Home > Environment > Lomborg on the mythical DDT ban

Lomborg on the mythical DDT ban

April 7th, 2008

One of the great themes (or maybe memes) of rightwing delusionism in recent years has been the alleged ban on the antimalarial use of DDT, supposed to have cost millions (or, on some accounts, billions) of lives. It’s not hard to prove that this ban is totally mythical and that the failure of DDT to eradicate malaria, evident well before the 1972 ban on agricultural use in the US, was primarily due to resistance and cost factors. It’s also possible to trace the myth to its roots in rightwing fringe movements like the LaRouchites and the John Birch Society, and document its popularisation by tobacco lobbyists like Roger Bate and Steve Milloy, who used it to attack WHO. (Search on DDT here or over at Tim Lambert’s site for the details) But it’s harder to tell when this fringe conspiracy theory became part of rightwing orthodoxy.

This 2001 debate between Bjorn Lomborg and Tom Burke in Prospect is unfortunately paywalled, but you can read much of the text here. The money quote from Lomborg

DDT has helped wipe out endemic malaria in both Europe and north America, and its cheap protection still works wonders for third world malaria

It’s unsurprising that Lomborg takes a favorable view of DDT. What’s notable here is that, as of 2001, he hadn’t got the memo about evil environmentalists banning it. On the other hand, as this old post of mine shows, the myth had made it into more general rightwing circulation by 2003, and it was taken as incontestable truth by most rightwingers a year or two later.

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  1. wilful
    April 8th, 2008 at 11:42 | #1

    Gosh Lomborg sure was a flash in the pan wasn’t he.

  2. Mike
    April 8th, 2008 at 14:24 | #2

    I am not so sure that Bjorn was a flash in the pan. Just read the following

    http://www.sciencealert.com.au/opinions/20080304-17138.html

    And his name often pops up in “rational” opinion pieces in our only local paper (W.A.).

    Whether anybody important still pays him (or others who think his way) any attention is another question.

  3. Peter Pan
    April 8th, 2008 at 14:29 | #3

    I think both side in this debate are missing the mark. The truth is somewhere between the two extremes.

    Paul Reiter seems to be relatively well credentialed on the subject. He points out that malaria is not historically a tropical disease with outbreaks in the England, Sweden and Finland before the advent of DDT. (So scone one for the right wingers)

    Dr Reiter also makes the point that Al Gore was completely wrong in his documentary to suggest that Nairobi did not have a history of malaria outbreaks – in fact here were five major epidemics to the 1950s. (So score another one).
    (BTW: Carol Elkin’s “Imperial Reckoning” ,(http://www.amazon.com/Imperial-Reckoning-Untold-Story-Britains/dp/0805076530), gives a gruesome description of the gulag like malaria ridden swamp draining project run during the 1950s by the British Colonial Office to the East of Narobi. It’s a good read if one wants to attempt to understand what is going on in Kenya at the moment.).

    However, I found a 1970 paper on the web titled, “Problems Facing Anopheline Vector Control, Vector Ecology and Behaviour Before, During, and After Application of Control Measures”. (http://horizon.documentation.ird.fr/exl-doc/pleins_textes/pleins_textes_5/b_fdi_12-13/14122.pdf) It gives a good summary of the use of DDT and other pesticides to control malaria. The section on Indonesia/New Guinea was interesting. It seems the mosquitos changed their behaviour when dealing with DDT treated huts. They went in quick, bit, and got out quick when they were dealing with victims in DDT treated huts. This made DDT treated huts relatively ineffective compared with other bite prevention methods. (Sleeping nets and the like). (Score 1 against DDT).

    And I can remember somebody in the past telling me that the DDT killed all the insects that harvested the dry rot fungus in the grass huts in New Guinea so that about six months after the DDT treatment the huts collapsed in a heap of mouldy straw. (Score another against DDT.)

    Then there is the damage that the accumulation of DDT in the environment on the widelife. Enough said! (Score more against DDT).

