Rachel Carson

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Rachel Carson : biography

May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964

The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency by the Nixon administration in 1970 addressed another concern that Carson had brought to light. Until then, the same agency (the USDA) was responsible both for regulating pesticides and promoting the concerns of the agriculture industry; Carson saw this as a conflict of interest, since the agency was not responsible for effects on wildlife or other environmental concerns beyond farm policy. Fifteen years after its creation, one journalist described the EPA as "the extended shadow of Silent Spring". Much of the agency’s early work, such as enforcement of the 1972 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, was directly related to Carson’s work.

Criticisms of environmentalism and DDT restrictions

Carson and the environmental movement were—and continue to be—criticized by some conservatives and libertarians as well as chemical-industry trade groups, who argue that restrictions placed on pesticides, specifically DDT, have caused tens of millions of needless deaths and hampered agriculture (and, implicitly, that Carson bears responsibility for inciting such restrictions).Examples of recent criticism include:(a) Rich Karlgaard, "", Forbes.com, May 18, 2007. Accessed September 23, 2007.(b) Keith Lockitch, "", Capitalism Magazine, May 23, 2007. Accessed May 24, 2007(c) Paul Driessen, "", The Washington Times, April 29, 2007. Accessed May 30, 2007.(d) Iain Murray, "", National Review, May 31, 2007. Accessed May 31, 2007. In the 1980s, the policies of the Reagan Administration emphasized economic growth, rolling back many of the environmental policies adopted in response to Carson and her work.; Jeffrey K. Stine, "Natural Resources and Environmental Policy" in The Reagan Presidency: Pragmatic Conservatism and Its Legacies, edited by W. Elliott Browlee and Hugh Davis Graham. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2003. ISBN 0-7006-1268-8

Carson’s vocal expressions of concern about the human health effects and environmental impact of DDT has come under the most intense fire. Political scientist Charles Rubin was one of the most vociferous critics in the 1980s and 1990s, though he accused her merely of selective use of source and fanaticism (rather than the more severe criticism Carson received upon Silent Spring’s release).

In the 2000s, however, criticism of the real and alleged ban(s) of DDT her work prompted became much more intense.Erik M. Conway, Naomi Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt, 2010, p.217 The conservative magazine Human Events gave Silent Spring an honorable mention for the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries".. Retrieved August 24, 2007. In 2009, the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute set up a website Rachelwaswrong.org, asserting "Millions of people around the world suffer the painful and often deadly effects of malaria because one person sounded a false alarm. That person is Rachel Carson." A 2012 review article in Nature by Rob Dunn commemorating the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring prompted a response in a letter written by Anthony Trewavas and co-signed by 10 others, including Christopher Leaver, Bruce Ames, Richard Tren and Peter Lachmann, who quote estimates of 60 to 80 million deaths "as a result of misguided fears based on poorly understood evidence".

Biographer Hamilton Lytle believes these estimates unrealistic, even assuming that Carson can be "blamed" for worldwide DDT policies. John Quiggin and Tim Lambert have written that "the most striking feature of the claim against Carson is the ease with which it can be refuted." DDT was never banned for anti-malarial use, (its ban for agricultural use in the United States in 1972 did not apply outside the US or to anti-malaria spraying;Erik M. Conway, Naomi Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt, 2010, p.226 the international treaty that banned most uses of DDT and other organochlorine pesticides — the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants — included an exemption for DDT for the use of malaria control until affordable substitutes could be found.) Mass outdoor spraying of DDT was abandoned in poor countries subject to malaria, such as Sri Lanka, in the 1970s and 1980s, not because of government prohibitions, but because the DDT had lost its ability to kill the mosquitoes. (Because of insects’ very short breeding cycle and large number of offspring, the most resistant insects that survive and pass on their genetic traits to their offspring replace the pesticide-slain insects relatively rapidly. Agricultural spraying of pesticides produces resistance to the pesticide in seven to ten years.Erik M. Conway, Naomi Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt, 2010, p.223-4)