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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


smearing Rachel Carson with genocide

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, July 03, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
at RedState, where else?

Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Rachel Carson: Legacies of Mass Genocide

Genocide? Rachel Carson woke up one morning, thought, there are way too many sons of Cain in the Dark Continent, let's see if we can scrub it some... and voila a plan was born?

Unreal. And yes this is a Recommended Blog at RedState... par for the course.

As always, those with the patience for reading the actual history of events will find that the reason that millions died from malaria in Africa was due to a number of reasons, none involving Rachel Carson. Rather, more due to lack of public health infrastructure, exploding population growth, and increasing resistance to DDT and other insecticides:

Overseas, DDT was being phased out of the fight against malaria, but Carson and budding environmentalists were not the reason. In the 1950s, when the Global Malaria Eradication Program was launched, the U.S. had been a major financier of it. But as the years ticked by, eradication remained a distant dream, says Litsios, the retired World Health Organization scientist. (His book, "The Tomorrow of Malaria," was published in 1996.) He explains that the global program "oversold the possibility of eradication" and Congress tired of its promises. By the early '60s, the money Congress had pledged to the program dried up. In 1969, the WHO officially abandoned the eradication effort.

During that period, the fight against malaria in Africa never picked up steam. Robert Snow, head of the malaria group at the Wellcome Trust/Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi, has done considerable research and number crunching in an attempt to quantify the true burden of malaria in Africa over the last century. In an article published in 2001, in Trends in Parasitology, he wrote, "Despite the successes of the WHO eradication campaign in many parts of the world following the Second World War, most of Africa was regarded as a lost cause, and in practice the eradication of malaria in Africa was never attempted."

In the 1960s and 1970s, colonialism in Africa was ending and several countries were undergoing major changes. "Many African countries realized they couldn't really expect to progress with malaria at all if they didn't have some kind of infrastructure," says Litsios. The WHO couldn't afford to launch a massive insecticide-spraying program and help countries build up basic health services at the same time. It chose the latter, Litsios says.

Better public health services helped improve childhood mortality in Africa, but malaria programs faltered. Malaria is a complex disease caused by a parasite with a complicated life cycle. "For malaria control, you need to have a really good understanding of mosquitoes, the malaria parasite and human behavior," says Richard Tren, chairman of the board of Africa Fighting Malaria, an advocacy group that has lobbied for increased use of DDT. In the '70s, many health programs were ill-equipped to handle that complexity.

The Salon article also makes the point worth repeating that, despite all these obstacles, "malaria was responsible for 18 percent of deaths in Africa before 1960 and 12 percent of deaths between 1960 and 1989. In other words, deaths from malaria decreased during the period that treatment shifted from insecticides to medicine."

IT should be noted that conservatives like Tom Coburn are using the issue to bash liberals and environmentalists on the matter, by pointing to Ugandan Health Minister Sam Zaramba's plea to the West to "give us DDT" as evidence of liberal cruelty. But even this makes no sense. What evidence is there that anyone is denying Uganda DDT? If anything, evidence to the contrary abounds:

The US government is prepared to fund the spraying of DDT to control malaria. US ambassador Steven Browning said once the government puts in place the necessary structures and plans for the safe use of the insecticide, it would support the campaign.
"If the Uganda government requested funds to use DDT in its indoor spraying programme, and if our strict regulations are met, the US will provide funds for DDT’s use in Uganda’s spraying campaigns. As of now, no such request has been made," he said.

and DDT is explicitly allowed for global disease control by the WHO:

The EU, together with the US and 149 other countries, has signed the global Stockholm Convention. This agreement explicitly allows the use of DDT for disease control according to World Health Organization guidelines.

Amazingly, Uganda actually seems to stand alone in its refusal to use DDT, compared to its neighbors!

A number of malaria-plagued African countries—Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—had already been using DDT for interior residual spraying to prevent malaria. But seven others, including Uganda, where malaria is endemic, have refused to use it.

Whenever an African politician makes an appeal for the West to stop oppressing its people, just remember: TIA (This is Africa).

Frankly I am all in favor of massive debt forgiveness to African nations so that they can stop making obscene interest payments on multibillion dollar loans and start investing in basic public health infrastructure. That, not DDT alone, is how we eradicated malaria in the West and how malaria and an entire raft of other health afflictions will vanish from the Dark Continent.

As for Rachel Carson, she saved the American bald eagle. Take that, you reactionary jingoist blowhards.

Related: Defending Rachel Carson on DDT at Dean's World

UPDATE: just the facts, courtesy of Vic Stein.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.