    On the whole I think DDT had some wins and should not be dismissed out of hand for Malaria control in well managed situations. But it was not the universal solution and definitely doesn’t seem to do the job in situations where living conditions are basic. These seem to be the places that the right wingers are saying the use of DDT will save lives.

  4. April 8th, 2008 at 15:33 | #4

    Interesting, PrQ. Where, exactly, does Lomborg speak on the (mythical) banning of DDT? I can’t see behind the paywall.

  5. jquiggin
    April 8th, 2008 at 15:53 | #5

    Follow the second link “you can read much of the text here”

  6. April 8th, 2008 at 17:13 | #6

    Sorry, PrQ, but I cannot see anything in there where Lomberg discusses any ban (mythical or not) on DDT.

  7. Ken Miles
    April 8th, 2008 at 17:36 | #7

    Isn’t that JQ’s point?

  8. jquiggin
    April 8th, 2008 at 18:47 | #8

    OK, let me spell it out. Lomborg refers to the antimalarial use of DDT, citing it as a success story. Evidently, if DDT had actually been banned, he would not have made such statements, since there would have been no successes (or even putative successes) to refer to.

    Moreover, if in 2001 it were generally believed in rightwing circles that DDT was banned, Lomborg would probably have made some reference to this belief, either to endorse or reject it.

    But the first point is the one that matters.

  9. Ian Gould
    April 8th, 2008 at 19:06 | #9

    “Paul Reiter seems to be relatively well credentialed on the subject. He points out that malaria is not historically a tropical disease with outbreaks in the England, Sweden and Finland before the advent of DDT. (So scone one for the right wingers)”

    Does Reiter mention that Malaria had bene virtually eliminated from Northern Europe and the United States above the Mason-Dixon line in the 1930′s BEFORE the first insecticidal use of DDT?

  10. NeilAK
    April 9th, 2008 at 04:16 | #10

    So….the point of this entry was to show that Lomborg isn’t a right wing death beast because he doesn’t buy into the DDT ban? Are you saying he holds a reasonable position on the subject?

  11. jquiggin
    April 9th, 2008 at 06:26 | #11

    NeilAK. Umm, no. If your point is intended seriously, reread the post and then, if you still have questions, come back and ask again.

  12. Steve Bloom
    April 9th, 2008 at 07:25 | #12

    NeilAK, the point of the article is to highlight the rapidity with which the DDT mythology penetrated Wingnuttia following its wholesale invention around 2000 (coincident with the founding of this organization). Another example of this sort of thing is the global cooling “scare” that so many wingnuts all of a sudden find in their personal memories of the 1970s.

    Bear in mind that any actual promotion of DDT is incidental to AFM’s function, and that setting up and maintaining such organizations is very cheap relative to the value of the propaganda produced. See here for a little background, noting in particular who was asked to fund AFM at the outset and the deft weaving of tobacco, DDT and CFCs into a seamless garment.

  13. Peter Pan
    April 9th, 2008 at 11:26 | #13

    With respect to malaria in Europe: I’m no malaria expert by as I understand the situation was that although improved urban drainage and housing did reduce the incidence of malaria in Europe before WW2, it was not until after WW2 that the disease was eradicated from Europe. The disease spread up the Danube River into all the lowlands of central Europe during the war and was rife by the end of the war. Eradication campaigns using pesticides of which DDT played a staring role seem to have done the job. But it may have been the restoration of civil order was more of a contributing factor. Either way, I can’t see any thing amiss with Reiter’s claims.

    Reiter’s case is that malaria is a relatively complex disease and a simple assumption being used in the climate models that an increase in temperature means a proportional increase in malaria is misleading. Just as the right wing nasties are saying that the use of DDT will save millions of lives and eradicate malaria where people are living in poor conditions is misleading as well. No doubt DDT is saving some lives but it certainly isn’t fix everything solution.

    It seems to me that Lomborg is taking a middle ground on the issue so it hard to knock him on the issue.

