DOI honored Rachel Carson in Women’s HIstory Month

April 6, 2014

You can use this year around.  For Women’s History Month, the Department of the Interior did a brief biographical video honoring Rachel Carson.

Interior is home to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the agency where Carson spent most of her life in research and writing.  The film is narrated by Dan Ashe, the current Director of USFWS.

Details:

Published on Mar 25, 2014

Saluting biologist, writer, and conservationist Rachel Carson.

Photos courtesy of http://www.rachelcarsoncouncil.org.
Credits:
Photo 1: Marian Carson with her three children, Marian, Rachel (about 3) and Robert (Carson family photograph)
Photo 2: Rachel Carson as a child, reading to her dog Candy (Carson family photograph)
Photo 3: Rachel Carson with Bob Hines in the Florida Keys, gathering information for “The Edge of the Sea.” (Rex Gary Schmidt)
Photo 4: Rachel Carson entrance photo for Johns Hopkins Graduate School, 1928 (Carson family photograph)
Photo 5: Rachel Carson at microscope, 1951 (Brooks Studio)
Photo 6: Rachel Carson in her “summer laboratory” at Woods Hole, MA (Unknown)
Photo 7: Rachel Carson at Woods Home, MA, 1951 (Edwin Gray)
Photo 8: “Silent Spring” cover photo (yale.edu)
Photo 9: Rachel Carson watching migrating hawks at Hawk Mountain, PA, 1945 (Shirley A. Briggs)
Photo 10: Rachel Carson’s government photograph while she was working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (USFWS)
Photo 11: Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (DOI)
Photo 12: Rachel Carson on the dock at Woods Hole, MA 1951 (Edwin Gray)

Hang on to the bookmark for next year, or better, use it in an appropriate part of your regular curriculum.  Women’s history, and environmental history, doesn’t happen in just one month.  Teach it when the kids need it.


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.


Nothing But Nets invites you to join in the fight against malaria, for World Malaria Day

April 3, 2014

I get e-mail from Nothing But Nets, in preparation for World Malaria Day, April 25, 2014:

Compete to Beat Malaria Header with credit

Dear Ed,

As you know, World Malaria Day is April 25, and supporters will be taking action throughout April to help us send 25,000 bed nets to families in Africa.

Are you in?

Our champions are holding basketball tournaments, soccer games, and running in 5K races to get their friends, families, and communities involved in the fight against malaria.Megan Walter Jumpology

Megan Walter, our supporter from Richmond, Virginia, organized a unique event in her hometown. She partnered with her local trampoline park to jump for nets – and they raised $10 for every jumper who participated. The event was a huge success, raising more than $2,000 to send 200 bed nets to families in Africa. What made it even better is that Megan had fun doing it!

There are lots of ways to raise money and send nets while doing what you love. Every $10 you raise helps us purchase and distribute life-saving bed nets with our UN partners.

What sports challenge will you do this April?

Join us in sending nets and saving lives for World Malaria Day! Together, we can defeat malaria.

Sincerely,

Liz Wing
Senior Grassroots Officer, Nothing But Nets

P.S. Whether you run, swim, or play basketball, you can help raise critical funds and save lives. Take a challenge.

 

Compete to Beat Malaria Footer

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© Copyright 2014 United Nations Foundation
1750 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20006

You noted, of course:  No call for more DDT.  No slamming of science, scientists, medicine, medical workers, or Rachel Carson and environmental organizations.

This comes from people who fight malaria for a (meager) living, on non-profit basis, without political bias.  In short, these people need help, and consequently have no use for the pro-DDT, anti-Rachel Carson, anti-WHO, anti-science hoaxes.

Please give.  Every $10 can save a life.


Thank you, Rachel Carson!

March 16, 2014

An eagle gathering on the Mississippi River. 40 years ago, there may not have been this many eagles on the whole river. Cornell Ornithological Laboratory image.

An eagle gathering on the Mississippi River. 40 years ago, there may not have been this many eagles on the whole river. Cornell Ornithological Laboratory image.

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology said:

A convocation of Bald Eagles at Dam 13 along the upper Mississippi River (between Illinois and Iowa). If this isn’t incredible enough, photographer Michael Descamps reports that this group represents less than half of the eagles that were gathered there the day of the photo. What an incredible event to witness and thanks for sharing!

When the Endangered Species Act passed, and when the new EPA banned most outdoor uses of DDT in the U.S., there may not have been this many eagles on the entire Mississippi River watersheds.  Today, we have healthier ecosystems across the nation, and a lot more eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons, and brown pelicans, among other wildlife.

Gee. Environmental protection works well sometimes.


Working to stand the heat in the kitchen

February 10, 2014

Dr. Isis was wronged, and improperly attacked on the internet for the situation.

Masthead from Dr. Isis's blog.  Note the shoes.

