Fox News needs to rein in Steven Milloy

March 10, 2011

The stuff NPR’s money guy said is rather pale by comparison.  Fox News needs to act, and apologize and retract for their commentator Steven Milloy’s errors and rash claims, if their commentator won’t.


Green Hell? Milloy slanders Ruckelshaus as “mass murderer”

March 10, 2011

This week, EPA bashing took front and center on the performance stage that passes as Congress these days.  There is a school of thought that thinks EPA should be eviscerated because EPA is carrying out the mandate an earlier Congress gave it, to clean up the air.  Especially, the recent assailants claim, EPA should not try to reduce carbon emissions, because clean air might cost something.

Steven Milloy, making stuff up and passing it as fact

Steven Milloy, who makes crude and false claims against William Ruckelshaus, a great lawyer and the hero of the Saturday Night Massacre. Why does Milloy carry such a pathetic grudge?

Wholly apart from the merits, or great lack of merits to those arguments, the anti-EPA crowd is just ugly.

78-year-old William Ruckelshaus, the Hero of the Saturday Night Massacre, a distinguished lawyer and businessman, and the founding Director of EPA who was called back to clean it up after the Reagan administration scandals, granted an interview on EPA bashing to Remapping Debate, an ambitious, independent blog from the Columbia School of Journalism designed to provide information essential to policy debates that too-often gets overlooked or buried.  [Remapping Debate sent a note that they are not affiliated with CSJ; my apologies for the error.]

Ruckelshaus, as always, gave gentlemanly answers to questions about playing politics with science, and bashing good, honest and diligent government workers as a method of political discourse.

Steven Milloy, one of the great carbuncles on the face of climate debate or any science issue, assaulted Ruckelshaus at Milloy’s angry, bitter blog, Green Hell.  Milloy calls Ruckelshaus “a mass-murderer,” a clear invitation for someone to attack the man. Milloy wrote, cravenly:

He’s the 20th century’s only mass murderer to survive and thrive (as a venture capitalist) in the 21st century.

Milloy owes Ruckelshaus an apology and a complete retraction.  I rather hope Ruckelshaus sues — while Milloy will claim the standards under New York Times vs. Sullivan as a defense, because Ruckelshaus is a public figure, I think the only question a jury would have to deal with is how much malice aforethought Milloy exhibits.  Malice is obvious.  Heck, there might not even be a question for a jury — Milloy loses on the law (nothing he claims against Ruckelshaus is accurate or true in any way).

This is much more damning than what got two NPR officials to lose their jobs.

Who will stand up for justice here?  Rep. Upton?  Rep. Boehner?  Anthony Watts?

I tried to offer a correction, and since then have written Milloy demanding an apology and retraction — neither comment has surfaced yet on Milloy’s blog.  Here’s the truth Milloy hasn’t printed:

No, Sweeney did not rule that DDT is not a threat to the environment. He said quite the opposite. Sweeney wrote, in his ruling:

20. DDT can have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish and estuarine organisms when directly applied to the water.

21. DDT is used as a rodenticide. [DDT was used to kill bats in homes and office buildings; this was so effective that, coupled with accidental dosing of bats from their eating insects carrying DDT, it actually threatened to wipe out some species of bat in the southwest U.S.]

22. DDT can have an adverse effect on beneficial animals.

23. DDT is concentrated in organisms and can be transferred through food chains.

On that basis, two federal courts ruled that DDT must be taken off the market completely. Sweeney agreed with the findings of the courts precisely, but he determined that the law did not give him the power to order DDT off the market since the newly-proposed labels of the DDT manufacturers restricted use to emergency health-related tasks. With the benefit of rereading the two federal courts’ decisions, Ruckelshaus noted that the courts said the power was already in the old law, and definitely in the new law. [See, for example, EDF v. Ruckelshaus, 439 F. 2d 584 (1971)]

DDT was banned from use on crops in the U.S. as an ecosystem killer. It still is an ecosystem killer, and it still deserves to be banned.

Ruckelshaus’s order never traveled outside the U.S. DDT has never been banned in most nations of the world, and even though DDT has earned a place on the list of Dirty Dozen most dangerous pollutants, even under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty of 2001, DDT is available for use to any country who wishes to use it.

Please get your facts straight.

Would you, Dear Reader,  help spread the word on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or any other service you have, that the Brown Lobby has gone too far in it’s error-based propaganda against clean air and those who urge a better environment?  Please?


Annals of DDT: Rachel Carson was right, DDT hurts birds

April 6, 2014

Coming up on World Malaria Day 2014, and U.S. Congressional elections, we’ll start seeing repeated false attacks on Rachel Carson as the right’s most-favored representative of environmentalism, and those attacks will include calls to “end the ban” on DDT to roll back the “increase in malaria caused by the ban. ” Facts are that DDT was never banned in Asia nor Africa (not even under a 2001 anti-pollution treaty); Rachel Carson called for no ban on DDT, but instead urged use of “integrated pest management” (IPM)  to combat disease vectors, and IPM used broadly since 1999 has slashed malaria death totals and infections even more; and malaria deaths and infections started a downward trend in the 1960s that continues today, mostly without DDT.
This is one in an occasional series of posts to correct these hoax claims, with citations to information that readers may check for themselves. Much of this post appeared here earlier, in much longer form.

Rachel Carson was very careful in her 1962 book Silent Spring.  She offered more than 50 pages of citations to science papers and hard research to support what she wrote — a “don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself” kind of honesty.

Still, today, there is an organized effort with broad success on the internet to smear Rachel Carson and hide the science she wrote about.  Standard from adherents to this insurgent anti-science movement include are claims that Carson’s book was wrong.  The title comes from a prologue of the book in which Carson described a spring in some future year, a spring which was unheralded by the songs and chatterings of birds.  Carson argued that, if humans do not stop to think about secondary effects of chemicals used, especially as pesticides, whole regions might be devoid of birds, dead from DDT poisoning.

