their stupid little whiteopia in Cali or their flat in Manhattan to live with THOSE PEOPLE UGH.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Live with regular, blue-collar-jobbin' people who drink wine from screw-cap bottles and buy non-fair trade, non-organic, free-range groceries? Ewwwwww.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Forget wine from screw-cap bottles--those gap-toothed, cousin-humpin' yokels have the temerity to drink wine from boxes!! "Shudder"

  • Mike M.||

    Leftists, socialists, and communists (but I repeat myself) only like "humanity" as a theoretical abstract concept. Actual human beings are merely eggs to be broken in the endless quest to make their idea of the perfect omelette.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Excepting themselves, of course, Mike.

  • Pro Libertate||

    "Raynal's instructions to the legislators on how to manage people may be compared to a professor of agriculture lecturing his students: 'The climate is the first rule for the farmer. His resources determine his procedure. He must first consider his locality. If his soil is clay, he must do so and so. If his soil is sand, he must act in another manner. Every facility is open to the farmer who wishes to clear and improve his soil. If he is skillful enough, the manure at his disposal will suggest to him a plan of operation. A professor can only vaguely trace this plan in advance because it is necessarily subject to the instability of all hypotheses; the problem has many forms, complications, and circumstances that are difficult to foresee and settle in detail.'

    Oh, sublime writers! Please remember sometimes that this clay, this sand, and this manure which you so arbitrarily dispose of, are men! They are your equals! They are intelligent and free human beings like yourselves! As you have, they too have received from God the faculty to observe, to plan ahead, to think, and to judge for themselves!"

  • Zeb||

    Maybe some of your assumptions about eco-pussies are not correct. I haven't talked to many environmentalists who, when pressed, won't admit that we aren't really going to destroy the earth. We are just going to make it uncomfortable for humans and some other species.
    Now, I think they are wrong about a lot of things, but most do want to preserve the environment so that people can enjoy it. It is a somewhat silly and contradictory view in my opinion, but they aren't all white indian.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    You're talking about the few, sensible ones, Zeb. The rest are just like White Indian.

  • ||

    You're talking about the few, sensible ones, Zeb. The rest are just like White Indian.

    Ah yes, the few, sensible ones that appear to be the only ones he ever talks to. Quite a coincidence, that.

    This statement reminds me of all the other stereotyped statements about groups. If people who violate the stereotype are found, they're just "exceptions". That way the stereotype can remain intact.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Ah yes, the few, sensible ones that appear to be the only ones he ever talks to. Quite a coincidence, that.

    Yes, sensible environmentalists who produce, moderate, understated videos like this:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine......a-bit-far/

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Or measured responses like encouraging kids to snitch on their parents for running the TV too long:

    http://www.canada.com/technolo.....?id=695916

  • BoxyBoxyBoxyBoxy||

    Headline:

    Environmentalist Steven Kenny is Actually Pretty Reasonable

  • ||

    Yeah, those people were nuts. Never said there weren't nutty ones, or that there weren't a LOT of nutty ones. But the implication that everyone Zeb's talked to is a chance "exception" is silly.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Striking similarity, VGZ!

  • Proprietist||

    To some degree, you can't fault environmentalists for asking questions about the long-term consequences of consuming various pesticides and hormones long before the research disproving a causal connection came out. After all, the tobacco industry had us convinced cigarettes were healthy for us, and about 50 years ago that was proven conclusively false. That of course led many people to question where else they were being misled by industry and created a cottage industry in opposition to the corporate status quo. Alternative medicine, organic food, etc. became the refuge of those who stopped trusting anything the corporate overlords said. The problem came when they tried to force that lifestyle on the rest of us.

  • Brett L||

    Look at smoking rates and diabetes incidence sometime. For the median American, its probably a crap shoot whether not smoking leads to longer life with more "healthy" time.

  • Tim||

    Fortunately Vietnam and Watergate came along in time to reassure everyone.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Proprietist,

    To some degree, you can't fault environmentalists for asking questions about the long-term consequences of consuming various pesticides and hormones long before the research disproving a causal connection came out.


    They can ask.

    After all, the tobacco industry had us [sic] convinced cigarettes were healthy for us,


    Speak for yourself. One single whiff from a cigarette I lighted up when I was 7 conviced me otherwise.

