Although there are moments when Eli is skeptical thereof.
Keith Kloor has found a paying gig as a Lomborg imitator, you know, the guy who starts every attack on environmentalists with the affirmation that he used to be an expert reviewer for the IPCC, a member of Greenpeace, a former editor of some the Audobon Society magazine or a lifelong Democrat. They then tell you why all people concerned with the damage we are doing to the earth should do more damage and not consort with the tree-huggers. Hippie bashing has been around before there were hippies and the goal is to split the opposition, which of course, is a strong hint of the goals of the formers who really never were on whatever side they are trying to split but like to pretend they were. It is an old tactic but it ropes the newbies and you have to spend some time deconstructing it.
This tactic, on display at Slate, got a response from Chris Clarke Pharyngulia and as part of that discussion Ed Darrell wrote a long comment of his at into a masterful summary of the war on Rachel Carson and the DDT ban that never was,
Interesting view of a bit of an inside-baseball (environmental protection politics) issue, but not particularly incisive. Other than its being published at Slate, should we worry about Kloor’s views much?
The piece completely ignores that the views of those he labels “modernists” and “pragmatists” come wholly out of the research demanded by those he ignores in the old movement, whom he unfairly ridicules as hippies.
For example: It’s politically correct (in some circles) today to say (1) Rachel Carson was too strident, and (2) probably wrong about DDT “since it’s (3) not carcinogenic, we now know.” Malaria fighters around the world (4) now have DDT in their arsenal again, this view holds, because (5) pragmatists in the environmental movement finally listened. “(6) Sorry about those ‘unnecessary’ malaria deaths,” some claim the pragmatists would say.
But that view is founded on, grown in, and spreads, historical, legal and scientific error. And the progress made was based on understanding the science, history and law accurately. It’s not that pragmatists finally succeeded where the tree-huggers failed. It’s that the tree-huggers hung in there for 50 years and the world has come around to recognizing good effects, even if it can’t or won’t acknowledge the true heroes who got the work done.Go read the entire thing but Eli will steal the conclusions
It was the hard-core, wilderness-loving, science-following environmentalists who were responsible for every lick of progress on that issue.
- Carson was not too strident; in fact the President’s Science Advisory Committee’s report, “Use of Pesticides,” in 1963 called for more immediate and more draconian action than Carson did.
- Carson was not wrong about DDT; it is still a deadly poison, and it still kills ecosystems; however, as Carson urged, careful use can provide benefits in a few cases.
- Human carcinogenicity was not an issue in DDT’s being banned in the U.S. in 1972, and it’s being only a weak carcinogen now does not rescue DDT from the scientifically-justified ban; we now know DDT is even more insidious, since it acts as an endocrine disruptor in nature, scrambling reproductive organs of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, and probably birds, too.
- Malaria fighters always had DDT in their arsenal; no reason to use DDT where it won’t work, nor where it’s harms outweigh its benefits (as the National Academy of Sciences said, in 1970, in a call to get rid of the stuff).
- If there were any pragmatists in this story, they abandoned malaria-affected areas of the world years ago and have not returned; they did nothing to help save the birds; to claim they listened is to suggest they did something and can do more. Not sure that’s a case that can be made.
- There were not deaths to malaria “unnecessary” due to a ban on DDT which never occurred in Africa or Asia, while DDT was plentiful and cheap to anyone who wanted to use it (still pretty much the case today). We can’t claim great disease exacerbation when the disease actually was abated so greatly over the period of time in discussion — can’t make that claim and also claim to be honest.
Is DDT unique as an issue? I don’t think so. And I think a fair history of the environmental movement from 1975 to today would point out that it was hard-core, save-the-planet-because-it’s-the-only-home-humans-have types who pulled things out.Of course, Ed is too polite to point out that Kloor's self appointed mission is to mention in every post how shrill the tree huggers and hippies are and how no self respecting person should associate with them. In whose service does Keith do this, Eli asks.
Ed raises another important point which he then glides over, why should anyone take Kloor seriously? While he is industrious, and has been looking for a real job for years, Kloor and his pet attack dog, Tom Fuller, are, well, shallow, but the dust they kick up in a controlled environment has attracted notice, or at least enough that Discover Magazine, having lost Pil Plait, Sean Carroll, Chris Mooney, etc. decided to to try Plan B (and the bunnies know how that came out)