Monday, 24 April 2017

Rachel Carson - mass murderer?

The website for the recent March for Science really buries the political lede pretty deep: reading it, you'd struggle to understand why scientists suddenly feel the need to march in the streets. The answer of course is that USA's President* Trump is so ignorant/corrupt that he's appointed industry shills to control the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, people whose views are in stark contrast with the climate science which overwhelmingly finds that, yes, we humans have actually fucked up the planet.

Scientists in NZ supported their USA colleagues last weekend, and good on them. Protest is politically effective, even though no-one admits it at the time. And as Trump is showing, science can have political ramifications because it affects power structures.

Which brings me to Rachel Carson. When I think of Rachel Carson, I think of as a pioneering and brave scientist who helped initiate a very valuable social awareness of the environmental hazards of pesticides. Others blame her for malaria deaths.

Seriously, they do. I knew this already but it's such an extremist fringe that I was really stunned to hear it from the head of research at New Zealand's wealthiest think tank.
Since the obvious apparently needs stating, this denies the free will of other individuals and societies to choose their own actions. Even if you assume that the DDT is the best/only way to control malaria, it is just nutty to suggest that Rachel Carson stopped that from happening. You might as well blame Henry Ford for road deaths.

Since just a bit more context that indicates Eric d


  1. A lot of people have overstated Carson's role in all this - mosquito resistance to malaria was set to grow, so it isn't like America's eradication of malarial mosquitos could have been replicated in Africa. And stopping DDT's general agricultural use was to the good. But one consequence of Silent Spring was excessive caution about DDTs use in mosquito control in places that needed it.

    This 2006 summary on the state of play on DDT seems reasonable.

  2. I find it difficult to tell whether you're including yourself in the set of people who have "overstated Carson's role in all of this" Eric.

    1. I said "Yay Malaria." I didn't say that she's responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions, because I am rather sure that's wrong.

  3. A lot of people have overstated Carson's role in all this - mosquito resistance to malaria was set to grow,
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