Masthead from Dr. Isis’s blog. Note the shoes.

She’s working to deal with whether to continue to write, and in what form . . .

I offered some information (links added here):

Lessons from my much more political years, and graduate study in rhetoric.

1.  You know you’ve got a movement when opposition forms against you.  That’s irritating, but it’s better than not having opposition, which means you’re failing to get your point across, most often.

2.  Clear communication, especially writing, gets a response — sometimes not the response you expected or wanted, but a response.  With practice, you can hone your message.

Cicero delivering his speech against Cataline.

“Cicero Denouncing Cataline,” in 63 BC; 1889 fresco painting by Cesare Maccari (1840-1919).  Wikipedia image

Used to be a couple of posters available to rhetoric students, both attributed to Plutarch’s Lives,  a comparison of the Greek, Demosthenes, with the Roman, Cicero.  The first, talking about the later man, said, “When Cicero spoke, the people said how well he spoke.”

The second said, “When Demosthenes spoke, the people cried, ‘Let us march!’”

Which man was the more effective orator, or rhetorician?

Demosthenes Practicing Oratory (Démosthène s'exerçant à la parole); Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ (1842-1923)

Demosthenes Practicing Oratory (Démosthène s’exerçant à la parole); Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ (1842-1923)

Effective writing makes people angry.  That’s what it should do.

From 1945 on, countless scientists wrote about “potential harms to wildlife” from chemicals put on crops, and used for other purposes.

[In 1962] Rachel Carson wrote about chemicals, naming names — especially DDT — and described little robins writhing and twitching in their death throes.  She’s credited with starting a movement.  But before that, the chemical industry teamed up to run a $500,000 public relations campaign (in 1962!), claiming Carson was hysterical, unqualified, and wrong, perhaps a communist, but not anyone you’d want your children to be around.  She calmly asked scientists to review her notes and find errors.  They found none.

Tone?  Truth comes in many tones.  The wise seek it even if they don’t like the tone it takes at the moment.

How about your experience?


Perfect autumn walk, Rachel Carson NWR

September 24, 2013

Department of Interior  Twitter Photo: Rachel Carson NWR in #Maine

US Dept of Interior Photo ‏@Interior: Rachel Carson NWR in #Maine is the perfect place to see the leaves change this time of year. #nature pic.twitter.com/5kL9EArPaA

While we’re talking about Rachel Carson’s legacy, gander at this gorgeous fall walk at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, in Maine.

More:


Typewriters of the moment: Mitford and Carson, two environmental journalists

September 24, 2013

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the gender dimension of the controversy over Carson and Silent Spring. In this 27 October 1963 cartoon he pairs her with Jessica Mitford, author of The American Way of Death, a scathing indictment of the funeral home industry. Men from both industries have been flattened under the platens of the women’s typewriters.  All rights reserved © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of Bill Mauldin Estate LLC

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the gender dimension of the controversy over Carson and Silent Spring. In this 27 October 1963 cartoon he pairs her with Jessica Mitford, author of The American Way of Death, a scathing indictment of the funeral home industry. Men from both industries have been flattened under the platens of the women’s typewriters. All rights reserved © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of Bill Mauldin Estate LLC

Captured from Mark Stoll’s “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book that changed the world,” at the Environment and Society Portal.

A well-fitting image in the few days before the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) opens its 2013 convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee (October 2-4).  It was the power of the typewriter in 1963; the power of the word processor in 2013, more likely.  In either case, it’s the hard work of environmental journalists, who are out to make the world a better place by showing us what it is, what shape it’s in, and how we might conserve it.

More:


Yes, DDT is deadly to humans, as suicides demonstrate

September 16, 2013

One of the anti-environmental, anti-green false myths kicking around is that DDT is not harmful to humans, and therefore it probably shouldn’t have been banned, “and Rachel Carson was wrong.”

This poster from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates bioaccumulation, theprocess by which larger animals can be killed by acute DDT poisoning.

This poster from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates bioaccumulation, theprocess by which larger animals can be killed by acute DDT poisoning.

Reality is that DDT is a poison, but acute poisoning of large animals tends to take a lot.  Insectivorous animals or their predators can get those fatal amounts, but humans generally don’t.  DDT as a toxin kills mammals and birds and amphibians and reptiles and fish with equal alacrity, slowed only by the size of the organism and whether the organism’s diet consists of other things that consume and accumulate DDT.

Often that misperception is coupled with a claim that DDT does not cause cancer, and so should have its ban lifted.