Carson cited research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about just how deadly DDT could be to entire ecosystems.  She was particularly alarmed by research done at Midwestern universities, where DDT sprayed to save American elm trees from Dutch elm blight, quickly killed off most birds who came in contact with the stuff.  Dutch elm blight is spread by beetles, the targets of DDT in those sprayings.

In the 1950s, ornithologists, wildlife managers and bird watchers documented the pending demise of entire species of birds, especially raptors at the top of local food chains.  Audubon bird watchers throughout the eastern U.S. noted that migrations consisted of older birds only, with young and maturing birds appearing to have disappeared. Older birds mated, built nests, and laid eggs. Usually the eggs did not hatch, with chicks dying before the end of gestation.  In the few cases where young hatched, they generally died before they could migrate even one year.

Especially for the American bald eagle, this was a great disappointment. Eagles had been plentiful when European colonists migrated to North America, starting after Columbus’s voyages, 1492-1494.  By 1900, however, eagles had been hunted almost to extinction — well, they were extinct in some states.  Colonists, then farmers and ranchers, saw eagles as pests.  They ate fish the colonists wanted to catch for themselves.  Eagles would sometimes take a farmer’s chicken.  Cases of eagles taking larger prey are sparse to non-existent prior to the latter 20th century — but farmers claimed they did.  And so the birds were hunted mercilessly, simply to shoot them.

In 1911 the federal government tried to solve a many-states-wide problem, with a law protecting eagles from hunting.  It did little good.  In 1941 Congress passed a new law, with criminal penalties for people who poached eagles.  The decline of adult numbers slowed dramatically.  But that problem with hatching fledges stopped the recovery, at least so far as young birds who could replace those who died of old age or accidents.

Carson’s critics argue that eagles were never really in decline.  Steven Milloy and Gordon Edwards invented a fantastic tale that the Audubon Society annual Christmas Bird Count actually recorded an increase in eagle numbers, a false claim that Audubon certainly never made, based on a twisted misapplication of bird count methods.  USFWS and others noted the decline of eagles speeding up through the 1950s and 1960s.

Carson’s critics then will say that what plagued eagles was hunting and poaching, and not DDT.  While that was true prior to 1941, that was not the case after World War II when the laws were enforced well.

When studies indicated that DDT would stop birds from successfully breeding, Carson cited them. Her critics claim those studies were in error.

Double-crested cormorant chicks, dead in their nest from DDT-DDE poisoning; nest in the Columbia River estuary, in Oregon.  US Fish and Wildlife photo.

Double-crested cormorant chicks, dead in their nest from DDT-DDE poisoning; nest in the Columbia River estuary, in Oregon. US Fish and Wildlife photo.

But they were not.  In fact, not a single study cited by Carson in Silent Spring has ever been refuted by later peer-reviewed research, nor pulled back for any reason.  A decade after Carson’s death, researchers discovered that residual DDT in birds, especially eagles and other raptors, prevented the females from forming competent shells on the eggs they laid.  Even when the DDT doses were not high enough to kill the chicks outright, the shells could not survive the mother’s sitting on them.  The shells broke, and the chicks inside died.

DDT was a scourge to the American bald eagle, the brown pelican, the peregrine falcon, and osprey — and probably many other birds.

Healthy pelican egg on the left, and a DDT-affected pelican egg on the right.  Image from VCE Environmental Science.

Healthy pelican egg on the left, and a DDT-affected pelican egg on the right. Image from VCE Environmental Science.

 

Discover magazine carried an article about DDT and Carson’s book in November 2007Discover said that, since 1962 when Carson’s book was published, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications support Carson’s conclusions, a record remarkable in any branch of science.

In fact, Carson may have underestimated the impact of DDT on birds, says Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and director of the American Bird Conservancy’s pesticides and birds program. She was not aware that DDT—or rather its metabolite, DDE—causes eggshell thinning because the data were not published until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was eggshell thinning that devastated fish-eating birds and birds of prey, says Fry, and this effect is well documented in a report (pdf) on DDT published in 2002 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The report, which cites over 1,000 references, also describes how DDT and its breakdown products accumulate in the tissues of animals high up on terrestrial and aquatic food chains—a process that induced reproductive and neurological defects in birds and fish.

History also supports the scientists.  President John F. Kennedy tasked the President’s Science Advisory Council to check out Carson’s book, to see whether it was accurate, and whether the government should start down the path of careful study and careful regulation of pesticides as she suggested.  In May 1963 the PSAC reported back that Carson was dead right on every issue, except, maybe for one.  PSAC said Carson wasn’t alarmist enough, that immediate action against pesticides was justified, rather than waiting for later studies or delaying for any other reason. (The full text of the report may be obtained here.)

Rachel Carson was right.  DDT kills birds.  DDT threatened several species with extinction.

Carson’s science citations were verified by a select panel of the nation’s top biologists including entomologists, certified as scientifically accurate.   Since she published, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies have been performed that verify her findings on DDT’s harms to birds.

I have never found a contrary study published in any peer-review science journal, based on research.


Why it’s important to have accurate history and science on the internet: Don’t lie to kids about DDT

June 6, 2013

Great accomplishment by this kid from Hudson, Massachusetts — but troubling, too.  He’s winning a persuasive speech competition, persuading people against history, law and science, calling for a return of DDT.

Andrew Brandt of Hudson MA, persuasive speaking champion

Andrew Brandt of Hudson holds his winning certificate at the regional speech and debate tournament in New Hampshire in April. He was one of seven to advance to the national competition. (Photo/submitted)

Hudson – Andrew Barndt, 13, from Hudson will be traveling to Tulsa, Okla., in June to join more than 500 students competing in a National Speech and Debate Tournament.