  14. NeilAK
    April 9th, 2008 at 11:29 | #14

    No, really, it has been a long day here so my brain is probably not firing on all cylinders but as I read this article and the (non-paywall) links the message is:

    1. In 2001 Bjorn Lomborg did not think that there was a ban on the use of DDT for anti-malarial purposes
    2. By 2003 most rightwingers were deluded into believing that the WHO had banned DDT

    So is there some quote that I’m missing (maybe behind the paywall) where Lomborg endorses the mythical ban on DDT? Has he changed his position post-2001 to align himself with the other rightwingers? If yes, then my respect for him goes down. If no, then he seems to be somewhat reasonable on the subject – not buying into the conspiracy BS while saying DDT has usefulness in combating malaria.

  15. wilful
    April 9th, 2008 at 12:51 | #15

    Neil, it’s a pretty trivial point that JQ seems to be making and not worth worrying about (I’m sure he isn’t) – but yes you’ve got it (as much as I have got it). There is an extraordinary convergence of groupthink talking points arising from the Republican war on science. Lomborg is either a willing dupe or a paid up member, his work has fed into their FUD strategy. In this case however he has shown independence, indicating either that he’s still thinking somewhat rationally or hadn’t yet gotten the memo.

  16. jquiggin
    April 9th, 2008 at 13:01 | #16

    #14 wilful is about right

    In his later writing on this point, AFAIK, Lomborg never endorses the DDT ban myth, but he writes in a way that suggests he is aware of the debate.

    I don’t like Lomborg at all, but I will admit he is much more careful about recycling outright falsehoods than many rightwingers. For example, while he uses the doctored Simon quote of Stephen Schneider, he footnotes the entire paragraph from which it is taken.

  17. Spiros
    April 9th, 2008 at 13:06 | #17

    A bit OT, but what’s got into Don Aitkin, joining the ranks of the global warming deniers? (See today’s Oz.)

    He’s even managed the obligatory (for right wingers) but irrelevant slap at Islam.

    Not many would have picked him to become a late-flowering RWDB. Very strange indeed.

  18. jquiggin
    April 9th, 2008 at 14:56 | #18

    I had a bit of correspondence with Aitkin late last year after he signed one of those silly petitions. Not someone I would have picked as a candidate for emeritus disease, and he still writes generally sensible stuff about education in the Fin. But he seems to have swallowed the full package and he’s well on the way to trashing a hard-earned reputation here.

  19. chrisl
    April 9th, 2008 at 21:34 | #19

    Interesting how older academics seem to be more sceptical of the “infant science of climatology”(quote from Jo Abbess) than younger academics.

  20. jquiggin
    April 9th, 2008 at 23:01 | #20

    Even more interesting that you would regard Jo Abbess as an authority on the state of climate science.

  21. NeilAK
    April 10th, 2008 at 03:57 | #21

    OK, got it, thanks wilful/john

  22. Ian Castles
    April 10th, 2008 at 11:13 | #22

    Re #18. I take it, John, that the ‘silly petition’ Don Aitkin signed late last year was the Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon that was published during the Bali conference?

    I didn’t think that it was silly. I was interested that Don was one of the 100-odd signatories, and that a number of other eminent academics from a range of disiplines.

    Nor did I think that the statement by 271 Australian economists that you signed six months earlier was silly. As the first-named contact point on The Australia Institute media release that covered that ‘petition’, I don’t think you should be denigrating the efforts of others to agree upon coherent statements of their collective views.

    Incidentally, David Henderson cited the Australian economists’ statement in a presentation to International Monetary Fund staff in Washington last month, in support of the proposition that there is ‘strong public support for the consensus position among economists.’

  23. Ian Castles
    April 10th, 2008 at 11:15 | #23

    Sorry, I left out ‘also signed’ at end of my second para.