But, the facts:

  • DDT is a neurotoxin; in accumulates in fat, and if enough of it courses through the blood of an animal at a given point, it kills off parts of the neurosystem including the brain.
  • DDT kills mammals (humans are mammals); in fact the U.S. Army argued to keep DDT on the market to use against bats that infested barracks in training camps (bats are mammals, too).  Death depends on the dose, which depends on body size.  Takes a fair amount to kill off a large mammal, quickly.  DDT is implicated in the near extinction of different species of migratory free-tail bats in the Southwest.
  • DDT is carcinogenic.  Fortunately for humans, it’s a weak carcinogen for most cancers, though research points to a troubling link to some cancers (breast, reproductive organs) that appear very late relative to exposure, especially if exposure to DDT occurs in utero, or in infancy.
  • DDT was not banned as a hazard to human health; it was banned as a hazard to wildlife.  DDT in almost all concentrations becomes an indiscriminate killer of wildlife when used outdoors.
  • DDT can kill humans with acute poisoning.

That last point isn’t easy to document in the U.S.  During the go-go DDT years there was one case of a young girl who drank from a prepared DDT solution, and died a short time later.  The incident was a tragedy, but not unique for the 1950s and 1960s.  It was written off to lax safety standards, and because it occurred long before the origin of on-line databases, essentially it has fallen out of history.  Just try to find a reference to the death today.

Partly, this lack of information on human toxicity is due to the fact that DDT use was slowing dramatically by the late 1960s (it was becoming ineffective), and after the ban in 1972, there were few cases in the U.S. where humans were exposed to the stuff, except in emissions from DDT manufacturing plants.  EPA’s order banning DDT in the U.S. applied only to agricultural use, and the chief agricultural use remaining was on cotton.  Manufacturing was not banned, however, which meant U.S. DDT makers could continue to pump the stuff out and sell it overseas, in Africa, and Asia.  This continued right up to that day in 1984 that U.S. companies became subject to damage for the poisons they make under the Superfund law — almost every DDT maker declared bankruptcy to escape liability in the weeks before the Superfund became effective, saddling taxpayers with a few dozen Superfund sites to be cleaned up on the taxpayer’s dime.

DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia, however.  And there we find a badly-documented history of people poisoning themselves with DDT, usually in suicides.

Whatever other pathologies these cases may exhibit, they reveal that DDT does, indeed, kill humans.

Like this recent case, from Ghana; yes, that’s the illustration used in the newspaper; from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation:

Sep 11, 2013 at 11:52am
Man commits suicide over wife’s confession

Benjamin Kwaku Owusu, a 40-year-old former Manager of Unity Oil Filling Station in Suhum, has committed suicide by drinking DDT Gamullio 20 insecticide.

A family spokesperson who spoke to the Ghana News Agency on condition of anonymity said Owusu and his wife lived at Suhum and had been married for five years but never had a child.

He said the situation often developed into misunderstanding between them but later the wife got pregnant and left for her home town.

According to the spokesperson, whiles Owusu was preparing for the wife to deliver, he had a shocking message from the wife that the pregnancy belonged to another man and not him.

He said Owusu, who had a shock, rushed into his room and drunk the DDT Insecticide and fell unconscious.

“Owusu was rushed to the hospital but died soon after he was admitted,” he said.

When the police at Suhum was contacted, they confirmed the story and said the body of the deceased had since been buried after post mortem examination at the Suhum Government Hospital.

GNA

Not sure what “Gamullio 20″ means, but it seems to be the brand name of the poison used.

More:


Rachel Carson project won first at National History Day competition

June 19, 2013

News from the San Ramon (California) Express [links added here, except for reporter's contact]:

Julienne Sauer in front of her project,

Julienne Sauer in front of her project, “What a book can do — Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring Launches the Environmental Movement.” (© 2013 San Ramon Express)

San Ramon student takes first at National History Day contest

by Jessica Lipsky

Windemere Ranch Middle School student was one of 30 recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for their impressive use of historic newspapers in projects presented at National History Day.

Julienne Sauer, who graduated from eighth grade last week, took first place in NEH’s individual exhibit junior division for her project titled “What a book can do — Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring Launches the Environmental Movement.” This year’s National History Day theme was “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.”

Julienne was also named a National Endowment Humanities Scholar.

The annual event is the culmination of a year-long academic program in which students in middle and high school conduct original historical research for papers, exhibits, websites, documentaries and public performances. Each year more than 600,000 students compete in local, regional and state competitions for a chance to win a spot at the national finals.

This year was the first time NEH awarded prizes to students who incorporated into their projects research using Chronicling America, a free online database of 5 million pages of historic US newspapers dating from 1836 to 1922, digitized through a partnership between NEH and the Library of Congress.

Julienne won a national finalist award at the 2011 National History Day exhibit for her exhibit titled “The Cable Car Wars: A City Debates to Preserve its Character.”

Carson’s work was good enough that, even 49 years after her death, 51 years after the publication of Silent Spring, Carson and the book still inspire students to heights of excellence in study.

More:


Querying the Rachel Carson Critics (who turned out the light?)

June 19, 2013

Another question of mine that will probably never see the light of day.  This group has no answer, so why would they allow the question?

