Framing the Dialogue

Earth Day Plus 40

Last year I wrote a three part series on Earth Day. Part 1 addressed my role working as a government employee in the environmental field while balancing my environmentalism with conservatism. In Part 2 I tackled some of the issues surrounding alternative energy and why the energy solution is not easy or cheap. I finished with Part 3 with a blast of the media and the misinformation that they spread as facts about the environment.

I was planning on staying out of the fray of commentaries regarding Earth Day from the left and their dire warnings and the right saying it’s all good until I read a post on a web site that I read every day; I Hate the Media. Their post compiled a list of earth shattering predictions made back on the original Earth Day four decades ago. Some of my favorite gems include: “we have about five years on the outside to do something,” “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,” “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” ” and this gem “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil.”

Take a look at the post and let me know whether it made you; laugh at their stupidity, cry at the fact that many still believe in wild environmental predictions, impressed that these folks still have any credibility, or sick that these folks now run our country.

I generally use the metaphor of a pendulum when I discuss environmentalism and regulations. It is a slow moving pendulum and it is rare for it to stop in the middle. As I watched American Idol (I admit to watching when the Penguins are not playing) last night, one of the pieces was about malaria in Africa. They extolled the virtues of sleeping nets/tents that can prevent mosquito bites while people are sleeping. It seems to me that you cannot walk around all day in a net so they are still exposed for most of the day.

It is estimated that 1,000,000 people die each year from mosquito-born malaria. That is very sad considering that back in the 1960s the disease was virtually eradicated through the use of DDT. Wait a minute, how did we go from virtually no deaths from malaria to 1 million a year? The use of DDT was widely used until Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring alleging the harm that it caused to humans and the environment.

The pendulum swung from extensive use of DDT to outright banning of the compound. Some make a case that the banning of DDT as a result of Carson’s book was a serious mistake; that her science was seriously flawed; and that the alternative pesticides are actually much worse. If you do the math with approximately one million deaths a years since the ban, over 45 million victims would probably agree.

The mosquito nets are great, but not nearly as effective as DDT. In 2006 (4 million deaths ago) National Public Radio reported that the World Health Organization was “actively backing the controversial pesticide DDT as a way to control malaria…The WHO previously approved DDT for dealing with malaria, but didn’t actively support it.” Here we are four years later (and 4 million deaths later) and folks are still pushing bed nets as THE solution.

How many millions more will die waiting for the pendulum to swing back? and

How far will it swing?

Take a challenge and read about the environment forty years ago with the Cuyahoga River catching on fire due to pollution and Pittsburgh smoky city label. Go outside and try to prove to me that we have not made significant improvements. Regulations have played a role, but I believe that the biggest improvement is a direct result of our wealth. Look at pollution in developing and poorer countries like Russia, China, and India. I doubt that the environment makes their top 25 list of concerns.

Do everything that you can to improve the environment. Plant a tree or many trees. Recycle. Plant a garden. Keep worms to compost your kitchen waste (I do). Use a rain barrel and reduce your water bill. There are a lot of personal actions that we can take, but be careful of “experts” telling us what drastic measure we need to take.

If we had done all that they wanted us to do forty years ago we might actually have man-made global warming.


Update April 24, 2010

I received a comment regarding the “yahoo” sources that argue that take an alternative view that Rachel Carson may not have been as much of a savior as promoted by the press.  The blue highlighted sections of any of my posts are links to articles that provide additional reading on the subject.  Since the commenter thought that my sources were yahoos I decided to add a few more.  I did exhaustive research by searching the terms “DDT malaria.”  I actually used Yahoo for my search and here are a few more sources:

“I understand the environmental arguments, but sometimes they cry so much fear, their arguments become inhuman to the people. It’s almost like they want the people to perish for the animals. No chemical has no side effects. But let us first reduce infant mortality. That is the environment I care about right now.’’

“Uganda, a nation of 30 million people, had an estimated 10.6 million cases of malaria in 2006, according to the World Health Organization, with 70,000 to 110,000 deaths a year, according to government and university researchers.”

I am not advocating DDT use to the extent that it was in the past. I just don’t understand how some environmentalists stand on their soapboxes and preach about banning DDT and then go home to a comfortable environment while a country that has a hundred thousand deaths from malaria cannot use it to save themselves.

Who are we to decide what is best for someone else? 

To quote a famous politician, “that is above my pay grade.”

2 CommentsLeave one

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    If we’re going to frame an argument, can we get the facts and figures right?

    Malaria death rates are, today, the lowest in recorded history. Over the last five years, fewer than a million people a year have died from malaria. At the height of DDT use, about 3 million people a year died, and it didn’t get below 2 million deaths a year until long after the U.S. ban on DDT in agriculture.

    Had we listened to Rachel Carson in 1962, however, we might have eradicated malaria completely.

    Listen to the experts. It’s better, and smarter, than listening to yahoos.

  2. Greg says:

    Mr. Darell…I word about the format of Framing the Dialogue. The highlighted (blue) sections are links to my sources. I don’t make up data. Just because someone states a view that opposes your view does not make them a “yahoo.”

    I have added some links to the post that support my assertions. I am not advocating DDT use to the extent that it was in the past. I just don’t understand how some environmentalists stand on their soapboxes and preach about banning DDT and then go home to a comfortable environment while a country that has a hundred thousand deaths from malaria cannot use it to save themselves.

    From one of the new links:

    “countries that discontinued their house-spray programs reported large increases in malaria rates. Countries that reported low or reduced HSRs also reported increased malaria.”

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