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.
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.
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?
I’ll have to beg forgiveness from Tim Lambert, but in the interest of accuracy and good history, I have captured below the post Tim Lambert had on the old Deltoid blog (at the Seed Science Blogs site), dealing with Indur Goklany’s errors on DDT.
A bit of other history: Anthony Watts despises my posts (me, too, probably) and I am banned from his site for various sins including calling him out for suggesting Rachel Carson and President John F. Kennedy had more than an occasional handshake personal relationship (a bizarre charge Christopher Monckton repeats and exaggerates on in slightly different ways). Watts and I disagree on what we should regard as facts; I take the old collegiate debate and Scout Law positions, he sides with the Heartland Institute parody/comedy/hoax troupe.
Watts was having none of my corrections. Tim Lambert, who has researched this particular area of pro-DDT hoaxing more than anyone else, was kind enough to respond.
This is borrowed from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, until, and then maybe a supplement to, the reappearance of Deltoid’s archives at the new site. As of April 10, 2018, I have not checked the links. If links don’t work, please tell me in comments, and I’ll work to get a new link to the old information where possible.
You should also know that Sri Lanka today is certified to be malaria-free, without DDT.
Below, Tim Lambert’s post on Indur Goklany’s errors about DDT history:
Ed Darrell points to a WUWT post by Indur Goklany which promotes the use of DDT to fight malaria instead of more effective measures. As with most of the DDT promoters, Goklany carefully avoids mentioning the way mosquitoes evolve resistance to insecticides. For example, here’s what he has on Sri Lanka:
For instance, malaria incidences in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) dropped from 2.8 million in the 1940s to less than 20 in 1963 (WHO 1999a, Whelan 1992). DDT spraying was stopped in 1964, and by 1969 the number of cases had grown to 2.5 million.
Now compare this with what really happened in Sri Lanka:
With widespread resistance of A. culicifacies to DDT, malathion spraying was introduced in 1975 in areas of P.falciparum transmission affording protection to nearly one million people. Towards the end of 1976 DDT spraying was completely discontinued and during 1977 exclusively malathion was used as an adulticide.
Note that the scale for malaria cases is logarithmic, so there was a factor of ten reduction in the number of cases in a few years after DDT spraying was discontinued.
The misinformation about DDT and malaria that Goklany spreads is harmful and could kill people. DDT still has a place in the fight against malaria (because of insecticide resistance we need as many different insecticides as possible), but there are more effective means available, and by trying to undercut the use of the best methods for fighting malaria, Goklany will be responsible for people dying from malaria.
[End, quote from Tim Lambert’s old Deltoid blog]
Now, is it possible that the comments will copy as well as the blog post? There are some good ones in there.
Here’s a try at copying the comments, below the fold.
In the notoriously wrong and misleading “100 things you should know about DDT” posted by pro-DDT, anti-wildlife Steven Milloy of “Competitive Enterprise Institute” and Fox News fame, based on the foggy rant of Dr. Gordon Edwards, we get these two misleading claims:
69. After 15 years of heavy and widespread usage of DDT, Audubon Society ornithologists counted 25 percent more eagles per observer in 1960 than during the pre-DDT 1941 bird census. [Marvin, PH. 1964 Birds on the rise. Bull Entomol Soc Amer 10(3):184-186; Wurster, CF. 1969 Congressional Record S4599, May 5, 1969; Anon. 1942. The 42nd Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Magazine 44:1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942; Cruickshank, AD (Editor). 1961. The 61st Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2):84-300; White-Stevens, R.. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas Bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]
99. The Audubon Society’s annual bird census in 1960 reported that at least 26 kinds of birds became more numerous during 1941 – 1960. [See Anon. 1942. The 42nd annual Christmas bird census.” Audubon Magazine 44;1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942), and Cruicjshank, AD (editor) 1961. The 61st annual Christmas bird census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2); 84-300]
100. Statistical analysis of the Audubon data bore out the perceived increases. [White-Stevens, R. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]
Those claims are false with regard to bald eagles.
The careful citations offered by Milloy and Edwards simply do not exist; if the source exists, the source does not say what is claimed by these guys. (Don’t take my word for it; go see for yourself.)
Audubon never suggested, in any forum, that their famous Christmas Bird Count had shown increases in eagles. Most other species showed no increases, either. I spent a couple of days at the library of Southern Methodist University reviewing every issue of Audubon Magazine from 1941 through 1974, and found not a single article suggesting anything other than declining eagle populations in the lower 48 states (Alaska eagles were not untouched by DDT, but were not so seriously affected; and as you will see below, the first counts of Alaska’s eagles did not occur until after 1950, so the addition of numbers from Alaska counts do not indicate an increase in U.S. population of eagles.)
I also reviewed each bird count, usually published in a separate booklet with the March issue of Audubon in that time. While raw numbers increased, that was clearly due to increases in people observing. At no point did any ornithologist or Audubon member suggest eagles were in recovery, from 1941 through 1972.
