Laissez Faire Today, lazy and unfair as yesterday on issues of DDT

September 25, 2012

In June [2012] I drew encouragement that Henry I. Miller, the musty old anti-science physician at the Hoover Institution, had not renewed his annual plea to bring back DDT.  Miller is just one of the most predictable trolls of science and history; most years he waits until there are a number of West Nile virus victims, and then he claims we could have prevented it had we just jailed Rachel Carson and poisoned the hell out of America, Africa, Asia and the Moon with DDT.  For years I’ve reminded him in various fora that DDT is particularly inappropriate for West Nile . . .

Rachel Carson Homestead Springdale, PA

Rachel Carson Homestead Springdale, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since June, Miller popped up and popped off in Forbes, but using the event of the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s brilliant book Silent Spring.  Brilliance and science and history aside, Miller still believes that protecting wildlife and humans from DDT’s manifold harms is a threat to free enterprise — how can anyone be expected to make a profit if they can’t poison their customers?

Miller is not the only throwback to the time before the Age of Reason, though.  It’s time to put the rebuttals on the record, again.

Comes this morning Jeffrey Tucker of Laissez Faire Today, complaining that the resurgence of bedbugs in America is an assault on democracy, apple pie, free enterprise, and Rachel Carson should be exhumed and tortured for her personal banning of DDT worldwide.  You can read his screed.  He’s full of unrighteous and unholy indignation at imagined faults of Carson and imagined benignity of pesticides.

I responded (links added here):

I’m shocked by your mischaracterizations of Rachel Carson, her great book Silent Spring (which it appears to me you didn’t read and don’t know at all), and pesticide regulation. Consequently, you err in history and science, and conclusion. Let me detail the hub of your errors.

You wrote:

Carson decried the idea that man should rule nature. “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.” This anthropocentrism she decried.

Carson was concerned that we were changing things that would have greater effects later, and that those effects would hurt humans. Her concern was entirely anthropocentric: What makes life worth living? Should we use chemicals that kill our children, cripple us, and create havoc in the things we enjoy in the outdoors, especially if we don’t know the ultimate effects?

Exactly contrary to your claim, her book was directed at the quality and quantity of human lives. She wanted long, good lives, for more people. How could you miss that, if you read any of her writings?

She suggested that killing a bedbug is no different from killing your neighbor: “Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is — whether its victim is human or animal — we cannot expect things to be much better in this world… We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature.”

Carson never wrote that there should be difficulty in killing bedbugs. The passage you quote, but conspiratorially do not cite, comes not from Silent Spring, but from a commentary on a compilation of hunting stories.* She’s referring to killing for the sake of killing, in that passage. I think it’s rather dishonest to claim she equates fighting biting bedbugs with killing animals unsportingly. I worry that you find it necessary to so grossly and dishonestly overstate your case. Is your case so weak?

In fact, she spoke of animals in patently untrue ways: “These creatures are innocent of any harm to man. Indeed, by their very existence they and their fellows make his life more pleasant.”

She did not write that about bedbugs. That’s a false claim.**

I guess she never heard of the Black Death.

I guess you never heard of accuracy. On page 266 of Silent Spring Carson directly addressed plague in a list of insect- and arthropod-borne diseases; Carson wrote:

“The list of diseases and their insect carriers, or vectors, includes typhus and body lice, plague and rat fleas, African sleeping sickness and tsetse flies, various fevers and ticks, and innumerable others.

“These are important problems and must be met. No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are making it worse.” (Silent Spring, page 266)

Carson describes abuse of pesticides — such as DDT on bedbugs — that actually makes the insects stronger and tougher to get rid of. That appears to be your stand, now, to do whatever Carson said not to do, in order to poke a thumb in her eye, even if it means making bedbugs worse.

[Tucker continued:] In short, she [Rachel Carson] seemed to suggest that bedbugs — among all the millions of other killer insects in the world — enjoy some kind of right to life. It was a theory that could be embraced only in a world without malaria and bedbugs. But embraced it was.

That’s total fiction. What you write is completely divorced from fact.

By 1972, DDT was banned. And not only DDT. The whole enterprise of coming up with better and better ways to further human life and protect its flourishing was hobbled.