  24. wizofaus
    April 10th, 2008 at 13:26 | #24

    JQ, are you claiming Lomborg is a right winger?
    He categories denies this himself here:

    “The way I see it, to be left wing is to care
    about people and making sure there are fewer inequalities and saying that what the market comes out with is not necessarily the right outcome. I actually thought I have always been historically left wing. This comes from the French revolution. These were the guys who believed in progress but also believed in facts against old-fashioned thinking. That’s what we are supposed to be about.”

    http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article2602567.ece

    I admit to sympathising with much of what Lomborg has to say, but he does end up looking a little foolish when he strays too far into areas requiring expertise that he obviously doesn’t have.

  25. Arthur T Wall
    April 10th, 2008 at 13:47 | #25

    The headline to this thread seems to associate Bjorn Lomborg with the “right’s” claimed but in “fact” never-ever ban on DDT. Lomborg’s Skeptical Enrvironmetalist (first published in Danis in 1998)has the following references to DDT:
    1. Falls in “harmful” (Lomborg’s word) DDT residues found in shellfish in Denmark and elsewhere since 1973 (p.195). [Curious how this trend begins after the said fictitious bans!]
    2. Lomborg decribes and applauds the fall in DDEs (derivative of DDT) in the USA after 1968 (p.204 – here as in #1 he does not refer to any bans).
    3. At page 211 Lombord applauds the fall in DDT in human milk and fat in various countries since 1963 but again misses this opportunity for a reference to bans.
    4. At p. 215 he mentions but does not contest Carson’s views on DDT as a carcinogenic.
    5. At pp.231-235 Lomborg cites Paracelsus “all substances are poisons..” The right dose distinguishes what is a poison and what is a remedy. Lomborg adds: “out intake of coffee is about 50 times more carcinogenic than our intake of DDT before it was banned, 1200 more so than presnt intake, and 66 more …that the most dangeroud present-day puesticide intake, ETU”.

    So I suppose you could say this en passant mention of a “ban” (which never happened) supports the JQ headline, but it does seem to stretch a point too far.
    And so on.

  26. wizofaus
    April 10th, 2008 at 14:19 | #26

    Re: Lomborg’s comparison with coffee: I don’t think that can be connected to the ban, as I’m fairly sure the possible carcinogenic effects on humans weren’t part of the reason for banning agricultural use of DDTs.

  27. Arthur T Wall
    April 10th, 2008 at 14:32 | #27

    Apologies for typos in the above, I was called away.
    6. at pp.242-244 Lomborg mentions Time’s claim (supported by Greenpeace) in 1993 that DDT was the likeliest cause of breast cancer in the USA, but notes that the National Research Council considered it unlikely that substances whose prevalence had long been decreasing could be responsible for the increasing incidence of breast cancer.
    It seems conclusive from Lomborg’s great book that he never explicitly asserts the existence ever of a worldwide ban, and in fact supports reduced use of DDT etc as a pesticide because of its harmful effects on the environment, while suggesting to Prof. Quiggin that perhaps he should reduce his coffee intake.

  28. wizofaus
    April 10th, 2008 at 14:44 | #28

    Hmm, ok, I take that previous statement back. It would seem from http://www.someareboojums.org/blog/wp-content/images/ddt/ead.pdf that the possible carcinogenic effect on humans was listed as the first reason for the ban, on the basis that while the immediate risks were neglible, the long term risks from long-term use were more considerable. That is, if DDT had continued to be used in large quantities for agricultural use, it would eventually accumulate in sufficient concentrations to present a serious human health risk.
    (BTW http://www.someareboojums.org/blog/?p=62 is about the most comprehensive discussion of the whole DDT ban issue I’ve seen – the author actually bothered to dig up original files from the EPA).

  29. jquiggin
    April 10th, 2008 at 16:24 | #29

    #25 On the contrary, the headline is neutral and the post makes it clear that as of 2001, Lomborg had never heard the claim that DDT was banned.

  30. Arthur T Wall
    April 10th, 2008 at 20:52 | #30

    #29. Not so fast. Lomborg clearly believed as early as 1998 (Danish edition) that there were bans on DTT, which explained why DDT levels in shell fish dropped from 1973 in various countries including the USA and Denmark, v. Skeptical Environmentalist, Engish version 2001, page 235:“our intake of coffee is about 50 times more carcinogenic than our intake of DDT before it was banned”. Compare that with your statement that “as of 2001, Lomborg had never heard the claim that DDT was banned”. Clearly you are wrong.