    That of course led many people to question where else they were being misled by industry and created a cottage industry in opposition to the corporate status quo.


    They had an absolute right to do that, and everybody else had an absolute right to heed their warning or ignore them. But we're not talking about simple advocacy here, right P (wink-wink, nod-nod)?

    The problem came when they tried to force that lifestyle on the rest of us.


    I knew you would come around!

  • Proprietist||

    They had an absolute right to do that, and everybody else had an absolute right to heed their warning or ignore them.

    From a consumption standpoint, I totally agree. But as you are a stickler for property rights, you should also agree that an organic farmer has a legitimate tort against his non-organic farmer neighbor when the neighbor's pesticides seep into his soil and contaminate his products, right? In that sense, there is some level of conflicting rights that creates the basis for environmental law. Unfortunately, this tends not to be inherently property-rights based or rational.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Proprietist,

    But as you are a stickler for property rights, you should also agree that an organic farmer has a legitimate tort against his non-organic farmer neighbor when the neighbor's pesticides seep into his soil and contaminate his products, right?


    I absolutely agree with that - provided he can prove it. Just saying it's so doesn't make it so.

    In that sense, there is some level of conflicting rights that creates the basis for environmental law.


    NO. That's not a justification for making laws. Those laws will always end up being "one size fits all" affairs that only serve to gum up the works, feed the starving children of rich attorneys and increase the power of the State.

  • Proprietist||

    NO. That's not a justification for making laws. Those laws will always end up being "one size fits all" affairs that only serve to gum up the works, feed the starving children of rich attorneys and increase the power of the State.

    There's where I somewhat disagree. If pollution reaches a level of egregious violation of property and individual rights, I absolutely believe the polluter should be held criminally accountable and there would need to be laws on the books to do so - even if they are vague enough to avoid being "one size fits all". Pollution, like abortion, is not clear cut - and these are the areas where pure libertarianism gets tricky.

    Any such laws must flow directly from and be informed solely by defense of basic natural rights instead of contrived, collective "rights."

    And I think removing limited liability would be both a libertarian and an environmentalist solution by holding business owners personally accountable for violating the rights of others in the name of the corporation.

  • Sevo||

    "you should also agree that an organic farmer has a legitimate tort against his non-organic farmer neighbor when the neighbor's pesticides seep into his soil and contaminate his products, right?"

    Yeah, so long as I have tort against anyone whose smell I don't like.
    If you choose some cockamamie claim of 'purity', I have no obligation to assure you of your claims.
    You wanna be 'pure'? Grow your stuff in a total enclosure.

  • Proprietist||

    The non-organic farmer in the conflict of property rights in my scenario has violated the property usage rights of the organic farmer. If the organic farmer can no longer use his own property due to the actions of a neighbor, the neighbor should compesate them. Why should the organic farmer be burdened with the cost of protecting his crops from the neighbor's chemical spillage? Should a family be forced to wear gas masks and build airtight enclosures to protect themselves from the effects of a toxic waste plant built next door?

  • Azathoth!!||

    Who was there first? Does the non-organic farmers runoff meet with reguations?

  • Proprietist||

    I think the "who was there first" argument does matter to some degree with conflicting property rights and is more logical than the Coasean bargaining idea.

    If the non-organic farm existed first and had already contaminated the neighboring properties' soil before the organic farm started, I don't think the organic farm has recoverable damages after the fact when they could have known in advance, and if they expect the neighboring farm to change their practices, they should be willing compensate them for it.

    If the organic farm was there first, or a neighboring organic farm that pre-existed changes to non-organic practices after the organic farm is established, the organic farm's right not to be contaminated supercedes the non-organic farm's right to pollute. They can contract without involving government, but the organic farm does have a recoverable tort.

  • Proprietist||

    In other words, the farmer using the pollutant chemicals should be the one building enclosures, not the one not using them.

  • Ron Bailey||

    P and OM: May I suggest that you read my column, Organic Law, on exactly this issue. See what I hope you will find to be a relevant selection below:

    Saying a product is organic does not mean it is totally free of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. Organic farmers already experience accidental pesticide drift and the admixture of conventional seeds. They can still obtain organic certification, provided they conscientiously follow all the rules specified by the National Organic Program.

