When I wrote about the anti-environmentalist textbook Facts, Not Fear, I mentioned being astonished by the authors’ attack on the DDT ban, even though the ban rescued the bald eagle and other American raptors from extinction.
I should have mentioned that the ban came about in response to Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, the first popular work to sound the alarm about heedless damage to the environment.
Now I find that Aaron Swartz has the back story to a bizarre right-wing version of recent history, in which DDT is good for us, banning it has killed poor little innocents in Africa (via malaria), and Rachel Carson is the moral equivalent of Hitler. Versions of this tale, which oversimplify both science and history, have made it into several newspapers of record, the New York Times Magazine, and the fiction of Michael Crichton.
It’s all in “Rachel Carson, Mass Murderer? The Creation of an Environmental Myth.” A quick read, highly recommended.
P.S. Anyone want to venture a guess as to whether Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter-based campaign against malaria (here and here) will turn into a full-court press to lift the ban on DDT? If so, Yorkool Chemical, Sanofi Aventis, and other megacorps should be pleased. They still make the stuff.