    Your problem – and Tim Lambert’s – is that you think DTT should be banned and regret that it was not except in a few mostly OECD countries where malaria was not a problem but where excessive use as a pesticide was rightly “banned” or at least restricted, as Lomborg shows. You both imagine that non-DDT attacks on malaria are preferable to house spraying with DDT and do not equally or worse generate resistance, which is why you think it should now be banned even if it never was worldwide.

  31. Peter Pan
    April 11th, 2008 at 16:46 | #31

    I wonder why the focus was on the carcinogenic effects of DDT in the risk analysis. Given that it is a nerve toxin, I would have thought a build of DDT in body tissue would result in an increase in nervous and brain disorders. (Perhaps of the type that absinthe abuse causes given the wormwood extract in this drink is a chemical closely related to DDT.)

  32. Arthur T Wall
    April 11th, 2008 at 20:28 | #32

    For reasons that are no doubt fully explicable, Professor Quiggin has as yet failed to respond to my last. There I showed that contrary to his opening assertion on this thread, Bjorn Lomborg did in fact understand that there was some kind of ban or restriction on use of DDT as a pesticide in countries like the USA and Denmark from about 1972 (when the USA’s EPA formalised such a ban).

    Fast forwarding, we come to the IPCC, 2nd AR, 1996, when Paul Rieter, arguably the world’s leading expert on mosquito-borne disease, was recruited by the IPCC to be a contributor to its chapter “proving” that climate change would lead to malaria sweeping across the globe and wiping out most of us. Amongst his fellow 1,500 experts (the IPCC always aggregates across all disciplines), he found that for his chapter there was one whose expertise was the effectiveness of motor cycle helmets and the health effects of cell phones. Not one of the other TWENTY “lead authors” of the chapter on malaria and other vector-borne diseases had ever written a paper on such diseases (did this group include Quiggin and Lambert, I wonder?). The group of Twenty then anticipated the Stern Report by claiming that climate change (sic) would lead to malaria returning with a vengeance to London and New York, increasing the proportion of the world’s population at risk of malaria to 60%, leading to at least 50-80 million extra cases a year. This chapter by 20 “experts” was then proclaimed to the world by the IPCC as the consensus of the world’s top 1,500 scientists, not of the 20 who actually wrote the chapter (remember this was only in 1996, by 2007 we are up to 2,600 experts who are expert on ALL subjects). Reiter later refused to participate in the 2001 IPCC Report, which cranked up its prognosis nonetheless, to be seized on by the Stern Report as the basis for saying we are all doomed to die of malaria quite soon unless his mantras are adopted.

    Reiter’s take is worth noting, ignored as it is by the Henrys, Lamberts, and Quiggins of this debate: “a genuine concern for mankind and the environment demands the inquiry, accuracy, and scepticism that are intrinsic to authentic science”. I fully expect to be banned after this, just as Lambert “disemvowels” all he disagrees with.

  33. Arthur T Wall
    April 11th, 2008 at 22:27 | #33

    As I surmised, my last contribution has so far been “moderated”, this century’s word for “censored”. So here it is again.

    Arthur T Wall Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 8:28 pm
    For reasons that are no doubt fully explicable, Professor Quiggin has as yet failed to respond to my last. There I showed that contrary to his opening assertion on this thread, Bjorn Lomborg did in fact understand that there was some kind of ban or restriction on use of DDT as a pesticide in countries like the USA and Denmark from about 1972 (when the USA’s EPA formalised such a ban).

