Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tsunami Survivors, Malaria, DDT, and Environmentalism Gone Amok....


So I had a chance to flip through a New Yorker last weekend while resting my injured foot in Florida, and I came across this story in the Talk of the Town section. In the article, (THE FINANCIAL PAGE-PUSH AND PULL) it discusses the promise made by Gordon Brown, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the United Kingdom, he said, would buy up to three hundred million doses of a new malaria vaccine for the developing world. The argument is made that drug companies have put very little money into vaccine research because they’d much rather invest in an anti-arthritis drug that well-insured Americans will take every day than a vaccine that may never command a fair price. The article continues on blaming the Drug industries for abandoning Malaria vaccine research because it is unprofitable. It then states that governments would be better off "pulling" research and vaccines out of drug companies by guaranteeing a fair market price for these drugs once the research is completed instead of the "push" theory where the Government actually pays for the research by supporting its pet causes.

Without going in to the socialized medicine argument, which essentially is what the author of the article advocates, I wondered after reading the entire article, why doesn't he mention DDT? Not once in the article is there any mention of what has been proven to be the number one most effective solution to malaria, to kill the mosquitoes before they cause the disease through pesticides. The number one most effective pesticide for killing mosquitoes? DDT.

Why is DDT not being used in third world nations to eradicate the disease carrying mosquitoes?

Environmentalism Gone Amok. Specifically, by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book "Silent Spring," which vilified the pesticide because it was killing birds and casing their eggs to be weak and causing other such environmental catastrophes.

Ronald Bailey from Reason Magazine wrote the following article-

DDT, Eggshells, and Me
Cracking open the facts on birds and banned pesticides

An Excerpt-

"In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson asked, "Who has decided—who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power."

Banning DDT saved thousands of raptors over the past 30 years, but outright bans and misguided fears about the pesticide cost the lives of millions of people who died of insect-borne diseases like malaria. The 500 million people who come down with malaria every year might well wonder what authoritarian made that decision. "

Dr Roger Bate, Director of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, also pens a similar article for TechCentralStation which details the chronology of the DDT ban in the US-

The Worst Thing That Nixon Ever Did

An Excerpt-

"Why did Nixon push for a ban? We may never know. A few older Washington DC policy experts have suggested that some of his election campaign supporters were chemical companies that produced alternatives to DDT and so stood to gain handsomely by the DDT phase out. Others say that it is more likely that senior officials in his administration pressured Nixon into the decision given the potential votes he stood to lose in his native and very green state of California. But the why of his decision pales beside what this decision has wrought: two million deaths a year from malaria alone.

"The proceeding, as a whole, was closer to a star chamber than an open hearing," concludes the Northern Illinois University study. Although Ruckelshaus should have resigned rather than implement such bad policy, the real blame appears to lie elsewhere. We may not have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore, but his political policy to ban DDT at all costs -- a policy now ardently supported by environmentalists everywhere -- continues to kick Africa's hopes for economic progress and to condemn millions to death from mosquito and lice borne diseases."

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has written extensively on this subject. In fact, he deserves credit for keeping this issue out front during his blog years, and has linked to various articles concerning the issue. Here is his summation of the reality behind DDT and Malaria-

"ON THE ONE HAND, in my area it's now routine to see bald eagles, blue herons, and other birds that only a few years ago were thought nearly extinct. Their comeback is because of the elimination of DDT spraying. On the other hand, millions of people a year are dying from a disease that we know how to control, if not entirely eradicate. And there's reason to believe that malaria is coming back -- not just in the Third World, but in the United States. Furthermore, if DDT is used properly for malaria control, which involves spraying walls where mosquitoes congregate, the environmental risks are very low and the malaria-control benefits high. Some call efforts for a complete global ban eco-colonialism and it's certainly true that, as much as I love to see the blue herons on the lake, it seems unfair that my pleasure in this is bought at the cost of millions of third-world deaths.

THE WEST NILE VIRUS is just the beginning of what the United States faces. If malaria starts up here again -- and in my area it wasn't eradicated until TVA sprayed DDT in the late 1940s and early 1950s -- you'll see a massive overreaction that will make California's periodic Medfly panics look mild. Controls on DDT and other pesticides should be based on science, not hysteria. Otherwise they're all too likely to collapse entirely in the face of another kind of hysteria.

The Tsunami survivors are currently attempting to dry out their countries from the intense flooding, and almost assuredly as a result, there will be wide-spread cases of disease carrying mosquitoes all over the region. The New Yorker article I linked to above states that the best answer to help these people is to force industry to make better vaccines, instead of what seems like the logical response, kill the disease and its source first.

Hey, I like the blue herons too, but at the expense of hundreds of millions of people dying from a horrible disease? Where do we draw the line?

Incidentally, the overlying issue of Environmentalism Gone Amok is a driving force behind the Michael Chrichton Novel, State of Fear, which I will post a review for soon.

Update: How could I have written this post and not included the following cartoon from Cox and Forkum? For shame.......

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