A DDT question

/ posted in: Enviromentalist Wacko Posts

My political persuasion is conservative on financial issues and libertarian on social issues. But I go full-fledged lefty liberal on environmental issues. That’s why reading about this article on conservative blogs this morning made me insane.

December 14, 2005
“Save the World” Enviros Are Killing Millions of African Kids
By John Stossel

The blogs I’ve seen are trumpeting this as a sign that environmentalists want people to die. They are quoting parts of the article like this:

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.

And then there is this quote:

“If it’s a chemical, it must be bad,” said scientist Amir Attaran. “If it’s DDT, it must be awful. And that’s fine if you’re a rich, white environmentalist. It’s not so fine if you’re a poor black kid who is about to lose his life from malaria.”

I went to the link for the article ready to post it and write a rant. But then I read the part that the conservative blogs are leaving out. This I think is the heart of the article.

But fear 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.

So was the DDT problem here a result of an “if a little is good, a lot is better” mentality? If measured and controlled spraying could help reduce malaria should it be used? Can people be trusted to use a chemical moderately? The U.S. proved that we couldn’t handle the responsibility.

This is an example of why I hate politics. There are deep questions that could foster meaningful discussions. But instead of focusing on that you hear the “You want kids dead!” level of debate. This is why I could never be a politician. I see too many sides of every story.