Google has seen fit to honor Rachel Carson today. To heck with that. Instead read this: “What the World Needs Now Is DDT.” Some choice quotes:
In her 297 pages, Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions. DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ”Silent Spring” is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind. Public opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use.
DDT is a victim of its success, having so thoroughly eliminated malaria in wealthy nations that we forget why we once needed it. But malaria kills Africans today. Those worried about the arrogance of playing God should realize that we have forged an instrument of salvation, and we choose to hide it under our robes.
As Josh Billings once wrote (but is often attributed to Mark Twain), it ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so. We know that DDT is dangerous, but, used properly, it just ain’t so.
POSTSCRIPT: In a Terry Gross interview I had the misfortune to hear on the radio, she alleged that DDT was toxic to humans. Not so. (That’s not even what Carson charged! Carson accused DDT of being bad for birds, not humans.) In fact, the best use for DDT is to use it precisely where humans reside. Alas, the interviewee failed to correct Gross, perpetuating this misinformation.