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A Rational Advocate
"The most formidable weapon against errors of any kind is reason"
 
 
DDT Saves Lives
By Peter and Helen Evans
 
Even if you haven't got the faintest idea what the initials "DDT" stand for, you probably 'know' that it is one of the most deadly inventions of mankind.  Yes, the environmentalists' spin has taken hold and, in the conventional wisdom, DDT is associated with the death of Nature, if not the end of the world.  It's use has been banned in North America and Europe.  However, if this stuff was so bad and we basically dumped tons of it on our farms up until the 1970's, then why haven't we all dropped dead in the streets?  Why isn't Spring actually Silent, as Rachel Carson's 1952 best selling book threatened? 

So what's the big deal about DDT all of a sudden?  We recently attended two lectures hosted by Roger Bate. He's been campaigning in his fashion to stop about 300 million annual cases of a debilitating disease.  No, we're not talking about AIDS; we're talking about malaria.  Most of us in the wealthy, industrialized nations don't think of it much anymore.  That's because we used DDT to rid ourselves of this disease.  Nowadays, when people speak of Washington, DC as the "fever swamp" it's a jocular reference to over-heated political rhetoric, but that nickname first arose when mosquito-borne malaria was a very real threat to much of this country.

In Africa, it's definitely no joke.  Malaria doesn't just kill about a million victims (mostly children) every year, it debilitates enough of the population so  that they can't work or care for themselves or their families.  Result:  impoverished nations dependant on... guess who?  Yes, the UN organization composed of WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF and USAID.  You'll notice the last agency (which provides most of the funding) comes from the United States and this particular agency is heavily lobbied and influenced by environmentalists who would prefer to invoke the precautionary principle and ban DDT world-wide. The implication is that they would let people die or remain dependent on them, rather than let them use the small amounts of DDT that would effectively rid them of malaria and allow them to live healthy, productive lives.

Let's consider the example of Sri Lanka.  Before DDT use began in the 1950's, there were 2.8 million malarial infections and 7,300 deaths annually.  After two decades of spraying houses with minuscule amounts of DDT (grams, rather than the tonnes formerly used in agriculture),  there were only 17 infections and 0 deaths.  By any standard, these are impressive figures.  Yet DDT had, by this time, fallen out of favor in the developed nations who had funded the house-spray programs. The money stopped and, by the end of the 1960's, malaria cases were up to half a million annually. 

Yet, instead of allowing or even recommending that impoverished countries use the small amounts of DDT that could save millions of lives, the UN has come up with extremely expensive and impressively inefficient methods to deal with the problem.  What's their solution? Insecticide-treated bed nets which cover less than 10% of the target population and anti-malaria medication to be taken after the disease strikes.  Another feature of this process is that the UN has proclaimed that anti-malarial medication cannot be patented. Thus, drug companies have no incentive to pursue a "cure" and the disease develops a resistance to the existing drugs.  In some cases the medication has become ineffective to the infected population by the time it finally reaches them. 

This is another example of international busy-bodies who want to "change the world for the better" but don't care about the human lives sacrificed in the pursuit of their altruistic purpose.  Even the UN estimates that it might take 40 years to "hand out" all the bed-nets necessary to effectively combat this disease by their methods.

What's the alternative?  Allow, nay, encourage, malarial countries to use the minuscule amounts of DDT necessary to combat malaria.  As the populations are relieved of the terrible burden imposed by this disease, their economies will improve and they can begin to take care of themselves.  They might even become so self-sufficient that the do-gooders will be out of a job.
 
Peter and Helen Evans, http://peterandhelenevans.com This husband and wife team - international teachers, freelance writers and speakers - teach a philosophical approach to conservatism.   They are also real estate agents in the Washington, DC area.

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