By 1960, DDT had ceased to work against bedbugs — this was one of the things that worried Carson*** and would worry any responsible person [see Bug Girl’s blog]. In her book, Carson warned that indiscriminate use and abuse of DDT would render it useless to fight disease and other insects and pests. By 1965, super mosquito-fighter Fred Soper and the World Health Organization had to stop their campaign to eradicate malaria when they discovered that abuse of DDT in agriculture and other uses had bred malaria-carrying mosquitoes in central and Subsaharan Africa that were resistant and immune to DDT. Keep in mind that the U.S. ban on DDT applied only in the U.S., and only one other nation in the world had a similar ban. DDT has never been banned in Africa, nor Asia.

Carson sounded the warning in 1962. By 1972, when the U.S. banned use of DDT on agricultural crops (and only on crops), it was too late to preserve DDT as a key tool to wipe out malaria.

Was the pesticide industry “hobbled?” Not at all. EPA’s order on DDT explicitly left manufacturing in the U.S. available for export — keeping profits with the pesticide companies, and multiplying the stocks of DDT available to fight disease anywhere in the world that anyone wanted to use it.

The fact is that DDT was a fortunate find, a bit of a miracle substance, and we overused it, thereby cutting short by decades its career as a human life-saver. That was exactly what Carson feared, that human lives would be lost and made miserable, unnecessarily and prematurely, by unthinking use of chemical substances. Pesticide manufacturers have been unable to come up with a second DDT, but not because regulation prevents it. Carson understood that.

There is no shortage of science-ignorant, and science-abusive websites that claim Rachel Carson erred. But 50 years out, the judgment of the President’s Science Advisory Council on her book remains valid: It’s accurate, and correct, and we need to pay attention to what she wrote. Not a jot nor tittle of what Carson wrote in 1962 has proven to be in error. Quite the contrary, as Discover Magazine noted in 2007, thousands of peer-reviewed studies reinforce the science she cited then.

Malaria deaths today are at the lowest level in human history, largely without DDT, and much due to malaria fighters having adopted the methods of fighting the disease that Carson advocated in 1962. Unfortunately, those methods were not adopted for nearly 40 years. Still, the reductions in malaria are remarkable. At peak DDT use in 1959 and 1960, a half-billion people in the world got malaria every year, one-sixth of the world’s people. 4 million died from the disease. In 2009, about 250 million people got malaria — a reduction of 50% in infections — and fewer than 800,000 people died — a dramatic reduction of more than 75% in death toll. This is all the more remarkable when we realize that world population more than doubled in the interim, and at least a billion more people now live in malaria-endemic areas. Much or most of that progress has been without DDT, of necessity — every mosquito on Earth today now carries the alleles of resistance and immunity to DDT.

You impugn a great scientist and wonderful writer on false grounds, and to damaging effect. I hope you’re not so careless in other research.

Rachel Carson was right. The re-emergence of bedbugs, 50 years after she wrote, is not due to anything Carson said, but is instead due to people who petulantly refused to listen to her careful and hard citations to science, and exhortations to stick to what we know to be true to protect human health and the quality of life.

_____________

* Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge, by Lisa H. Sideris, Kathleen Dean Moore, citing another of Carson’s writings, a critique of a collection of Aldo Leopold’s essays on hunting, Round River.

**  Here is the full quote, from pages 99-100 of Silent Spring, highlights added here:

Incidents like the eastern Illinois spraying raise a question that is not only scientific but moral. The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized. These insecticides are not selective poisons; they do not single out the one species of which we desire to be rid. Each of them is used for the simple reason that it is a deadly poison. It therefore poisons all life with which it comes in contact: the cat beloved of some family, the farmer’s cattle, the rabbit in the field, and the horned lark out of the sky. These creatures are innocent of any harm to man. Indeed, by their very existence they and their fellows make his life more pleasant. Yet he rewards them with a death that is not only sudden but horrible. Scientific observers at Sheldon described the symptoms of a meadowlark found near death: ‘Although it lacked muscular coordination and could not fly or stand, it continued to beat its wings and clutch with its toes while lying on its side. Its beak was held open and breathing was labored.’ Even more pitiful was the mute testimony of the dead ground squirrels, which ‘exhibited a characteristic attitude in death. The back was bowed, and the forelegs with the toes of the feet tightly clenched were drawn close to the thorax…The head and neck were outstretched and the mouth often contained dirt, suggesting that the dying animal had been biting at the ground.’