Andrew has qualified to compete in the Persuasive Speech category with the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA). Home-schooled students aged 12 to 18 compete at local and regional tournaments around the country in the winter and spring, culminating in the national tournament in June.

In April, at the regional tournament in Concord, N.H., 27 students competed in the Persuasive Speech category. Andrew’s speech, “DDT: What You Think You Know May Not Be So,” was one of seven chosen to move on the national competition.

According to the NCFCA, “a persuasive speech is an original platform speech that attempts to persuade the audience to adopt a particular point of view or course of action.”

A competitor will give a speech three times in front of different three-judge panels. Judges can be other parents, members of the community or former competitors. The judges rank them on 17 criteria, including: using outside evidence, relating a clear thesis, demonstrating a logical flow of ideas, incorporating proper vocal technique, having good energy level and making eye contact. The top candidates advance to a final round and the winners are decided. Winners receive a trophy and recognition on the NCFCA website.

Andrew will present his winning speech at the national competition held at Oral Roberts University June 18-22. His speech has three parts: debunking the myth of birds’ eggs being harmed due to DDT, disproving the claim that DDT causes cancer in humans, and pointing out that DDT has saved hundred of millions of lives by reducing mosquitoes that carry malaria. He concludes by urging his listeners to repeal the ban on DDT.

“I’m an avid birdwatcher,” Andrew said. “which is how I became familiar with DDT in the first place.”

According to his mother, Ann Barndt, Andrew also competes in debate. “This year he and his brother, Jonathan, 16, partnered together as a team,” she said. “However, their record was not high enough to advance.”

She said the brothers did enjoy preparing for the tournaments, researching various aspects of the this year’s topic, the United Nations. They plan to partner together again next year.

“As for my future, I’m still thinking about how to merge [bird watching] with a sustainable livelihood,” Andrew said.

For more information about the tournament, visit www.ncfca.org.

At the site of the Hudson Community Advocate, I offered what I hope is gentle but persuasive advice to the kid, from one old debater to another:

I commend the young man on his speaking prowess — but he needs a lot of help with his research chops.

1. Birds eggs are harmed by DDT; worse, that’s just one of four ways DDT kills birds. It also poisons chicks outright, in the eggs, poisons the adults (especially migratory birds), and it disrupts the nervous systems of chicks so that, even when they do hatch, they don’t survive.

2. Although it’s a weaker carcinogen, DDT is listed as a “suspected human carcinogen” by the American Cancer Society, CDC and WHO. DDT’s carcinogenic qualities were evidenced long after EPA banned its use because it kills wildlife systems.

3. While DDT played a role in defeating malaria in some countries, it was overused, and it ceased to be so effective as it was. However, malaria rates of infection and total deaths from malaria now are much, much lower than they ever were with DDT. Since malaria deaths are reduced by more than 75%, it’s incorrect math to claim millions died without DDT, wholly apart from the history.

3.1 DDT has never been banned for use against malaria, anywhere. The U.S. ban on DDT, in fact, allowed manufacturing to continue in the U.S., with all DDT dedicated to export. So the U.S. ban, which saved the bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and brown pelican, among others, also multiplied the amount of DDT available to fight malaria in Africa and Asia.

Andrew must be very, very persuasive, to persuade people that DDT, a deadly and mostly useless pollutant, should be revived. Good luck to him in his tournament, and good luck finding better sources next year.

Mr. Brandt must be excused, partly, for his error.  There remains a dedicated and well-funded disinformation assault on the reputation of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, on the World Health Organization, on malaria fighters, on scientists and “environmentalists,” and this assault largely succeeds in ruthlessly elbowing aside the facts in internet searches, and elsewhere.  Fox News still employs serial-prevaricator Steven Milloy whose assault hoaxes on Carson and science of DDT should be more legendary than they are.  So-called Christian organizations join the political fray, while Christians like the Methodists actually fight malaria with the Nothing But Nets campaign — the workers are too busy to crow, the crowers are too busy to fight malaria.  (One may wonder about this Christian debate group — it caters to the small band of home schoolers.  Their evidence standards aside — standards which would disqualify most of the claims against Rachel Carson and for DDT — one wonders how a speaker would fare in this competition,  who praised Rachel Carson and the EPA for banning DDT, and for keeping the ban.  Accuracy of information is not among the criteria to be used in judging.)

The problem with lying to kids is they often believe the lies.  This isn’t a case of scientific disputes, or conflicting studies or information.  Not a jot nor tittle of Rachel Carson’s research citations has ever been questioned.  What she wrote about DDT in 1962 remains valid today, supported by more than a thousand follow-up studies and contradicted by none.  The destructive nature of DDT on bird populations is not questioned by scientists nor experienced bird watchers.  Where did this well-intentioned kid get led so far astray?

Science communicators?  What’s the solution to this problem?

More:


Rachel Carson/DDT hoaxing from the Ayn Rand Institute

April 21, 2013

Welcome, refugees and truth-seekers from WUWT:  If this site seems a little unusual to you, you should know that at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub we try to stick to science, and we don’t censor opposing opinions.  Genuinely interested in the DDT/Malaria issue?  See this collection.

______________

A couple of physicists get together in a podcast from the Ayn Rand Institute, Poke in Your Eye to Eye, and demonstrate that they don’t know biology well, they know less about history, but they don’t hesitate to tell whoppers about Rachel Carson and the value of DDT“Silent Spring 50 Years Later [a special Earth Day podcast].

English: An image of the main entrance of Rach...

A better indication of the legacy of Rachel Carson: Schools across America named after the woman, to inspire children to explore science, and to read and write. Here, the main entrance of Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, Virginia. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Earth Day must be coming up.  The usual suspects trot out their usual disinformation and hoax campaigns — and it will continue through Earth Day on April 22, International Malaria Day on April 25, through Rachel Carson’s birthday, and probably all summer.

