Rachel Carson - No Hero of Mine
It is the 100th anniversary this month of the most influential environmental writer and campaigner of the modern world, Rachel Carson. And it is 45 years since her masterpiece, Silent Spring, was first published in Britain.
For those who have never read the first account of the horrors unleased on the natural world by the post war generation of wonder-sprays, such as DDT, I earnestly encourage you to do so.
Meanwhile, in Africa, there is a resurgence in demand for DDT for spraying malaria mosquitos inside buildings - a legal use under a treaty which bans most other uses. ..Malaria kills a million people a year, mainly African women and children....Yet new South African research shows DDT lowers the sperm counts of the men who do the spraying; it has an extraordinary habit of winding up thousands of miles away; in the flesh of polar bears, and there are alternatives - bed nets treated with other chemicals. Carson's case remains robust.
Few arguments, as Carson knew, are ever wholly won. They flicker on - as I suspect the one about man's part in climate change will, long after the water is around our ankles.
As neo-con polemicist asked in the Wall Street Journal last week, why ban DDT if it saves lives?
Class me as a neo-con polemicist then, I happen to think that saving the women and children is more important than worrying about the sperm count of the spray operators, as I guess they do as well.
For a more honest view of Rachel Carson than this appalling guff then may I suggest this:
One of the most difficult aspects of keeping up with environmental issues is having to suffer through the agonizing hero worship at the altar of Rachel Carson.
Were I a more religious person, I would be inclined to believe she made a pact with the devil in which she received the capacity to write beautiful prose poetry in exchange for leading society down a path to Hell paved with the proverbial "good intentions."
It is mind-boggling to find such incredibly misguided admiration for a woman whose opposition to DDT and other synthetic pesticides led to the suffering and death of millions of people around the world. I