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Rachel Carson’s Criticism Of DDT Focused On Industry’s ‘Indiscriminate’ Use Of ‘Biologically Potent Chemicals’

Los Angeles Times: Rachel Carson, ‘mass murderer’? A right-wing myth is poised for a reappearance
Michael Hiltzik, columnist at the Los Angeles Times

“Rachel Carson has been both a hero to environmentalists and the bane of the chemical and pesticide industries … ever since the 1962 publication of her seminal book ‘Silent Spring.’ … [Opponents of Carson have argued] the myth that Carson’s description of the dangers of the pesticide DDT, the central theme of her book, undermined programs against malaria-carrying mosquitoes around the world and therefore condemned millions of people to death from the parasitical disease. … [However, combating] malaria requires programs to have persistent management and effort and lots and lots of money, none of which are very common in the African countries where the disease is endemic. … Carson’s brief against DDT was far more nuanced than her critics say. ‘It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used,’ she wrote in ‘Silent Spring.’ ‘I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.’ Her real concern was that we had entered ‘an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged.’ When the public objects, she wrote, ‘it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.’ She was right then, and her words are a warning to us today” (2/6).

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