Mencken warned us that hoaxes, once out of the bottle, can’t be put back.  Twain (and others) remind us that whopping falsehoods travel around the world “while truth is getting its boots on.”  Amanda Maxham, who is listed as an astrophysicist at the Rand site, interviewed physicist Keith Lockitch — and they repeat almost all the hoary old false fables invented by Gordon Edwards and Steven Milloy about malaria, DDT, and Rachel Carson.

A few of the errors committed by the polemicists at the Ayn Rand Institute:

  • ‘DDT doesn’t breed mosquitoes more resistant to the stuff, but instead weakens the population through reducing diversity.’  Absolutely wrong.  Turns out the new alleles mosquitoes pick up that makes them resistant and immune to DDT, are ALSO the alleles that make mosquitoes resistant to the whole class of chemicals, and thereby foul up efforts to develop new pesticides.

    Tanzania - Removing DDT

    Cleaning up DDT in Africa: 40 tons of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, Tanzania – FAO photo

  • ‘Rachel Carson didn’t account for the value of DDT in eradicating malaria.’  They start out claiming DDT ended malaria in the U.S. (it didn’t; CDC had won the fight will just mop up operations left, by 1939; DDT wasn’t even available for another seven years), and run through the false claim that DDT alone had almost eradicated malaria from Sri Lanka, but listening to Rachel Carson, the nation stopped spraying and malaria roared back (the nation stopped ALL of its malaria fighting efforts due to costs and civil war; when the fight was taken up again, DDT was not useful; largely without DDT, Sri Lanka has once again nearly wiped out malaria).
  • ‘Because of a lack of DDT use, malaria continues to ravage the world killing a million people a year.’  Actually, malaria is at the lowest level in human history, killing less than a million a year, with great progress being made against the disease using the methods Rachel Carson urged in 1962.  Had we listened to Carson earlier, we could have saved a few million more lives, and perhaps have eradicated malaria already.  Also, it’s important to remember that DDT was never banned in Africa nor Asia; the ban on use of DDT on cotton crops in the U.S. did not cause any increase in malaria anywhere; since the ban on DDT use in the U.S. malaria has constantly declined in incidence and deaths.
  • ‘DDT is very effective because it’s ALSO repellent to mosquitoes, after it ceases to kill them.’  So in the end, they urge the use of a poisonous-to-wildlife, mildly carcinogenic substance, because it repels mosquitoes?  Bednets are more effective, cheaper, not-poisonous to wildlife, and they aren’t even suspected of causing cancer.

Rachel Carson’s life is a model for budding scientists, aspiring journalists, and teachers of ethics.  That so many people spend so much time making up false claims against her, in favor of a deadly toxin, and against science, tells us much more about the subrosa intentions of the claim fakers than about Rachel Carson.

Want the facts about Rachel Carson?  Try William Souder’s marvelous biography from last year, On a Farther Shore.  Want facts on DDT?  Try EPA’s official DDT history online (or look at some of the posts here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub). Want the facts about malaria?  Check with the world’s longest running, most ambitious malaria fighting campaign operated by the good people at the World Health Organization, Roll Back Malaria,  or see Sonia Shah’s underappreciated history, The FeverHow malaria has ruled mankind for 500,000 years.

More:

Roll Back Malaria, World Malaria Day logo for 2013

Roll Back Malaria, World Malaria Day logo for 2013

Wall of Shame (hoax spreaders to watch out for this week):


Pertpetuating Crichton’s version of the DDT hoax

April 16, 2013

If you needed turf grass, would you buy it from someone who doesn’t know beans about pesticides and ecosystems?  Shouldn’t a turf grass provider know a bit more about ecology?

Fairy ring in grass

“Fairy ring” in turf grass — created by the pattern of spores dropping out of the mushrooms, not by fairies. Don’t tell the Saskatchewan Turfgrass Association. They appear to believe in fairies. (No, DDT won’t cure ‘em.) Photo from Wikipedia, from Brisbane, Australia

Found this in the on-line newsletter of the Saskatchewan Turfgrass Association:

“State of Fear” written around 2006 by author Michael Crichton had interesting things to say about the once popular insecticide DDT. He wrote that arguably the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was the removal of DDT for control of mosquitoes. DDT was the best insecticide on the market. Despite reviews to the contrary, no other products were as efficient, or as safe. Since the removal of DDT, it has been estimated that 30 to 50 million people have died unnecessarily. Before the removal of DDT, malaria had become almost a minor illness with only 50,000 deaths per year throughout the world. Remember the figures above are from 2006.

Nope.  Crichton’s still wrong; he hasn’t corrected his errors since he died.

Malaria deaths are at historic lows, probably the lowest they’ve been in human history – thanks to Rachel Carson‘s integrated vector management methods and hard work by African malaria fighters working without DDT, mostly.

So, after the lie gets around the world before the truth gets its boots on, does the lie ever stop?  Probably not.

We’re coming up on World Malaria Day on April 25.  Corporately-funded hoaxsters will be spreading a lot of disinformation about malaria, about DDT, and about Rachel Carson, over the next month or so.  And, probably for years beyond that.

More:


Eagles! We reduced DDT, and the eagles recovered

January 28, 2013

Love this photo, from the great folks at Yellowstone National Park:

Chris Daniel photo of a bald eagle in Yellowstone National Park, in the snow

From the Yellowstone NP Facebook site: An adult bald eagle perched along the Firehole River on New Year’s Day, near a trumpeter swan that it had either killed or was scavenging. Adult bald eagles usually remain in or near their nest territory throughout winter provided they have access to sufficient prey. Photo courtesy of Chris Daniel. (kd)

It’s a reminder of progress we’ve made in environmental protection.

