Monday, May 17, 2010

DDT, Malaria & the Religion of the Self

The fact that the best weapon against malaria, which still kills almost a milion people every year, is DDT, is well-known, but the reasons why the environmental movement still calls for its ban so strenuously, has been little explored.

This bracing article from The Catholic Thing changes that.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps it is just an unhappy irony that one of the most hallowed days on the environmental activist’s calendar, last month’s Earth Day, falls so uncomfortably close to the much less covered Malaria Day. The same impulse that spawned the former retards efforts to control the latter. That might be too soft a way of putting it: environmentalists’ insistence upon taking the pesticide DDT – simply the best anti-malarial weapon available – off the table has resulted in tens of millions of vulnerable people dying in faraway lands; basic application of DDT could have prevented this.

“This is a case study par excellence of the need to see our duties towards the environment and the application of technology, as Benedict XVI insists in Caritas in Veritatis, in light of the paramount importance of human life itself. Getting that right is one reason why everyone – even non-Catholics – would profit from Benedict’s approach to environmental issues.

“DDT was originally quarantined because Rachel Carlson’s influential 1962 book Silent Spring alleged that the chemical was harming wildlife, the environment, and human health – unsubstantiated claims whose residual effects linger to this day. The World Health Organization announced last year, after sanctioning a brief and successful return to DDT use, that it is now aiming for “its total phase-out by the early 2020s if not sooner." A “zero DDT world” is WHO’s objective – as if DDT did harm, and as if there were other equally effective means of fighting malaria. Meanwhile, malaria still kills almost one million people a year. …

“The egocentrism of those who shudder at the thought of utilizing “chemicals” such as DDT for philanthropic purposes of vector control comes into sharper relief when they express no concern about the environmental impact of artificial contraception. The pill – ingested by millions of women on a daily basis – harms the environment. DDT in the quantity necessary for malaria control does not. The pill causes cancer; DDT does not.”