Lewis & Clark: Enrichment sources for teachers and students

July 17, 2007

David Horsey of Seattle P-I, on the Lewis and Clark expedition

David Horsey is an editorial writer and cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons.  In 2005, the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, he retraced the path of the explorers from the Continental Divide to the Pacific.  Horsey photographed his journey, wrote about it, and made drawings.

This is a rich resource for anyone studying the opening of the West, and especially the Lewis and Clark Expedition, exploring the territory included in 1803’s Louisiana Purchase. Let’s hope the Seattle Post-Intelligencer keeps the site available for teachers and students.

Illustration by David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.


Not reading for comprehension: Glenn Reynolds, National Geographic and DDT

July 17, 2007

It’s best to avoid the tabloids most of the time, but particularly its good not to rely on tabloids for good information for making policy.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, often an internet tabloid, demonstrates these dangers, especially with regard to the hoax campaign against Rachel Carson and the World Health Organization.

In a post today, Instapundit said:

A REPORT ON MALARIA, from National Geographic.

And note this bit:

Soon after the program collapsed, mosquito control lost access to its crucial tool, DDT. The problem was overuse—not by malaria fighters but by farmers, especially cotton growers, trying to protect their crops. The spray was so cheap that many times the necessary doses were sometimes applied. The insecticide accumulated in the soil and tainted watercourses. Though nontoxic to humans, DDT harmed peregrine falcons, sea lions, and salmon. In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, documenting this abuse and painting so damning a picture that the chemical was eventually outlawed by most of the world for agricultural use. Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. “The ban on DDT,” says Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, “may have killed 20 million children.”

Read the whole thing. [Emphasis from Instapundit.]

“Malaria: Stopping a Global Killer,” cover of National Geographic Magazine, July 2007. Test to see if your reading comprehension is better than Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds!

Please do read the whole thing — what is emphasized is not what the brief snippet at Instapundit says at all. The National Geographic article, “Bedlam in the Blood,” gives details of the fight against malaria, including details about how difficult it is to beat. Among other things, the article talks about the medical difficulties and the political difficulties. The article emphasizes that there is not a panacea solution, including especially DDT.

But, that paragraph Reynolds quotes already carries that message. Did you miss it? Reynolds appears to have missed it big time. Here’s the paragraph again, with my emphasis for what you should understand about the difficulties

Soon after the program collapsed, mosquito control lost access to its crucial tool, DDT. The problem was overuse—not by malaria fighters but by farmers, especially cotton growers, trying to protect their crops. The spray was so cheap that many times the necessary doses were sometimes applied. The insecticide accumulated in the soil and tainted watercourses. Though nontoxic to humans, DDT harmed peregrine falcons, sea lions, and salmon, [especially predators of mosquitoes]. In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, documenting this abuse and painting so damning a picture that the chemical was eventually outlawed by most of the world for agricultural use [years later]. Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. “The ban on DDT,” says Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, “may have killed 20 million children.”

In the critical area of Subsaharan Africa, governments were unable to put together programs to spray for mosquitoes and deliver pharmaceuticals to victims. Although DDT was largely ineffective against the mosquitoes that carried some forms of the disease in that area, the human institutions simply did not exist to make an eradication program work.

Instapundit puts the blame on Rachel Carson, as if the later restrictions on DDT were what she urged, and as if Carson could personally have saved the Belgian Congo, Rwanda, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and other nations from revolutions that crippled governmental efficacy throughout Africa.

Read the entire article. Malaria eradication in the U.S. was made easier by the fact that the mosquitoes that carry the disease here tend to eschew humans for meals — they bite cattle instead (who have their own forms of malaria). The U.S. had money to put screens on windows, a medical establishment to treat malaria, and the less aggressive form of the malaria parasites.

Subsaharan Africa had none of those advantages. Reynolds suggests, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute says, all of that was Rachel Carson’s fault.

The power of a bad, wrong idea should not be underestimated. Malaria cannot be conquered today without a combination of better medical care, education, strong governmental agencies to carry out government malaria-fighting programs, and consistent work to prevent evolution of malaria parasites into tougher diseases, or malaria-carrying mosquitoes into pesticide-resistant weapons of disease dissemination.

If Reynolds were to actually read Silent Spring, he’d begin to understand the enormity of the problems, and he could become a tool to stop the spread of malaria, instead of a voice unwittingly calling for surrender.

DDT is not a panacea against malaria now. Insects are resistant, the parasites are resistant to medical treatment (and DDT never played a key role in that process), money is scarce for creating and distributing effective blocks to malaria infections, and political institutions to fight the disease are wobbly. None of that is Rachel Carson’s fault. Much of that information was carried in the warnings from Rachel Carson.

But, if you read the article, you understand that DDT never could have been effective against some of the worst forms of malaria. DDT was never a panacea against malaria.

You won’t learn that from tabloid journalism, which offers solutions to difficult problems which are, as Ronald Reagan described them, simple and easy, but also ineffective and wrong. Instapundit misleads with such reports.

Read the rest of this entry »


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