While bald eagles may not have been the most endangered animal protected under the Endangered Species Act, or any other law, they became the most famous.  In the late 18th century Congress voted to designate the bald eagle as our national symbol.  At the time, the continent was still lousy with the creatures.  But from the arrival of Europeans after 1492, eagles had been hunted mercilessly.  By the early 20th century it was clear the animal was bound for extinction, like the great auk and other species (see here for technical information on the auk).

Ben Franklin complained the eagle was a dirty carrion eater, in a smart and funny polemic favoring the American turkey as the national bird.  Franklin couldn’t know how hunting and in-breeding would suck the nobility out of even wild turkeys over the next 200 years, until species protection laws and hunters pushed governments to invigorate stocks of wild turkeys again.  Compared to the eagle’s troubles, though, the turkey’s genetic torpor and limited habitat was almost nothing.

Americans tried to save the eagle.  After 1890, and during the run on great bird feathers that excited the fashion world and led to the senseless slaughter of millions of America’s most spectacular birds, we passed a federal law against hunting and shooting eagles for sport or no reason.  It was a toothless law, and the decline of eagle populations begun in the early 16th century continued unabated. Migratory bird treaties, providing more legal heft to bird protection, didn’t help the eagles either — not enough of them crossed borders, at least not that hunters and law enforcement could see.  The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, kicking into action in 1941, provided teeth to eagle hunting restrictions, and hunters stopped shooting them so much.  Between 1940 and 1950, eagle populations stabilized, with a good bunch in Alaska, and a few nesting pairs spread from Oregon to Maine, Lake of the Woods to Florida Everglades.  There were so few eagles, and they were spread so far apart, that most Americans could not see one without major effort and travel.

Bird watchers noticed trouble in the 1950s.  Young eagles stopped showing up for the Audubon Christmas bird count, and at the Hawk Mountain migration counts.  Adults went through the motions, migrating, hunting, building nests, laying eggs for all anyone knew, and hatching young that had been seen, sometimes, to fledge — but then the young birds died.  Between leaving the nest, and returning to mate up and breed, the young birds simply disappeared.

Research showed deeper trouble.  On careful observation the birds were seen to be frustrated in hatching and raising chicks.  Sometimes the eggs wouldn’t hatch.  If they did hatch, the chicks died.  The few who lived to fly out, died soon after.

Rachel Carson called attention to the trouble in her 1962 claxon call on pesticide and chemical pollution, Silent Spring (50 years ago in 2012).

Doctor Science at Obsidian Wings wrote a paean to seeing bald eagles in the wild, with a brief and kind mention of this blog. You should go read it there.

Protecting birds?  The Steve Milloys, CEIs, AEIs, Heritage Foundations, CATO Institutes and other dens of smug cynicism and bad citizenship have it all wrong.  It’s not about power for environmentalists.  It’s nothing so cheap or mean.  Heck.  Often it’s not even about protecting the birds so much.

It’s about protecting our own dreams, and places we have to inspire those dreams.  Frederick Jackson Turner postulated that there is something mystical and magical in a frontier that helped form the American character and make us hard-working, smart, and noble.  He was right, of course.  Those frontiers are not simply frontiers of settlement in the wilderness anymore.  We have to work to find them, to declare Alaska the “Last Frontier,” or government reform and Cold War enterprise as the “New Frontier.”  But we still need frontiers.

Eagles still soar there.  Wherever eagles soar, in fact, we find those frontiers, those places to dream and inspire.  The Endangered Species Act isn’t about saving animals and plants.  It’s about saving our own souls.

More:


Swearing-in stew: Inauguration week olla podrida – Where are the dung beetles when you need them?

January 25, 2013

In no particular order, nor in any particular ardor, stuff of interest and consequence we should be talking about instead of soaking in Millard Fillmore’s bathtub and admiring the plumbing:

More:


Rachel Carson in history — great post at Pop History Dig

February 22, 2012

It’s a long post, but it’s got great images and graphics, solid citations, and very few errors — go read Jack Doyle’s profile of Carson, featuring a solid and thorough discussion of the controversy over DDT.

Español: Fachada Rocsen-Rachel Carson

Statute honoring Rachel Carson at the Rocsen Museum, in Nono, Cordoba, Argentina

Jack Doyle, “Power in the Pen, Silent Spring: 1962,”
PopHistoryDig.com
, Feburary 21, 2012.

Doyle is a good writer and his site is a great idea with wonderful execution, The Pop History Dig.

Short of Linda Lear’s biography of Carson, Doyle’s piece presents the facts squarely, with no axes grinding.  (Steve Milloy, Rutledge Taylor, The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Roger Bate, Richard Tren, the astroturf group Africa Fighting Malaria, Anthony Watts, Jay Ambrose and Christopher Monckton, and other purveyors of anti-Carson and anti-science vitriol will not like Doyle’s piece and will claim it to be biased.)


DDT news: Ethio Sun reports, “Ethiopia and Botswana in banned DDT pesticide deal”

January 12, 2012

How many hoax claims of Steven Milloy, Roger Bate and other DDT advocates are exposed in this one news story?

Somebody count.  The story reveals

  1. African nations still use DDT.
  2. There’s a lot of DDT in Africa to be used.
  3. Some nations don’t use DDT due to fear of health effects on people; they appear to have weighed the alternatives, and found better ways to fight malaria without DDT.
  4. DDT is cheap in Africa (US$4.50/kilogram).
  5. Despite the U.S. ban on DDT use on U.S. crops, some nations in Africa kept using DDT (the article misstates the case for a worldwide ban — there has never been a worldwide ban).
  6. DDT use is not assumed in Africa to be a great way to fight malaria.

