You Down With DDT?

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"Yeah you know me!" says the New York Times Magazine this week. Libertarians have long argued that post–Silent Spring demonziation of the pesticide has made sane assessment of when its benefits outweigh its costs difficult, to the detriment of malaria victims in Africa and elsewhere. Nice to see the mainstream press show up at the party, however fashionably late.

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  1. Don’t forget The New Yorker also brought this up (they originally serialized Silent Spring when it came out in the early 60’s).

    The problem came with the tremendous misuse(as in so many things) so it’s either allow it and all the negatives or ban it and keep all the negatives.

    ———————————
    ?The Mosquito Killer,? The New Yorker, July 2, 2001: Malcolm Gladwell tells a riveting and eye-opening story about Fred Soper, whose missionary zeal was in great part responsible for bringing DDT to the developing and developed world during the 1940s and 1950s. This was all before 1962, when Rachel Carson?s Silent Spring revolutionized the way we look at pesticides. It is worth remembering that before DDT came to be viewed as an environmental villain, it was widely considered a public health miracle. Malaria hit 85 percent of the U.S. soldiers defending Bataan in World War II ? a more formidable opponent in some places than enemy soldiers, as louse-borne typhus had been in World War I. The U.S. military was among the first to rush DDT into use. Most fascinating is the personality of Fred Soper, whose global public health campaign under the Rockefeller Foundation was prosecuted with military zeal. His goal was nothing less than the global eradication of malaria. He almost succeeded. The article stands as a reminder of how today?s concerns about insect-borne diseases like West Nile are trivial compared to the killers that DDT vanquished.

  2. This is but one example. Mainstream press usually switches to the correct side of story once its input can no longer harm the cause.

  3. My question is, did anyone bother to point this out to Ms. Carlson, The New York Times, and the policy makers back when the ban was being considered?

    Or did they think that the mosquitos would just go away if we asked them nicely?

  4. My question is, did anyone bother to point this out to Ms. Carlson, The New York Times, and the policy makers back when the ban was being considered?

    Or did they think that the mosquitos would just go away if we asked them nicely?

  5. Yeah, you know me!

    *cough*

    *sniffle*

  6. Mark,
    Your unilateral, anti-mosquito agenda is merely an expression of your simplistic, Manichiean worldview. The issue at hand is far more complex than this view allows. What about the mosquitos that don’t carry malaria? Should they be killed off simply because they look like their malaria-spreading brethren? We need to institute a system of coexistence and destroy only the virulent mosquitos, while leaving the clean bloodsuckers to coexist peacefully with us.

  7. Mo — that wouldn’t, by any chance, be short for Mo-squito, would it?

  8. No, short for MO-JO.

    Get your MOJO workin’!

  9. No, short for MO-JO.

    Get your MOJO workin’!

  10. DDT is effective against mosquitos for a while, then they become progressively tolerant. Between DDT and the new program, mosquito abatement used diesel oil applications, which was just as effective as DDT, which was becomming more and more expensive as application rates increased 5-fold over the last ten years of use.

    Currently, mosquito abatement districts employ non-toxic, biodegradable petroleum hydrocarbons to break the surface tension of water and biological agents whick sterilize new generations.

    This works because the high value targets are known and existing infrastructure minimizes ponding of water. Some of the worst mosquito breeding grounds in the US are massive piles of used tires.

    In Africa, there is a lack of infrastructure and technical resources. Bombing all of the suspect wetlands with DDT might work for a few years, but is not a long term fix. There are no silver bullets!

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