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Malaria, DDT

Forty years of perverse "social responsibility"

By Paul Driessen

Monday, March 26, 2007

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean," said Humpty Dumpty -- "neither more nor less."

Lewis Carroll's "Looking Glass" logic often seems to be a guiding principle for environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activists. They claim to be committed to people and planet, not just profits -- and to honesty, transparency, accountability and human health. One would expect that such basic ethical standards would apply equally to for-profit companies and nonprofit advocacy corporations.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on global warming, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 21, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)

However, the activists who defined them routinely exempt themselves. For them, CSR standards are primarily another weapon for bludgeoning opponents, raising money and advancing political agendas. Their DDT and global warming campaigns are illustrative.

Forty years ago, Environmental Defense (ED) was launched to secure a ban on DDT and, in the words of co-founder Charles Wurster, "achieve a level of authority" that environmentalists never had before. Its high-pressure campaign persuaded EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus to ignore the findings of his own scientific panel and ban DDT in the US in 1972.

Those findings and research by other scientists showed that DDT is not harmful to people, birds or the environment, especially when small quantities are sprayed on walls to repel mosquitoes and prevent malaria. But ED and allied groups continued their misinformation campaign, until the chemical (and other insecticides) were banished even from global healthcare programs.

Thankfully, DDT had already helped eradicate malaria in the United States and Europe. But the disease still sickens 500 million people a year and kills 2 million, mostly African women and children. Since 1972, tens of millions have died who would likely have lived if their countries had been able to keep DDT in their disease control arsenals.

A year ago, the USAID and World Health Organization finally began supporting DDT use once again. But ED, Pesticide Action Network and other agitators still promote ridiculous anti-DDT themes on their websites, claiming for instance that it is "associated with" low birth weights in babies and shortened lactation in nursing mothers.

Even if true, notes Uganda's Fiona Kobusingye, these risks "are nothing compared to the constant danger of losing more babies and mothers to malaria." She speaks from bitter experience. She's had malaria at least 20 times and lost her son and two sisters to the disease, which also claimed a fifth nephew just last week.

"How can US environmentalists tell us we should be more worried about insecticides than about malaria?" she asks. "Their attitudes are immoral eco-imperialism -- a crime against humanity."

None of these pressure groups has ever apologized for their disingenuous campaigns or atoned in any way for the misery and death they helped perpetuate --much less been held accountable. They won't even promise to be more honest in future campaigns and fund-raising appeals.

Instead, they blame today's still horrendous malaria rates on global warming. Malaria was once prevalent over much of Europe and the United States, even in Siberia -- and they want people to think the disease is spreading because global temperatures have risen a few tenths of a degree. Even worse, they are using fears of climate chaos to justify their long antipathy to energy and economic development.

Paul Driessen is author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ? Black death ( and senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, whose new book (Freezing in the Dark) reveals how environmental pressure groups raise money and promote policies that restrict energy development and hurt poor families.
Paul can be reached at:

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