I don’t mean to suggest EthioSun as a sterling source of information; but it’s not difficult to find stories like this with frequency, out of Africa.  Each of them refutes the case for more DDT, so that there really is no good case to be made for more DDT, anywhere.

Ethiopia and Botswana in banned DDT pesticide deal

Posted By On Thursday, January 12, 2012 06:32 AM.

Ethiopia is set to export about 15 tonnes of the banned pesticide, DDT, to Botswana, it has been revealed.

This follows a recent suspension on the use of the pesticide by the Horn of Africa nation, which cited adverse effects of human health and the environment as reasons for the decision.

Adami Tulu Pesticide, a state owned company has huge stocks of DDT, which it will reportedly sell to Botswana at US$4.50 per kilogramme.

It is estimated the company has 450 tonnes of DDT in stock.

The US led a worldwide ban on the use of DDT as a pesticide in 1972 following reports of adverse side effects on humans.

However, Ethiopia along with a few other countries continued the use of DDT in the fight against malaria.

Activists have demanded that the ban be lifted, in order to allow the use DDT in the elimination of malaria, especially in developing countries.

More than half of the estimated 80 million people in Ethiopia are said to be at risk of contracting malaria.

According to the World Health Organisation some countries still use DDT to fight malaria.

The disease killed over half a million people worldwide last year, most of them in Africa.

There was no immediate confirmation from Botswana about the planned export.

Steve Milloy, Roger Bate, Richard Tren, Henry I. Miller and others hoax us when they say DDT can save mankind, or even help save mankind.  See also Tim Lambert’s takedown of Goklany’s post.


More misunderstanding of the case against DDT

December 21, 2011

Well-meaning but misinformed dog breeder Terrierman (a guy who goes by the handle PBurns, too)  is just the latest to fall victim to false and nearly false claims about DDT and its effects on birds.

One of the claims made by pro-DDT and anti-environmental protection, anti-science groups is that DDT is not the bad guy in bird deaths.  The late DDT-nut Gordon Edwards said DDT had nothing to do with eagle deaths, and pointed to the 300-year decline in eagle populations from the time European settlers began shooting at them.  This idea has been touted by the chief junk science purveyor, Steven Milloy, and by many others over the years.

So, in one of his several posts slamming eagle conservation efforts that include stopping the use of DDT, Terrierman said:

What’s the story? Simple: that Bald Eagles and Osprey were pushed to the edge of extinction by DDT.

Not True.

Actually, that is true.  Terrierman got it wrong.  DDT was, indeed, threatening the very existence of the bald eagle.  While it is true that there were other pressures, some long-standing, it is also true that once those problems were cleared, DDT still barred the recovery of the eagle, plus other species like osprey, peregrine falcons, and brown pelicans.

What is the story?  The story is that eagles have been under assault since Europeans found America.  By 1900, eagle populations across North America were dramatically and drastically reduced.  A federal law in 1918 made it illegal to shoot eagles, but it had little effect.  A tougher law passed in 1940 finally got some traction.

But eagle recovery didn’t take off.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s bird watchers, and bird counters like those volunteers who contribute to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, noticed that young eagles disappeared.  Simply, adult, breeding eagles were not able to produce young who survived to migrate, mature, and breed later.

The culprit was DDT.  DDT kills young eagles in three ways, known in the 1960s.  It poisons them so they cannot grow in the egg.  It poisons them so they die after a period of growth.  It poisons them so they are unable to eat and digest properly, so they die shortly after they hatch.

DDT can also screw up the sexual organs of young birds, so they are unable to breed — perhaps a fourth way DDT kills young, by simply preventing their creation.

Then, in the 1970s, we found another way DDT kills species:  DDT makes the eagle hens unable to form competent eggshells.  The young die because the eggs cannot survive incubation.

DDT also kills adult eagles, especially migrating birds.  DDT accumulates in fat tissues, those fats that migrating birds burn.  When the birds migrate, the DDT comes out, and it can literally stop the heart or brain of the bird in flight.  (It kills bats the same way.)  Birds lost in migration rarely get found for necropsy.   The bird count simply falls, the population sinks one individual closer to extinction.

Does the dog breeder know all of this?  I can’t tell — I tried to correct his errors at his blog site, but after I provided a link to an article that showed DDT appears to be harming California condors as well — in a post he has censored in moderation and which will never see the light of day at Terrierman, I predict — it’s clear he’s not up to gentle correction.

One more blog from which I am banned from telling the facts.

PBurns, if you’re bold enough to comment here, your comments won’t be censored (so long as not profane).  We need robust discussion, and I encourage it.

Below the fold — my final post to Terrierman, which he won’t allow through moderation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Art historians do better than conservatives on the history of DDT

November 11, 2011

The art historians at least get the facts right — why can’t conservatives and erstwhile scientists like Steven Milloy get it right?  This is from “The War Against Bugs,” by Steven Heller at imprint:

With all due respect to entomologists, there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about bugs (insects by any other name). These little monsters certainly have ecological significance, but don’t tell me they are fun to have crawling around. Hence, chemical manufacturers have made it their business to find he most efficient means of ridding the pests while retaining the fine upstanding species. Too bad that anything designed to kill will doubtless have ill effects on he eco-system. In he 50s DDT was the magic bullet against such varieties as various potato beetles, coddling moth, corn earworm, cotton bollworm  and tobacco budworms (eeeecccchhhh!). Then in 1972, the US Environmental Protection Agency curtailed all use of DDT on crops. The ban did not take hold in other countries until much later, and DDT was vociferously promoted through eerie calls to arms like this poster by Savignac.

Read more: The War Against Bugs — Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers
For great design products, visit our online store: MyDesignShop.com


DDT fanatic a former Monsanto lobbyist?

August 4, 2011

Sometimes in unexpected places you stumble across a factoid that makes sense out of a lot of other factoids, turning them into enlightening, and perhaps useful, information.

