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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A dilemma for left-wing greens

This will have the Suzuki Foundation's collective knickers in a twist: the World Health Organization is recommending that DDT be used to fight malaria in the third world. Left-wing greens will be chasing their tails trying to figure out which is more important: supporting the UN or fighting the use of the most political of industrial pesticides.
"We must take a position based on the science and the data," said Dr. Arata Kochi, the WHO's malaria chief. "One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT." "It's a big change," said biologist Amir Attaran of Canada's University of Ottawa, who has long pushed for the guidelines and described a recent draft. "There has been a lot of resistance to using insecticides to control malaria, and one insecticide especially. … That will have to be re-evaluated by a lot of people."

That's putting it mildly. Malaria is one of the most serious obstacles to development in the Third World, and DDT is the most effective method of fighting it. In fact, the use of DDT has eradicated malaria in parts of the developed world like Singapore where it was once endemic. Unfortunately, ill-informed political opposition to DDT has prevented its use in the developing world, and has resulted in the deaths of millions of people and the consignment of millions of others to a life of misery. This short-sighted attitude continues in spite of the WHO's recommendation:
While some well-known environmental groups have signed on to WHO's decision, it has generated some concern from groups like the Pesticide Action Network, which says there are questions about its effects on developing children.
I would hazard a guess that it's also pretty hard for children to develop when they're dying of malaria. Somewhere Rachel Carson is turning over in her grave.


Anonymous said...

Environmentalists will be extremely angry with this considering they strongly believe that a population cull was the way to go amongst these growing poor populations - that's why they fought so hard for a DDT ban in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I was taught in school of the scientific basis for the DDT ban. I also clearly remember being told of the constant threat of an impending population explosion that would doom the earth (oh, and dwindling food and energy supplies, the coming ice age, etc etc). A connection between these concepts wasn't clear to me - and wasn't presented - but then (pre-internet) searching and fact checking was not as easy as it is now.

Perhaps now the original debate on the DDT ban can be re-opened, to re-examine the research and conclusions, and to see whether objective science was really behind the ban, or was it rather environmentalism or other ideological purpose. Bring on the controversy, re-open the case. Let's see the data in the light of day. This may turn out to be the biggest, and deadliest, con game of the 20th century.

It will be interesting to see how this dilemma is played out in the media, if it gets played out at all.