I’ve been spending the last weeks reading with increasing alarm (and frequency) nasty, vitriolic attacks on Rachel Carson. The folks promoting DDT aren’t just making claims that are scientifically and factually incorrect; they also targeted a gentle nature writer and are comparing her to Stalin and Hitler.
Now, you all know what a calm, reasoned, and peaceful person I am. But this really pisses me off!
Maybe knowing that Carson was dying of breast cancer as she was writing Silent Spring is what makes this so upsetting to me; it feels like an attack on someone who is suffering in a way I can really identify with.
I have a sister who is a naturalist, a writer, and a breast cancer survivor, and I’d be horrified and infuriated if this happened to her.
So, I’m leaping to Rachel’s defense, and debunking some really silly claims at the same time. (Claims that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and on major TV channels, BTW.)
I won’t double post what I wrote to debunk the DDT/malaria claims here, partly because it’s waaaaay long, but also because I hope to get enough links to that individual post to knock some of the junkscience.com pages out of the top slots at Google. (Your help in this is appreciated, if you have a blog.)
As an entomologist, I do know a few things about mosquitoes and pesticides. :) I also taught parasitology for many years, so I know a bit about malaria. I’ll be using that knowledge in upcoming follow-up posts to address the bad science of denying mosquito resistance to DDT occurred, and addressing claims that there are no side effects of DDT use.
You may also wish to read Deltoid’s blog–he’s been doing an awesome job of looking at who is paying and orchestrating these attacks on Carson, and the pro-DDT message.
Please help me save the reputation of an early SkepChick. She wasn’t correct about everything she wrote, (particularly given the state of molecular science 45 years ago), but she was undeniably a brilliant nature writer:
â€œWho has decidedâ€”who has the right to decideâ€”for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power; he has made it during a moment of inattention by millions to whom beauty and the ordered world of nature still have meaning that is deep and imperative.â€