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home : opinion : columnists May 28, 2016

5/8/2013 10:26:00 AM
Environmentalists ignore first rule of medicine

Bill Forhan

Rachel Carson was in the news again this week. Carson, who died in 1964, is often credited as the founder of modern environmentalism. Her book "Silent Spring" pilloried synthetic pesticides like DDT and was responsible for the banning of DDT in the early 1970's by William Ruckelshaus.

Ruckelshaus was the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ruckelshaus chose to ban DDT despite a report from his own hearing commissioner, Judge Edmond Sweeney that DDT, "is not a carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic hazard to man, and does not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wild life. There is a present need for the continued use of DDT for the essential uses defined in this case."

Ruckelshaus later admitted that he had not read the report of the commission or attended any of the hearings. He made his decision solely for political purposes.

It has since been estimated that 20 million children have died from malaria or other diseases often attributed to mosquitoes, lice and fleas since DDT was banned. But, according to the environmental lobby we saved a lot of birds from sure distinction.

From its original publication Carson's book and theories were not without critics who were often shouted down or belittled for their allegiance to the chemical industry. And now more than 50 years later the World Health Organization and others are beginning to question the wisdom of the ban on DDT.

Had we continued to use DDT to destroy disease carrying pests we could have made diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness, plague and yellow fever subjects of historical note. Instead we made political policy based on sloppy science and sacrificed millions of humans on the altar of environmentalism.

The human tragedy spawned by the flawed science of Rachel Carson and supported by politicians like William Ruckelshaus must be met with an aggressive response. It is far past time that we quit filling our children's minds with bad science like man made climate change, faulty carbon dioxide theory, and poorly researched theories about the environmental damage from the use of man made chemicals. Yes, there is risk in the use of these technologies, but there are also tremendous benefits. For the most part, human research into the nature of our world has resulted in extended life spans and improved quality of life for billions. Yet we continue to focus not on the benefits but on the possibility of unintended consequences. Meanwhile, millions die because of our myopia.

Rotary International has been on a mission to eliminate polio, yet there are places in the world where people believe a dose of polio vaccine is a plot to kill their children. And in our own country people who have never witnessed the horrors of smallpox, polio or other epidemics refuse to vaccinate their children putting the rest of us at risk for diseases like whooping cough and measles.

The truth is no one is intentionally setting out to make our world uninhabitable. All of this research effort is intended to improve the quality of our lives. But too many of us are focused on stopping research and putting an end to the freedom that has allowed us to explore our world like never before. Too many of us are caught up in demonizing the progress we have made and claiming how much better this world would be without cars, electricity, pesticides or vaccines.

The problem is that science has become a religion not a discipline. Disagree with the climate scientist and you will be called ignorant, uninformed and a "climate denier."

But the climate scientists cannot answer some of the most basic questions that any serious scientist should be able to address before they posit a theorem. Questions like if climate change is the result of mans interference with the natural world why were there periods in the past, before the industrial age, when global temperatures were higher, or lower, than they are today?

Too much of the work being done by environmentalists today, and supported by rule making agencies like the EPA and Washington states own Department of Ecology, is based on faulty science. When their policies mandate cleanup efforts that would make the rivers cleaner than they have ever been, they are no longer looking to sustain the natural environment. They are looking to make it into their own idea of a perfect one.

The result could well make Rachel Carson's lament come true. Unfortunately Carson's dream of a world that's safe for little disease carrying, blood sucking little insects may be un-inhabitable for mankind.

Bill Forhan can be reached at 509-548-5286 or

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