September 18, 2012

According to Cato, Rachel Carson was a critic rather than a scientist. For one thing, she didn”€™t have a doctorate. She was a talented freelance nature writer and popularizer when she wasn”€™t “€œwriting radio scripts [?!] and press releases for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”€

Cato adds that even “€œ[m]easured against the scientific standards of her day, her work is deficient.”€ (See, for instance, this scathing contemporaneous review in Chemical & Engineering News.)

Carson didn”€™t even pretend to be objective. She served on the Audubon Society’s board of directors, which gullible supporters considered a feature rather than a “€œconflict of interest”€ bug. According to Cato, the trouble is that Carson must have known that Audubon’s annual bird census didn”€™t support her theory that pesticides were responsible for declining bird populations. In some cases, those declines had begun years before DDT was introduced. Worse, other “€œdeclines”€ Carson reported on were fictional. The facts didn”€™t fit her preconceived apocalyptic narrative.

If Carson was a right-wing villain, her reliance upon research conducted by a contemporary doctor who also claimed smoking didn”€™t cause cancer would be fodder for dark, snotty satire. I suspect this “€œinconvenient truth”€ won”€™t make it into the Carson biopic, though.

The fact that noble, selfless humanitarians such as Rachel Carson are typically smug, self-satisfied misanthropes has been a truism since Dickens invented Mrs. Jellyby. Yet in the case of the DDT ban, good intentions didn”€™t pave another liberal road to hell. They bulldozed the way for an Audubon autobahn to Hades on Earth.

The Ford Foundation had pretty much wiped out malaria in the 1950s by funding the spraying of DDT to kill mosquitos that carried it, especially in Africa. However, that campaign ceased in the wake of Silent Spring hysteria. The millions of deaths Carson had predicted came true all right, but not because of pesticide”€”because of its absence.

One estimate puts the post-DDT-ban malaria death toll at “€œtens of millions dead”€”mostly pregnant women and children under the age of 5″€ and cites the ban’s economic cost at “€œ$1 trillion dollars [sic] in lost GDP in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”€

If you”€™re asking yourself, “€œHey, isn”€™t it weird that the folks who bullied us into “€˜donating”€™ billions of dollars to poor Africans are the same ones whose policies killed off a few Holocausts worth of “€™em during that exact period of time?”€ then you haven”€™t been paying attention.

Don”€™t bother wondering where you can go to get a refund.



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