    Fast forwarding, we come to the IPCC, 2nd AR, 1996, when Paul Rieter, arguably the world’s leading expert on mosquito-borne disease, was recruited by the IPCC to be a contributor to its chapter “proving� that climate change would lead to malaria sweeping across the globe and wiping out most of us. Amongst his fellow 1,500 experts (the IPCC always aggregates across all disciplines), he found that for his chapter there was one whose expertise was the effectiveness of motor cycle helmets and the health effects of cell phones. Not one of the other TWENTY “lead authors� of the chapter on malaria and other vector-borne diseases had ever written a paper on such diseases (did this group include Quiggin and Lambert, I wonder?). The group of Twenty then anticipated the Stern Report by claiming that climate change (sic) would lead to malaria returning with a vengeance to London and New York, increasing the proportion of the world’s population at risk of malaria to 60%, leading to at least 50-80 million extra cases a year. This chapter by 20 “experts� was then proclaimed to the world by the IPCC as the consensus of the world’s top 1,500 scientists, not of the 20 who actually wrote the chapter (remember this was only in 1996, by 2007 we are up to 2,600 experts who are expert on ALL subjects). Reiter later refused to participate in the 2001 IPCC Report, which cranked up its prognosis nonetheless, to be seized on by the Stern Report as the basis for saying we are all doomed to die of malaria quite soon unless his mantras are adopted.

    Reiter’s take is worth noting, ignored as it is by the Henrys, Lamberts, and Quiggins of this debate: “a genuine concern for mankind and the environment demands the inquiry, accuracy, and scepticism that are intrinsic to authentic science�. I fully expect to be banned after this, just as Lambert “disemvowels� all he disagrees with.

  34. April 12th, 2008 at 00:20 | #34

    To help folks get a handle on the level of honesty Wall brings to the discussion, he has posted 22 times on my blog so far this month. Not once has he been censored or disemvowelled.

    His assertions about the SAR are, as far as I can tell, untrue.

  35. April 12th, 2008 at 04:04 | #35

    WRT Northern Europe and the US, the statement should be that malaria is not endemic to areas which are cold enough to kill of the mosquitoes during the winter and break the chain. Reinfection occurs by bringing in mosquitoes during the summer in freight, etc. or by people being infected in the tropics and then being bitten when the return home. DDT etc has little to do with these isolated cases, although, of course, they can spread.

    Malaria was endemic to southern Europe and the southern US.

  36. jquiggin
    April 12th, 2008 at 07:01 | #36

    I’ve been sick for past couple of days, so don’t expect anything much from me for a while.

  37. Bernard J.
    April 12th, 2008 at 14:48 | #37

    According to Arthur T Wall ‘Lambert “disemvowelsâ€? all he disagrees with’.

    There is a very simple way to refute this ludicrous claim – one need merely check any of the threads at Deltoid and count the numner of (extremely abundant) comments that disagree with Tim Lambert, and to count the number of disemvowelled posts. The latter are thin on the ground indeed.

    Even a minute or two of cursory sifting through Deltoid will show Arthur T Wall to be lying through his teeth.

    Arthur T Wall, I suggest that you take a reality check and sincerely, unreservedly and humbly apologise to Tim Lambert.

  38. jquiggin
    April 12th, 2008 at 16:21 | #38

    i checked my moderation queue and spam trap Arthur and there’s nothing from you. the problem must be at your end.

  39. Arthur T Wall
    April 12th, 2008 at 16:30 | #39

    Apologies, but how about same from Prof. Quiggin to Lomborg who is regularly denigated here?

  40. jquiggin
    April 12th, 2008 at 21:12 | #40

    ATW, having just apologized for lying about Tim Lambert, you now owe me a further apology for suggesting I’ve done the same about Lomborg.

    I’m getting very tired of trolls, so please either deliver an unqualified apology or stop commenting here.

  41. Harold Pierce Jr
    April 14th, 2008 at 20:05 | #41

    Tim and the Dingo Dogs on the Island of Doubt know that I flatout reject all of this climate change claptrap and global warming gobblygook, but I still have my bowels. As a matter of fact I flatout reject Roger Sr’s ideas that land use changes effect global climate although these can effect local and regional weather and possibily local climate.

    I base this conclusion on the fact the humans occupy only a small amount of the earth’s surface
    and of that only a quite small amount land has been totally modified from its original form as exemplified by large cities.