    ... U.S. law generally does not allow those with special sensitivity to an activity to declare that they have been harmed by it. It is their responsibility to protect themselves from the activities they dislike. ...

    [Organic growers claim they] will lose money because [their] customers will reject [their] product if they think it is "contaminated" with genes from genetically enhanced crops. [Oklahoma U law professor Drew Kershen] however …. offers an example in which a tattoo parlor legally opens between a florist and a Christian bookstore, advertising a special on satanic tattoos. Customers offended by the tattoo shop begin avoiding the florist and bookstore. Under American common law, the florist and the bookstore do not have a cause of action, because "economic expectation is not recoverable."

  • Proprietist||

    Ron,
    I would argue a severe difference in your example from mine. The satanic tattoo shop is not violating the property rights of the florist and the Christian bookstore even if it is inherently deterring customers from those stores. I agree the material "loss" is not recoverable.

    On the contrary, if in my example, the organic farm began on ostenibly unpolluted property and a non-organic farm started beside it at a later date and contaminated the organic property, this should be recoverable because the non-organic farmer has actually damaged the property and made it physically unusable for the purposes designed.

    I agree there's room for reason, where a minute bit of chemical drift shouldn't be enforceable. But in my opinion it should always be polluter pays when there is a significant conflict of rights.

  • Ron Bailey||

    P: Isn't the Satanic tatooist "polluting" the neighborhood? Such conflicts could use well assigned property rights and some Coasean bargaining. Hope you read the entire column to which I linked.

  • Proprietist||

    It's a great column, but I have an inherent problem with Coaseian bargaining which suggests the maximization of net profits or minimization of net loss should be the basis for determining the rights of two parties in conflict. It's an economically logical thought experiment, but the property rights of a person doing nothing to the other person's property should never be subordinate to the property right of a person impacing the other's property negatively by their actions.

    For example, my drum playing peeved off my neighbors a year or so ago. If they had been touring a prospective buyer to their house at that moment and my drum playing convinced the prospect to walk because they felt my intrusion on their right to private enjoyment of the property would not be respected, I would have financially damaged the neighbor. Regardless of the monetary cost to me for minimal gain, I was the one violating their rights and I immediately bought several layers of sheetrock and put it over my windows in my drum room because I believe in respecting the property of others and don't believe they should pay for my optional own use of my property to enjoy theirs.

  • Proprietist||

    On the other hand, I agree Coasean negotiation would make sense in the case of the tattoo parlor to negotiate them to change their marketing or products. But the difference is that the neighbors have no grounds to compel the parlor to do so because the parlor owner is not inherently violating or impacting their property rights by expressing opinions they disagree with on his own property.

    Another example might be if someone flew a Nazi flag next to a house up for sale. That may deter buyers, but it doesn't inherently prevent the quiet enjoyment of the neighboring property any more than an Obama sign. It actually impacts the inherent property rights less than even, say, Christmas lights.

  • ||

    Holy fuck, even Tancredo is coming out pro pot: http://www.gazette.com/opinion.....dment.html

  • Proprietist||

    From the counter-point opinion piece: "As Colorado Attorney General, it troubles me that Amendment 64 would make our marijuana law the most liberal in the world — not just in the United States. It is not hyperbole to say that we could easily become the top marijuana distribution hub in the country, attracting organized crime and drug cartels to grow here and distribute to other places where it is illegal"

    That doesn't even remotely make sense, and is the purest form of hyperbole regarding the organized crime and drug cartels bit.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    At its heart is this belief: Nature is beneficent, stable, and even a source of moral good; humanity is arrogant, heedless, and often the source of moral evil.

    Nature does not have morals, only man does. If this is the heart of their belief, then it explains a lot.

  • Sevo||

    "Nature does not have morals, only man does. If this is the heart of their belief, then it explains a lot."

    Yes, that and the claims of Mother Nature; some benevolent anthropic deity who is 'injured' by man's knowledge and activities.
    Sorry, 'nature' is rocks an mud.

  • Zeb||

    Right. Humans are the source of moral evil. But also of good. One of the things I like about nature is the complete amorality.

  • OldMexican||

    By 1960, 137 species of insects had developed resistance to DDT. To preserve their usefulness, pesticides clearly needed to be more judiciously deployed.