Steven Milloy used to be a Monsanto lobbyist?  Is that accurate?

Among the allegations, that Monsanto aggressively protects its patents on seeds and other products sold to farmers, and that the company may not be above a bit of skullduggery to push farmers and, in this case, milk processors, to use Monsanto products.  Watch for Steven Milloy’s name to pop up in the last paragraph.  The site quotes a Vanity Fair  article on Monsanto from 2008.

Even if Monsanto’s efforts to secure across-the-board labeling changes should fall short, there’s nothing to stop state agriculture departments from restricting labeling on a dairy-by-dairy basis. Beyond that, Monsanto also has allies whose foot soldiers will almost certainly keep up the pressure on dairies that don’t use Monsanto’s artificial hormone. Jeff Kleinpeter knows about them, too.

He got a call one day from the man who prints the labels for his milk cartons, asking if he had seen the attack on Kleinpeter Dairy that had been posted on the Internet. Kleinpeter went online to a site called StopLabelingLies, which claims to “help consumers by publicizing examples of false and misleading food and other product labels.” There, sure enough, Kleinpeter and other dairies that didn’t use Monsanto’s product were being accused of making misleading claims to sell their milk.

There was no address or phone number on the Web site, only a list of groups that apparently contribute to the site and whose issues range from disparaging organic farming to downplaying the impact of global warming. “They were criticizing people like me for doing what we had a right to do, had gone through a government agency to do,” says Kleinpeter. “We never could get to the bottom of that Web site to get that corrected.”

As it turns out, the Web site counts among its contributors Steven Milloy, the “junk science” commentator for FoxNews.com and operator of junkscience.com, which claims to debunk “faulty scientific data and analysis.” It may come as no surprise that earlier in his career, Milloy, who calls himself the “junkman,” was a registered lobbyist for Monsanto.

If accurate, it’s a sort of “origins” story — I don’t think it explains Milloy’s current advocacy of DDT and almost all other things anti-environmentally-wise.  Nor does it explain Milloy’s penchant for making things up whole cloth.  Does Fox News disclose this anywhere?

It does suggest his dirty tricks chops against environmentalists and scientists get exercised more than I had imagined.

The story is an interesting and odd footnote in the debunking of the unholy War on Science that claims Rachel Carson was wrong, and DDT is harmless and right.

More: 


Heritage Foundation urges that Africa be poisoned

May 7, 2011

Oh, not outwardly anti-Africa, but stupidly so.

The extreme right-wing Heritage Foundation lashed out at health care workers and scientists fighting malaria in Africa and Asia for World Malaria Day, April 25 (HF’s post showed up on May 5).  If these malaria fighters really were smart, HF’s Jane Abel wrote, they’d just poison Africa with DDT instead of protecting children with bednets and working to improve medical care.  According to Abel, DDT is safe for everyone but mosquitoes, and more effective than anything else malaria fighters use — so they are stupid and venal, she asserts, for not using DDT.

Here’s her post:

Environmentalists celebrated World Malaria Day last week (and Earth Day the week prior). Meanwhile, thousands of African children died of malaria.

While these activists may make themselves feel like they’re saving the world, they are ignoring the best possible solution to Africa’s malaria problem: the use of DDT to wipe out the Anopheles mosquito.

Even though the World Health Organization resumed promotion of DDT in September 2006—realizing it had the best track record for saving the lives of 500 million African children—environmentalists are still emphasizing the use of bed nets instead. DDT treatments almost completely eradicated the disease in Europe and North America 50 years ago, but today an African child dies every 45 seconds of malaria.

Providing sub-Saharan Africans with bed nets has had far from acceptable success in delivering the amount of protection needed from mosquitoes. The World Bank touts the fact that 50 percent of children in Zambia are now sleeping under nets as a good thing, but what about the other half who are left defenseless against a killer disease? The Democratic Republic of the Congo had only 38 percent of children under nets in 2010.

One would question why, in the 21st century, people should have to live inside of a net in order to be safe from malaria. The world has a better solution, and it’s not the quarantine of African infants. Dr. John Rwakimari, as head of Uganda’s national malaria program, described DDT, which is nontoxic to humans, as “the answer to our problems.”

World Malaria Day 2011 had the theme of “Achieving Progress and Impact” and aims to have zero malaria deaths by 2015. If the world really wants to make progress and increase the number of lives saved from malaria, it needs to embrace for Africans the best possible technologies available today, and that means DDT.

Here’s my response, which I predict will not show up at HF’s blog in any form*:

DDT is toxic to humans — just not greatly and acutely so.  Ms. Abel should be aware of recent studies that indicate even limited, indoor use of DDT in the end produces a death toll similar to malaria.  But we digress on just one of the errors assumed by Ms. Abel.

If DDT could wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitoes, WHO would not have slowed or stopped its use in 1965, years before anyone thought about banning the stuff.  By 1965 it was clear that overuse of DDT in agriculture had bred mosquitoes that are resistant and even immune to DDTJonathan Weiner noted in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Beak of the Finch, that today every mosquito on Earth carries at least a few copies of the alleles that allow mosquitoes to digest DDT as if it were a nutrient.

DDT cannot be a panacea for malaria.

Please do not forget that malaria is a parasite disease, and that mosquitoes are only the carriers of it.  To truly eradicate malaria, we need to cure the humans — and if we do that, the mosquitoes do not matter.  With no infected humans, mosquitoes have no well of disease to draw from.  Without infected humans, mosquitoes cannot spread malaria.