I stumbled across a blog-looking page from the American Council on Science and Health, an industry apologist propaganda site, on World Malaria Day, which was April 25.  You may recognize the name of the group as one of the industry-funded sites that constantly attacks Rachel Carson, and often the World Health Organization, with the unscientific and false claims that environmentalists bannned DDT and thereby condemned millions of Africans to die from malaria — which, ASCH claims, could have easily been eradicated with more DDT poisoning of Africa.

On World Malaria Day, ASCH took note, flirted with the facts (that DDT doesn’t work as it once was thought to work), but then backed away from the facts — that the ban on DDT in the U.S. came years AFTER WHO suspended the malaria eradication campaign in Africa when it was discovered DDT couldn’t kill DDT-adapted mosquitoes, already subject to years of abuse of DDT by agriculture and other industries.  ASCH said:

DDT kills mosquitoes, although not as well as it did 60 years ago. But it also irritates them and repels them, so the small amount sprayed inside homes effectively reduces the transmission of the malarial microbe substantially. The banning of DDT, based upon political anti-chemical bureaucrats and “environmentalists” inspired by Carson’s “Silent Spring” who ran our EPA in 1972, helped to impede the malaria control program led by the UN’s WHO.

Impede?  Impossible for a 1972 ban to have been responsible for the earlier suspension of the WHO campaign, not to mention EPA’s ban ended at the U.S. borders.  So I asked:

Screen capture of query to ACSH on how EPA's ban "impeded" WHO's campaign against malaria, ended years earlier.

Screen capture of query to ACSH on how EPA’s ban “impeded” WHO’s campaign against malaria, ended years earlier.

Ed Darrell Reply

June 19, 2013 at 5:16 am

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I would be very interested in just how the 1972 ban on DDT in the U.S. “impeded” the UN’s antimalaria campaign, which stopped using DDT heavily seven years earlier, and was suspended in 1969.

After the ban on U.S. use of DDT, all of U.S. manufacture was dedicated to export to Africa and Asia, which greatly increased DDT supplies available there.

How did this impede?

Want to wager a guess as to whether they’ll ever allow the comment to see the light of day at their site, let alone answer it?

More:

Wall of Shame – Sites that continue to spread the pro-DDT hoax as fact:

DDT is good for me advertisement

“DDT is good for me advertisement” from circa 1955.  Photo image from the Crossett Library Bennington College.  This ad today is thought to be emblematic of the propaganda overkill that led to environmental disasters in much of the U.S. and the world.  DDT cleanups through the Superfund continue to cost American taxpayers millions of dollars annually.


Quote of the moment: Rachel Carson, on why her nature writing sounds so much like poetry

June 14, 2013

Rachel Carson said:

“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Cover of The Gentle Subversive, by Mark Hamilton Lytle, for Oxford University Press.

Cover of The Gentle Subversive, by Mark Hamilton Lytle, for Oxford University Press.

Bug Girl wrote a fine review last year of an often over-looked book on Carson, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement  (Mark Hamilton Lytle, 2007. Oxford Univ. Press.)  It’s worth your click over there to read a nice piece on Carson, on women in science, and on nature writing.

Bug Girl spends the necessary time and space answering critics of Carson, of Silent Spring, and those few odd but incredibly active and loud advocates who claim we can conquer disease if we can only spread enough DDT poison around the Earth.  Go see.

I find it impossible to stand in a place like Yosemite and not hear John Muir‘s voice — and it’s probably that John Muir found that, too.  Or stand on the shores of Waldon Pond and not hear Henry David Thoreau, or stand on sandy soil in Wisconsin and not hear Aldo Leopold, or sit on a redrock outcropping in southern Utah and not hear Ed Abbey.  They probably heard similar voices.  But they had the presence of mind to write down what they heard.

Writing wonderful prose, or poetry, must be easier when the subject sings of itself in your ears, and paints itself in glory for your eyes.

If Carson’s prose borders on poetry, does that add to, or subtract from its science value?

More:

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and n...

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and nature preservationist John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club , on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. In the background: Upper and lower Yosemite Falls. Wikipedia image


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.

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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:

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Passing the 200 post mark on Rachel Carson, DDT and Malaria

January 13, 2013

I’m running behind in listing some of the articles, but since Utah Rep. Rob Bishop first alerted me to the stupidity raging on Rachel Carson‘s reputation, DDT‘s dangers and malaria, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub hosted more than 200 articles on the topics.

Palau's stamp honoring Rachel Carson

Postage stamp honoring Rachel Carson, part of the “20th century environmental heroes” set from the South Pacific nation of Palau, PlanetPatriot image

Overwhelmingly, the evidence is that Rachel Carson was right, DDT is still dangerous and needs to be banned, but malaria still declines, even with declining DDT use.

You can look at the list of 200 articles, in reverse chronological order, here.

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