    "Judiciously deployed" in the mind of the misanthopic environmentalist means outright ban. You know that, Ron.

  • ||

  • Loki||

    "For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use—or explain away—evidence relating to their groups’ positions."

    It helps that many people latch on to science that confirms their preconcieved biases while rejecting any science that doesn't, and in most cases outright attacking ones that refute their biases. Take the twaddle over GMOs. There's absolutely no evidence that GMO crops are dangerous, yet some left wingers, who really just hate technological progress in general, are convinced that they have to be bad. Why? "Because... uhm... MONSANTO!!!! CORPORAYSHUNZ!!!!! KOCHTOPUS!!11!!!!" Fuckers.

  • Steve G||

    "greater scientific literacy actually produces greater political polarization" The problem is we're not living in a time of greater literacy when most 'science' is in the form of observational studies, and correlations assumed to be causes. So you take poorly done research and let an even less literate media interpret it and you have plenty of conflicting soundbites that can be cherrypicked by both sides of an argument.

  • Franklin Harris||

    And now a movie adaptation of "Silent Spring" is in the works. Really. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118059582

  • Loki||

    What the fucking hell? Who would want to watch shit like that? People who didn't think Avatar was preachy enough?

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Chartoff Prods. is also at work on a TV docu on "Silent Spring's" legacy.

    Lots of dead Africans????

  • Jumbie||

    I appreciate that Mo is taking time to cite sources and attempt an argument. In that spirit, I'd like to ask him about a logical flaw I see in his argument:

    He says that reduced use of DDT was due to reduced effectiveness, but how does he then explain the continued need to ban/restrict it? If it wasn't working, wouldn't pest control stop trying to use it and thus negate the need for an actual ban?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Jumbie,

    But... you see... No boids! No flyin' boids to singa an' singa!

  • Gray Ghost||

    There is a bit of difference between "reduced effectiveness" and "wasn't working." If DDT is the only insecticide I have access to, I'm going to use it, even if it only kills 30% of mosquitoes rather than 99.99%. This reduced use that Mo mentioned, would still be enough---given DDT's gargantuan half-life---to cause the avian problems that lead to it being banned in the first place.

    I appreciate him introducing some nuance into the two minute hate of Rachel Carson. Nevertheless, I think Pudgeboy's point above is a good one, about the number of people who could have been saved before DDT resistance propagated through the insect population. Ultimately, you currently eliminate malaria by eliminating its vectors, the swamp draining that was earlier mentioned. It's strange that, in an organism with as complicated a lifecycle as Plasmodium falciparum, that we haven't come up with a good way to knock out one of its stages.

  • pmoffitt52@gmail.com||

    Mosquitos have a strong aversion response to DDT-- the chemical need not kill mosquitos to have value. Its persistence and the tendency for mosquitos to avoid sprayed areas can make its use particularly bed nets and when sprayed inside poor remote rural residences that rarely see Public Health services.

    I'm not sure that any companies came to DDTs defense-- it was off patent and cheap to make.

    The major collapse of raptors (and the brown pelican perhaps a more important symbol at the time) occurred before the use of DDT. There is no doubt the chemical was overused- but not unexpected given it was the first large scale pesticide.

    What Carlsen did not know is plants manufacture their own "natural" pesticides and that chemical warfare has been waged throughout the eons.

  • G-Wrath||

    Yeah, as a libertarian-leaning liberal, the amount of intellectual bankruptcy coming from some of the readers of "Reason" magazine about certain issues is seriously starting to make me reconsider that aforementioned libertarian lean.

    Eco-pussies? Really? For a bunch of purported smart people, you can be pretty dumb.

  • LibertariansRLiars||

    Yes, as a Buckley Conservative, I have found some of the reader's comments obviously bigoted, but also, some of the policies here are not in line with libertarian or conservative thought. Deluded thought yes. Free markets require honesty and transparency to work, yet Reason continuously argues against transparency for the private sector. See pizza article.

  • michael.langdon@learninge||

    Good to see a magazine called Reason with so many idiotic witch hunt mentality bigots. The moron who wrote this obviously never actually read Silent Spring because his accusations are false. Where are his quotes directly from the book? Where are they?

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