in Ntinda, Uganda, that country's vice president was calling on
world leaders to help save human lives -- by supporting Uganda's
use of a chemical the fear of which galvanized the environmental
movement decades ago.
On the surface,
these are two different environmental stories: one about chemicals
that supposedly might raise temperatures, and one about a chemical
that can damage eggshells. But the underlying issue is the same:
Should the law promote human life, or should it sacrifice human
beings and their quality of life on the altar of Gaia?
Two to three
million people die of malaria every year, Uganda's health minister
has said, because the U.S. government is afraid of a chemical
called DDT. The United States does spend your tax dollars trying
to fight malaria in Africa, but it won't fund DDT. The money goes
for things like mosquito netting over beds (even though not everyone
in Africa even has a bed). The office that dispenses those funds,
the Agency for International Development, acknowledges DDT is
safe, but it will not spend a penny on it.
years ago, Americans sprayed tons of DDT everywhere. Farmers used
it to repel bugs, and health officials to fight mosquitoes that
carry malaria. Nobody worried much about chemicals then. People
really did just sit there and eat in clouds of DDT. When the trucks
came to spray, people often acted as if the ice cream truck had
come. They were so happy to have mosquitoes repelled. Huge amounts
of DDT were sprayed on food and people, who just breathed it in.
all get cancer and die?
there's no evidence that all this spraying hurt people. It killed
mosquitoes. (DDT also kills bedbugs, which are now making a comeback.)
It did cause some harm, however. It threatened bird populations
by thinning eggshells. In 1962, the book "Silent Spring"
by Rachel Carson made the damage famous and helped create our
fear of chemicals. The book raised some serious questions about
the use of DDT, but the legitimate nature of those questions was
lost in the media feeding frenzy that followed. DDT was a "Killer
Chemical," and the press was off on another fear campaign.
DDT was banned.
campaigns kill people, too. DDT is a great pesticide. The amount
was the reason for the DDT problems. We sprayed far more than
is needed to prevent the spread of malaria. It's sprayed on walls,
and one spraying will keep mosquitoes at bay for half a year.
It's a very efficient malaria fighter. But today, DDT is rarely
used. America's demonization of it caused others to shun it. And
while the U.S. government spends tax money fighting malaria in
Africa, it refuses to put that money into DDT. It might save lives,
but it might offend environmentalist zealots and create political
banned in America after we started celebrating Earth Day. Environmentalists
made a lot of claims then -- I have an amusing clip of an environmentalist
exclaiming, "You are breathing probably the last of the oxygen!"
Soon after that the environmentalists mounted their campaign against
DDT. The result? A huge resurgence of malaria, more than 50 million
dead, mostly children.