June 10, 2007

Rachel Carson: Debunked, but Still Lionized

Filed under: Education,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:32 am

As pointed out frequently here (see previous posts below), it has become clear to anyone with eyes and an open mind that the worldwide ban on DDT that is just now in the process of too-slowly being lifted has caused massive loss of human life over a period of decades that could, and should, have been avoided.

So you would think that the person who began the DDT scare in the early 1960s would be discredited, or her work at least shunted to the background. You would be wrong (link may require free registration; HT Instapundit):

For Rachel Carson admirers, it has not been a silent spring. They’ve been celebrating the centennial of her birthday with paeans to her saintliness. A new generation is reading her book in school — and mostly learning the wrong lesson from it.

The real “lesson” is that “Silent Spring” was perhaps the first successful use of junk science paired with corporation-bashing media hype to fool the general public:

Ms. Carson used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass. She rightly noted threats to some birds, like eagles and other raptors, but she wildly imagined a mass “biocide.” She warned that one of the most common American birds, the robin, was “on the verge of extinction” — an especially odd claim given the large numbers of robins recorded in Audubon bird counts before her book.

….. She cited scary figures showing a recent rise in deaths from cancer, but she didn’t consider one of the chief causes: fewer people were dying at young ages from other diseases (including the malaria that persisted in the American South until DDT). When that longevity factor as well as the impact of smoking are removed, the cancer death rate was falling in the decade before “Silent Spring,” and it kept falling in the rest of the century.

Even in 1962, as New York Times writer John Tierney notes, there were attempts to debunk this junk that have, unlike Carson’s work, stood the test of time. In fact, Dr. I.L. Baldwin, a professor of agricultural bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin, published a review of “Silent Spring” that clinically tore it apart — and was, apparently, ignored:

But scientists like him were no match for Ms. Carson’s rhetoric. DDT became taboo even though there wasn’t evidence that it was carcinogenic (and subsequent studies repeatedly failed to prove harm to humans).

So who will be the first bona fide member of the environmental movement to acknowledge that Rachel Carson was flat-out wrong, and that the movement’s first “heroine” is, more than anyone else (with the help of an EPA director), responsible for millions of premature deaths from malaria that need not have occurred?

And will this early, tragic failure of “junk science” cause anyone in the Old Media to be at least a little skeptical about the validity of the global warming alarmists and the globaloney they are relentlessly pushing?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, June 12: This crosses wayyyyy over the line into disgraceful. In a passionate subscription only op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Sam Zaramba, Uganda’s director general of health services, levels some pretty serious charges at people who should, and reality do, know better (bold is mine) –

Although Uganda’s National Environmental Management Authority has approved DDT for malaria control, Western environmentalists continue to undermine our efforts and discourage G-8 governments from supporting us. The EU has acknowledged our right to use DDT, but some consumer and agricultural groups repeat myths and lies about the chemical. They should instead help us use it strictly to control malaria.

Environmental leaders must join the 21st century, acknowledge the mistakes Carson made, and balance the hypothetical risks of DDT with the real and devastating consequences of malaria. Uganda has demonstrated that, with the proper support, we can conduct model indoor spraying programs and ensure that money is spent wisely, chemicals are handled properly, our program responds promptly to changing conditions, and malaria is brought under control.

Africa is determined to rise above the contemporary colonialism that keeps us impoverished. We expect strong leadership in G-8 countries to stop paying lip service to African self-determination and start supporting solutions that are already working.

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Previous Posts:
- April 30, 2007 — Media Ignore John Conyers’s Breathtaking DDT Ignorance
- Feb. 25, 2007 — Pete DuPont Nails Enviro Nonense on Globaloney and DDT
- Sept. 18, 2006 — Sanity on DDT? At the UN? Pinch Me
- May 23, 2006 — A Kenyan Newspaper Pleads for DDT Use Against Malaria
- Dec. 20, 2005 — Passage of the Day: John Stossel on DDT Lunacy
- Nov. 21, 2005 — Quote of the Day: Not Allowing DDT Has Killed Millions

Positivity: Polish Man Wakes From 19-Year Coma

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Warsaw (HT It Shines for All via Atlas Shrugs):

Updated:2007-06-02 12:51:40

WARSAW (June 2) – A 65-year-old railwayman who fell into a coma following in an accident in communist Poland regained consciousness 19 years later to find democracy and a market economy, Polish media reported on Saturday.

Wheelchair-bound Jan Grzebski, whom doctors had given only two or three years to live following his 1988 accident, credited his caring wife Gertruda with his revival.

“It was Gertruda that saved me, and I’ll never forget it” Grzebski told news channel TVN24.

“For 19 years Mrs Grzebska did the job of an experienced intensive care team, changing her comatose husband’s position every hour to prevent bed-sore infections,” Super Express reported Dr Boguslaw Poniatowski as saying.

“When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere,” Grzebski told TVN24, describing his recollections of the communist system’s economic collapse.

Go here for the rest of the story.