***  See page 273 of Silent Spring.

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Another facet? A different and better point of view?

September 24, 2012

Modest paraphrase from another self-proclaimed conservative:

Modern conservatism: Some 20 or 30 percent of us who never matured much past middle school, claiming to represent 99 percent, trying to win an election by a tenth of a percent so that some 4 percent of us can tell everybody else how to live, and where to put 100 percent of our money.

Where are the errors in that view?

How would Edmund Burke define ’em?  Michael OakeshottHenry HazlittFriedrich von HayekWilliam F. Buckley?  (All people who have been drummed out of the modern “conservative” movement in America in reality, even though many conservatives claim to love them.)


Adam Zyglis in the Buffalo News (December 2010?), via pics on Sodahead


Sarah Silverman on vote suppression

September 22, 2012

Absolutely, completely and totally Not Safe For Work.

But spot on.  Sarah Silverman, with humor, eviscerates the GOP’s vote suppression campaign.

Also, take a look at that handsome young man in the mortar board at about 2:06 in the video. You might recognize him as one of our nation’s better young men.

Gee.  I wonder what this will do to the blog’s G rating.

More:


Texas’s Superfund cleanup sites, listed by county

September 21, 2012

I got a notice from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

The Texas Superfund Registry has been published in the September 21, 2012 issue of the Texas Register.

64 of Texas’s 254 counties have Superfund sites, either state or federal; many of them have been cleaned up, but many are active.  My count shows 161 sites total for Texas.

You can go to the site and find the information in several different sorts — here is the list, by county, unedited, straight from TCEQ (Not sure why Parker County is listed differently).

Index of Superfund sites by county.

If a county does not appear on this list, it is because there is no state or federal Superfund site in that county. This index includes all sites—those where cleanup is complete as well as those for which cleanup or assessment is in progress.

On the county maps, a light blue star designates a federal Superfund site. A red star designates a state Superfund site.

Related Categories:
Superfund Sites in Anderson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Anderson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Angelina County Current and former Superfund sites located in Angelina County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Bell County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bell County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site..
Superfund Sites in Bexar County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bexar County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Bowie County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bowie County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Brazoria County Current and former Superfund sites located in Brazoria County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Calhoun County Current and former Superfund sites located in Calhoun County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cameron County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cameron County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Carson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Carson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cass County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cass County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cherokee County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cherokee County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Collin County Current and former Superfund sites located in Collin County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Dallas County Current and former Superfund sites located in Dallas County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Eastland County Current and former Superfund sites located in Eastland County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ector County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ector County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in El Paso County Current and former Superfund sites located in El Paso County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ellis County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ellis County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Fort Bend County Current and former Superfund sites located in Fort Bend County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Galveston County Current and former Superfund sites located in Galveston County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Grayson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Grayson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Gregg County Current and former Superfund sites located in Gregg County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Guadalupe County Current and former Superfund sites located in Guadalupe County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hale County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hale County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hardin County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hardin County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Harris County Current and former Superfund sites located in Harris County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Harrison County Current and former Superfund sites located in Harrison County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hays County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hays County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Henderson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Henderson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hidalgo County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hidalgo County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hockley County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hockley County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Houston County Current and former Superfund sites located in Houston County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Howard County Current and former Superfund sites located in Howard County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Howard County Current and former Superfund sites located in Howard County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hunt County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hunt County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Jasper County Current and former Superfund sites located in Jasper County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Jefferson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Jasper County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Karnes County Current and former Superfund sites located in Karnes County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Kimble County Current and former Superfund sites located in Kimble County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Knox County Current and former Superfund sites located in Knox County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Liberty County Current and former Superfund sites located in Liberty County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Llano County Current and former Superfund sites located in Llano County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Matagorda County Current and former Superfund sites located in Matagorda County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in McCulloch County Current and former Superfund sites located in McCulloch County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Midland County Current and former Superfund sites located in Midland County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Mitchell County Current and former Superfund sites located in Mitchell County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Montgomery County Current and former Superfund sites located in Montgomery County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Moore County Current and former Superfund sites located in Moore County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Nacogdoches County Current and former Superfund sites located in Nacogdoches County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Navarro County Current and former Superfund sites located in Navarro County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Newton County Current and former Superfund sites located in Newton County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Nueces County Current and former Superfund sites located in Nueces County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ochiltree County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ochiltree County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Orange County Current and former Superfund sites located in Orange County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Rusk County Current and former Superfund sites located in Rusk County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in San Patricio County Current and former Superfund sites located in San Patricio County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Shelby County Current, proposed, and former Superfund sites located in Shelby County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Swisher County Information from the EPA about this federal Superfund site in Swisher County. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Tarrant County Current and former Superfund sites located in Tarrant County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Taylor County Current and former Superfund sites located in Taylor County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Titus County Current and former Superfund sites located in Titus County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Tom Green County Current, proposed, and former Superfund sites located in Tom Green County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Van Zandt County Current and former Superfund sites located in Van Zandt County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Waller County Current and former Superfund sites located in Waller County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Zavala County Current and former Superfund sites located in Zavala County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Topics Under This Category:
Superfund Sites in Parker County Current and former Superfund sites located in Parker County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.