    The geographical surface area of Canada is about 3 trillion acres if bodies of water such as Hudson Bay and all the Arctic seas are included, but the population is only 33 million. Essentially Canada is unpopulated. Ditto for Siberia, Australia and the deserts which are 33% of the land surface area. Toss in the polar deserts, and how much land is left for humans?
    Not very much!

  42. Arthur T Wall
    April 14th, 2008 at 20:11 | #42

    JQ: so you categorically deny (a) that you HAVE ever said HERE (i.e. on your blog) that Lomborg is not a statistician, and (b) that on this very thread, that Lomborg NEVER said there had been a DDT ban? Take care, I gave the page ref here where he did say there had been such a ban.

  43. jquiggin
    April 14th, 2008 at 20:54 | #43

    ATW

    1. You are permanently barred from making any further comments on this site, as previously advised

    For the information of readers who might care:

    2. Lomborg is not a statistician. When he was an academic he was a political scientist. His published work (of which only one paper was of any note, AFAIK) was in the area of game theory and computer simulations.

    3. DDT was banned for general (but not public health use) in the US in 1972, and similar bans apply in other countries. There is no global ban on the antimalarial use of DDT, and there never has been. As far as I know, Lomborg has never contradicted these facts- certainly his statements in the discussion quoted above are consistent with them.

  44. April 16th, 2008 at 16:52 | #44

    Looks like ATW was another one of Tim Curtin’s sock puppets.

  45. jquiggin
    April 16th, 2008 at 17:09 | #45

    That’s really pathetic, but I regret to say consistent with his past behaviour. Curtin is supposed to be an academic. Resorting to posting under false names at a site where he is not welcome is not the kind of thing I would expect from any responsible adult.

  46. Ben
    April 17th, 2008 at 23:41 | #46

    Professor Quiggin,

    I am one of those delusional right wingers who think DDT has gotten a bad rap (although I have never once in my life considered myself a conservative). Granted it tends to thin the eggs shells of raptors (the famous one being the bald eagle) and caused some species near extinction.

    However we know fire is hot but we still use it to warm ourselves. I believe we just need to realize that DDT can cause harm to that type of wildlife and using it in sensible ways. There was never a worldwide ban on DDT usage but there was an ill advised campaign by WWF and Greenpeace to discourage it’s use in Africa.

    The above are the problems I have with the current public opinion of DDT and I welcome any comments that would set me free of my delusions.

  47. wizofaus
    April 18th, 2008 at 09:33 | #47

    Ben, question for you, given the vast majority of lobby groups put human interests above those of other species, do you think it’s unacceptable that there are one or two that put the interests of other species above those of humans?

    (I actually don’t particularly believe the WWF puts the interests of other species ahead of those of humans, but I can understand why some might see them that way).

  48. Ben
    April 18th, 2008 at 10:27 | #48

    Hi wizofaus,

    Not at all. As long as it’s not done at the expense of humans. In the DDT example I would be happy for people to lobby for the intelligent use of DDT as a vector control agent in areas where it will not harm affected species. Just not a blanket ban.

  49. wizofaus
    April 18th, 2008 at 10:55 | #49

    But that’s just it…a lobby group that puts the interest of other species above those of humans IS by definition promoting things that, in one way or another, “at the expense of humans”.

    After all, most of our existence is at the expense of other species. For the most part, this is reasonably justifiable (seeing as any species that doesn’t put itself first isn’t going to last long), but it’s when we start imagining that the needs of other species count for nothing that we risk creating a uninhabitable (or at least not very pleasant) world.

  50. Ben
    April 18th, 2008 at 11:04 | #50

    There is a difference between being at the expense of human convenience and the expense of human lives. It might be easier just to spray an entire nation with DDT and have done with it but that puts carrion at risk. However if we ask a nation to ban DDT outright it is placing Humans in harm’s way.

    Why would a group that puts animals first feel the need to advocate a course of action that doesn’t help the animals yet in turn harms humans?

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