That’s a long explanation, unsuitable for quick discussion on blogs, and wholly too much for a 140-character Tweet. My experience with Milloy and his followers is that they will say my analysis somehow errs, though they cannot offer any real analysis from any other source that isn’t just a misreading of the raw bird count.
I wrote the Audubon Society, and asked them to respond to the claim. At first the press office thought the claims so bizarre that they didn’t think a reply necessary. I sent them a half-dozen links to other documents that cited Milloy and Edwards. Delta Willis at Audubon took the claims to officials of the bird count.
Geoff LeBaron, Director of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count sent the following reply (posted without correction).
See also the footnote from Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham appended to the end of the e-mail.
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 10:21 AM
To: Willis, Delta; Langham, Gary; Dale, Kathy
Subject: RE: DDT and effects on birds, and Audubon Christmas bird count
From the 1930s through 1970s there was a tremendous growth in the number of Christmas Bird Counts, from 203 total counts in the 30th CBC to 1320 counts in 80th CBC. The number of observers on those counts rose from 679 in 30th to 32,322 in the 80th Count. That is a tremendous increase in effort as well as geographic coverage, and more people in more areas are going to count more Bald Eagles, even if the populations are [were] declining.
A second major factor is that during that period many CBCs were started with the specific goal of censusing wintering Bald Eagles. Thus we were targeting the areas where eagles were wintering, and thus tallying a much greater percentage of the total population.
Thirdly, there were only two individual CBCs conducted in Alaska prior to the late 1950s. Bald Eagle populations never suffered dramatically in Alaska [from DDT?], and their numbers were always much higher there. Since the late 1950s there has been a tremendous growth in the number of counts in Alaska—again, with some of these counts targeting areas where wintering eagles congregate even in the thousands. These counts added in Alaska can contribute greatly to the total number of Bald Eagles in each season’s CBC.
Thus even while Bald Eagle populations were plummeting in the lower 48 states (outside of Florida) CBC [Citizen Science] efforts were greatly increasing, and in fact targeting monitoring Bald Eagles. That is why both the raw number of eagles and the numbers when weighted for observer effort went up when you pull CBC data for Bald Eagle during the decades of heavy DDT use.
It’s still educational to look at raptor numbers in CBC data in the years following the banning of the use of DDT in the US. Many species of raptors show a rapid rebound in numbers after the mid-1970s…and Bald Eagles also dramatically increased.
Per Dr. Gary Langham, Audubon Chief Scientist: Audubon scientists are careful to include levels of participation and geographic coverage in all analyses. Fortunately, we have tracked both of these aspects since the CBC was started and so it is straightforward to adjust for their impacts.
Bird counts do not show that eagles were out of trouble during DDT years, roughly 1946 through 1972; especially they do not show that bald eagle populations increased.
Explanation of the Christmas Bird Count in four minutes, by Chan Robbins.
Nota bene: Yes, this has sat in my “to be published” box for too long. It was scheduled for publication, but it appears I had not hit the “publish at scheduled time” button. My apologies to readers, and especially to Audubon’s scientists and press people.
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.
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.
Discover magazine carried an article about DDT and Carson’s book in November 2007. Discover 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 DDTJune 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.
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?
- Bangor High School Speech and Debate students head off to championships (bangordailynews.com)
- Heritage freshman headed to speech and debate nationals (utsandiego.com)
- Rachel Carson/DDT hoaxing from the Ayn Rand Institute (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- DDT Chronicles at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub – more than 200 posts on the dangers of DDT, the fight against malaria, and fighting the hoaxes against Rachel Carson and science
- Appleton, Wisconsin, Post-Crescent: “Birds in our area worth watching”
- Poughkeepsie, New York, Journal: “Endocrine disruptors pose serious hazard”
- San Jose Mercury-News: “Piedmont: Chemicals’ impact on health problems detailed in talk”
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].”
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.
- ‘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 Fever: How malaria has ruled mankind for 500,000 years.
- Ode to (Silent) Spring (theamericanscholar.org)
- Prenatal exposure to pesticide DDT linked to adult high blood pressure (sciencedaily.com)
- First day of the conference celebrating Rachel Carson’s and Ruth Harrison’s books – 50 years on (cabiblog.typepad.com)
- The Silent History of Rachel Carson (misbehavedwoman.wordpress.com)
- Pertpetuating Crichton’s version of the DDT hoax (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Global Environment Facility: “Countries move toward more sustainable ways to roll back malaria”
Wall of Shame (hoax spreaders to watch out for this week):
- Michael Mann now a DDT expert; Defends indefensible Rachel Carson – Rachel lied, millions died (and are still dying) (junkscience.com)
- Green Luddites (possil.wordpress.com)
- 20 Years Ago: 4-18-93 – Feds designate Rachel Carson home as national landmark (junkscience.com)
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?
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.
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.
