Regarding "Silent Spring" and the banning of DDT: recently the Wall Street Journal posted an opinion criticizing the banning of DDT by the World Health Organization. Is there hysteria around this issue, and is it worth commenting on?
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This is a rather complex question.
To begin with the sources, while the news reporting of the Wall Street Journal is often excellent and relatively unbiased, its opinion section is consistently slightly to the right of Genghiz Khan.
When we turn to the substance of the argument, there are many problems. First, Rachel Carson never argued for a ban on the use of DDT in Silent Spring or anywhere else. She called for it to be used as little as possible. Twisting this into a "ban" is indicative of intellectual dishonesty in the person putting forward this argument.
The second point is that DDT has never been entirely banned. Instead, its use began to drop as mosquitoes developed a natural resistance to the insecticide and it thus became less effective. After a massive effort in which it was hoped that malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases could be stamped out as effectively as smallpox had been, it became obvious that this was not going to be the case. Dumping more and more chemical into the environment for less and less effect would have been an insane procedure, and a very expensive one to boot. Other means of controlling malaria have proved to be equally or more effective without the collaterial damage DDT use produces.
Last, it seems hardly necessary to argue against anyone who assumes that the WHO is in the genocide business. This is the sort of thing that one gets from people who also believe the earth is hollow and we are being ruled by lizard men.
However, the hysteria is worth commenting on. There is a good deal of very flawed pro-DDT material being put out, and both from the general standpoint of reducing the incidence of fallacious argument and the more specific one of not criticizing the environmental movement in a case where it does not deserve criticism, it is useful to familiarize yourself with the issues.
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