More, Superfund news from other states:


“The War Prayer” of Mark Twain (encore post)

September 21, 2012

(Updating dead links, especially from the late and lamented (here at least) VodPod, I found myself back in 2008, with this post on Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”  Fortunately, I found the film migrated to YouTube, though split in two parts.  Some information that should have caught our attention in 2008 deserves noting now, and we can update and add new links.)

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.

Many Americans, like Twain, who questioned the war, in turn had their patriotism questioned.  Why wouldn’t they get on board with the war, and kill off those Filipino rebels? the critics asked.

Here’s a film in two parts, a stunning production, produced and directed by Markos Kounalakis (who uploaded the thing); go to the film’s website for a copy of the text.

Part I:

Part II:

Why didn’t I notice this in 2008?  The film is narrated by Peter Coyote.  Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti plays the minister.  Erik Bauersfeld plays the Stranger.

Another short film of The War Prayer came out in 2007, from Lyceum Productions.  Neither version appears to be available on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Too bad.


Symphony of Science: Climate change

September 20, 2012

We had Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and Silly Symphonies, back in the early days of talkies and animation in Technicolor.

Why not a Symphony of Science now?  This is entertaining, and important — overlook the Autotune issue; it’s better to make Billy Nye sing with Autotune than to change the entire song and orchestration for Rex Harrison, especially if you have a small budget.

Here’s one guaranteed to make climate change denialists sputter — the music and quick image montages sneak through skeptical barriers.  Truth wins in a fair fight, Franklin said.  This is fair, entertaining, and you might draw a little inspiration.

Production information:

A musical investigation into the causes and effects of global climate change and our opportunities to use science to offset it. Featuring Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov. “Our Biggest Challenge” is the 16th episode of the Symphony of Science series by melodysheep.

The following materials were used in the creation of this video:

– Are We Changing Planet Earth?
– Bill Nye – Climate
– Eyes of Nye – Climate Change
– Earth: The Operator’s Manual
– An Inconvenient Truth
– Hot Planet
– How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth
– Human Planet

Oooooh.  I see they have one that features our hero Feynman.

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers, who reminded me this one existed after I saw it a while ago.


Geography Awareness Week, November 11-17; Texas poster contest

September 20, 2012

Press release from the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education (TAGE):

This year’s Geography Awareness Week theme is Declare Your Interdependence! Geographers around the nation will celebrate our interconnectedness November 11-17, 2012!

To celebrate, TAGE is sponsoring the 25th Annual Poster Contest

How are you connected to the rest of the globe on a daily basis? What images demonstrate interdependence for you? This year’s posters should illustrate different forms and examples of interdependence. Focus on the physical and cultural processes that keep you connected around the globe, and how this shapes your daily life.

More information on the Poster Contest, including rules, registration, and resources at http://www.geo.txstate.edu/tage/geography-awareness-week.html
Poster Contest Registration: Deadline October 19; Posters due to the TAGE office by October 25

Information on National Geographic’s Geography Awareness Week, http://www.geographyawarenessweek.org

Please contact us if you have any questions, and feel free to share with us new resources or ideas that you may have. We will continue to add resources and links as we find them to help you demonstrate interdependence to your classroom.

Let’s make this the best poster contest yet!

Maggie Hutchins

Texas Alliance for Geographic Education
Department of Geography
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX 78666
http://www.geo.txstate.edu/tage/
phone: (512) 245-3827
fax: (512) 245-1653

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