Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Tim Lambert has done one of his infamous hatchet jobs on Rich Karlgaard's short article on the environmental movement's patron saint, Rachel Carson. Glenn Reynolds is castigated for quoting "approvingly" from the article:

Lambert argues that, contrary to what Karlgaard leads readers to believe, the Silent Spring inspired DDT ban actually saved lives (bold in original):
FORBES' RICH KARLGAARD ASKS how many people died because of Rachel Carson?

The answer is that many lives have been saved because of Rachel Carson and it's scandalous the way Reynolds and Karlgard [sic] mislead their readers.
Lambert's thinking goes like this: because the agricultural use of DDT is, effectively, universally banned (because of Carson), the spread of DDT resistance among mosquitoes has dramatically slowed, thus DDT maintaining its mosquito lethality when used for Indoor Residual Spraying.

What Lambert doesn't tell his gullible readers is that the effective outright ban on DDT use in Europe, United States and most of the developed world discouraged DDT use by those countries needing it the most. With the advent of agricultural bans, the indoor spraying of DDT fell into disfavour with the big players in the anti-malaria effort, the World Health Organization and USAID; these two organizations only recently rescinding an effective ban on the use of DDT. In short, DDT can only save lives when it is used; its indoor use has been effectively banned, so people (lots of them) have died.

Anyway, to prove DDT hasn't been banned Lambert quotes DDT supplier Yorkool Chemical:
In the past several years, we supplied DDT 75% WDP to Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand, Myanmar for Malaria Control project, and won a good reputation from WHO and relevant countries' government.
Several years? The Yarkool page says it was last modified in March 2004 so it's not at all clear when the DDT was purchased -- perhaps prior to the 1999 and 2000 POPs Treaty kerfuffle. And since no quantities are given it's impossible to determine to what use the DDT was put -- it's possible the DDT was purchased in small quantities for research purposes.

Not only that, of the countries listed as DDT buyers, only the first six are wholly or partly in sub-Saharan Africa. This is critical because the great majority of malaria deaths occur in the over forty African countries south of the Sahara. Most of these countries are obviously not buying or using DDT -- it's availability is limited; if they aren't buying it from Yorkool, where are they getting it? Again, since DDT isn't being used in most of sub-Saharan Africa, lots of people have died.

Lambert doesn't aim to provide accurate information, he's out to score political points. In order to do that he Lamberts: he misrepresents the facts.


Post a Comment

<< Home