- DDT Linked to High Blood Pressure in Women (scientificamerican.com)
- Steven Milloy, campaigning to be the greatest DDT/malaria hoaxster in history, even bleeds his hoax over into his anti-warming hoax: “Michael Mann now a DDT expert; Defends indefensible Rachel Carson – Rachel lied, millions died (and are still dying)” (junkscience.com) (Not a single claim in Milloy’s piece has any passing acquaintance with truth.)
Love this photo, from the great folks at Yellowstone National Park:
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.
- Biodiversity: Yellowstone bison get more room to roam (summitcountyvoice.com)
- Eagle viewing is worth the trip (omaha.com)
- Opportunities to watch eagles soar this year (jsonline.com)
- Best of Fish & Bicycles: Consider The Bald Eagle (fishandbicycles.com)
- Volunteers Needed to Count Bald Eagles (joanmoseley.wordpress.com)
- Runner-up (nextdoornature.org)
- Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey counts thousands of bald eagles in Iowa (iowaenvironmentalfocus.org)
- Bald eagle hunts near downtown Denver in City Park (denverpost.com)
- “DDT blamed in chimney swift decline,” January 19, 2013, Charleston, West Virginia, Saturday Gazette-Mail
- William Souder’s biography of Carson, and DDT, On a Farther Shore, hit bookstores on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring; review in the Christian Science Monitor; New York Times’s Sunday Book Review; Washington Post review; hour long interview of Mr. Souder, on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show
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:
- Do they get lost in the Milky Way? Sensuous Curmudgeon dissects story on dung beetles navigating, notes without dung beetles around, we’d be up to our fannies in dung. With links, this story tells us what’s wrong with the Republican National Commitee, the GOP leadership in the House, the Texas Lege, and current Education Deform efforts — a dramatic shortage of dung beetles. Is it climate related?
- Slow e-mail: Popped up this week the links to this blog from Bug Girl’s epic post on the truth about Rachel Carson, way back in 2007. Bug Girl’s blog is dormant, but this fisking of the rabidly anti-Rachel Carson, pro-Poison Africa for profit gang and their claims, is a piece you should have bookmarked. William Souder’s book is a great step in the direction of getting the truth; but the hoaxsters, like Stephen Milloy and the pseudo-charity group Africa Fighting Malaria, are still at it.
- Serious blow to all political theory: GOP partisans get crazier about conspiracies, the more they know that should tell them differently.
- Jim Stanley keeps telling me I should read Fred Clark’s stuff at Slacktivist. I especially like these compilation, olla podrida posts of his, like this one, “Good news, for people who like good news.” Lots of good stuff to chew on.
- Friendly Atheist’s Hemant Mehta noted the introduction of a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to declare Darwin’s birthday as “Darwin Day.” Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, just a few hours different from Abraham Lincoln. New Jersey’s Rep. Russ Holt introduced the resolution. Regardless Congress’s action, there will be celebration.
- KTHV in Little Rock, Arkansas, reports just the facts about a bill to put Bible classes in Arkansas schools — and it makes a rational person wonder why so-called Christian fundamentalists are so tone deaf on religion in public schools, and simultaneously so out of touch and unfamiliar with scriptures they wish to make into ungodly idols.
- You could do a heckuva history class just using the episodes of James Burke’s Connections from PBS. Kids would probably love it. This sort of experimentation to improve the quality and relevance of a class is directly discouraged by almost all “education reform” efforts today. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, watch some episodes online. This could be great material for elementary and middle school science classes; an industrious teacher could make these work in high school physics, chemistry, and other science courses.
- Vicco, Kentucky’s city council lights the path for reform of the Republican Party. GOP ain’t listenin’.
- Most educators exhibit profound disappointment with the Obama administration’s action and lack of attention on education issues. Will we see changes in the second term?
- Teachers standing up against the War on Education are too rare. Tough economic times.
- Why isn’t your local paper providing more coverage of events in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economics Conference? Worse, how do I know your local paper isn’t paying attention, without having to bother to ask you where you live or what your local paper is?
- It’s winter. Every winter storm will provide new opportunities for truly clueless or truly evil people to question whether global warming is an issue — and they will. Grist gives five quick answers to such ill-informed, ill-intended disinformation. Meanwhile, Mother Jones gives a rundown of what you need to know about climate change generally.
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.
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.)
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
- African nations still use DDT.
- There’s a lot of DDT in Africa to be used.
- 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.
- DDT is cheap in Africa (US$4.50/kilogram).
- 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).
- 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.
Posted By EthioSun 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.
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.
What’s the story? Simple: that Bald Eagles and Osprey were pushed to the edge of extinction by DDT.
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.
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
Nota bene Mr. Heller does not claim DDT use against malaria-causing mosquitoes was ever banned. He focuses instead on the promotion of DDT.
Truth in art.
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.
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.
- Kleinpeter Dairy site
- Bartlett and Steele, the two reporters who wrote the article for Vanity Fair
- Milloy unfairly goes after campaigns for clean water