Only 38 percent of children in Congo sleep under bednets?  I’ll wager that’s twice the percentage of kids that were ever protected from malaria in Congo by DDT.  In actual tests in Africa over the past decade, bednets have proven to reduce malaria by 50 to 85 percent; DDT, on the other hand, reduces malaria only 25 to 50 percent under the best conditions.  If we have to go with one and not the other, bednets would be the better choice.  Nets are much, much cheaper than DDT, too.  DDT applications must be repeated every 6 months, at a cost of about $12 per application per house.  Nets cost about $10, and they last five years.  Nets protect kids for $2 a year, better than DDT; DDT protects kids for $24 a year (that’s 12 times the cost), but not as effectively as nets.

Also, it’s important to remember that DDT has never been banned in Africa.  DDT non-use is much more a result of the ineffectiveness of DDT in many applications — why should we expect Africans to throw away hard-earned money on a pesticide that doesn’t work?

Finally, it’s also good to understand that, largely without DDT, malaria deaths are, today, at the lowest point in human history.  Fewer than 900,000 people a year die from malaria today.  That’s 25% of the death toll in 1960, when DDT use was at its peak.

Ms. Abel assumes that all Africans are too stupid to use DDT, though it might save their children.  He states no reason for this assumption, but we should question it.  If Africans do not use DDT, it may well be because the local populations of mosquitoes are not susceptible; or it could be because other solutions, like bednets, are more effective, and cheaper.

Ms. Abel has not made a case that DDT is the best solution to use against malaria.  DDT cannot improve a nation’s medical care delivery systems, to quickly diagnose and appropriately treat malaria in humans.  DDT cannot make mosquitoes extinct, we know from 66 year of DDT use that mosquitoes always come roaring back.  DDT cannot prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria as effectively as bednets.

Maybe, just maybe, as evidenced by the dramatic reductions in malaria deaths, we might assume that modern Africans and health care workers know what they’re doing fighting malaria — and they do not need, want, or call for, a lot more DDT than is currently in use.

It’s too bad Heritage Foundation fell victim to so much junk science, and that the otherwise august press release operation pushes the grand DDT hoaxes.  Just once, wouldn’t it be nice if these conservative echo chambers would, instead of recycling the old, wrong press releases of other conservatives, would do a little research on their own, and get the facts right?

_______________

*  It’ll be fun to watch.  I sent my response early, early in the morning while rushing to get a presentation ready, and I made a couple of egregious typos, including identifying Jonathan Weiner as “Stephen Weiner.”  If HF wished to embarrass me, they’d publish that one out of their moderation queue — but I’ll bet that even with my typos, they can’t allow the facts through.  Also, for reasons I can’t figure, some guy named Thurman showed as the author of HF’s piece on May 5.  So I had referred to Mr. Thurman instead of Ms. Abel.  Interesting technical glitch, or story, there.

_______________

Update, May 8:  As we should have expected, Steven Milloy’s Junk Science Side Bar also went on record as favoring the poisoning of Africa rather than the fighting of malaria.  Milloy makes claims that DDT will beat malaria (ostensibly before it kills all life in Africa), but his sources don’t support the claim.  Milloy is always very careful to never mention that, largely without DDT, the death toll from malaria is at the lowest point in human history.  Instead he notes that while malaria fighters promoted World Malaria Day, lots of African kids died of malaria.  That’s true, but misleading.  Because of the malaria-fighting efforts of those Milloy tries to impugn, far fewer African kids die.  Contrary to Milloy’s insane and offensive claims, it’s not alright that “only people” die.  Milloy asserts implicitly that, but for environmentalists, thousands or millions of children would survive that do not know.  That’s not true:  Because of the work that Milloy denigrates, millions fewer die.  It wasn’t environmentalists who overused DDT and rendered it ineffective in the fight against malaria, it was Milloy’s funders.  Follow the money.


Debunking Junk Science’s hoax “100 Things You Should Know About DDT”: #14, William Ruckelshaus’s bias

February 17, 2011

Another in a continuing series, showing the errors in JunkScience.com’s list of “100 things you should know about DDT.” (No, these are not in order.) In the summer of 2009, the denialists have trotted this error out again.

At the astonishingly truthfully-named site “Junk Science,” Steven Milloy creates a series of hoaxes with a page titled “100 things you should know about DDT.”  It is loaded with hoaxes about DDT, urging its use, and about Rachel Carson, and about EPA and the federal regulation of DDT, and about malaria and DDT’s role in the ambitious but ill-fated campaign to eradicate malaria operated by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1955, officially until 1969.  Milloy knows junk science, and he dishes it out with large ladles.

Among what must be 100 errors, Milloy makes this claim, I suppose to suggest that William Ruckelshaus was biased when Rickelshaus headed the Environmental Protection Agency:

14.  William Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972, was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

This is a false statement on Milloy’s site.  After finding no credible source for the claim that Ruckelshaus was ever affiliated with EDF in any way, I contacted Ruckelshaus’s office, and got confirmation that Ruckelshaus was not and never has been affiliated with EDF.  It should be a clue that this claim appears only at sites who impugn Ruckelshaus for his action in banning DDT use in U.S. agriculture.

 

Junk Science's oddly apt logo and slogan

Hiding the truth in plain view: Junk Science is a site that promotes junk science, an unintended flash of honesty at a site that otherwise promotes hoaxes about science. Note the slogan. Does this site cover its hoaxes by stating plainly that it promotes "all the junk science that's fit to debunk?"

It is also highly unlikely that he ever wrote a fund-raising letter for the group, certainly not while he was a public official.  The implicit claim of Junk Science.com, that William Ruckelshaus was not a fair referee in the DDT case, is a false claim.

I asked Milloy to correct errors at his site, and he has steadfastly refused.

Here is what Milloy’s point #14 would say, with the falsehoods removed:

14.  William Ruckelshaus [was] the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972[.], was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

Below the fold:  William D. Ruckelshaus’s “official” biography, if you call him today, February 17, 2011.  You should note, there is no mention of any work with EDF.

Read the rest of this entry »


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