Home > Boneheaded stupidity, Environment > Hoover channels LaRouche

Hoover channels LaRouche

September 2nd, 2014

Despite my attempts at zombie-slaying, the myth that Rachel Carson advocated and caused a worldwide ban on DDT, leading to the deaths of millions, keeps being reanimated. I came across an example that is interesting mainly because of its provenenance. It’s by Henry I Miller of the Hoover Institute and Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI is hack central, so nothing it produces ought to surprise anyone. But Hoover boasts a Who’s Who of (what remains of) the right wing intellectual apparatus: Hnery Kissinger, Condi Rice, John Taylor and Harvey Mansfield, among many others. And Miller was apparently ” founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology”. So, the fact he can run this kind of thing is good evidence of total intellectual collapse on the right.

The two main authorities cited by Miller and Conko in their critique of Carson are “San Jose State University entomologist J. Gordon Edwards” author of “The Lies of Rachel Carson” and “Professor Robert H. White-Stevens, an agriculturist and biology professor at Rutgers University”. Unfortunately, Miller and Conko don’t reveal that Edwards’ piece was published (like much of his work on environmental issues) in the LaRouchite journal “21st Century News”. And, while describing White-Stevens academic affiliation (dating to the 1950s as far as I can tell), they don’t inform readers of the more relevant fact that, when he offered a patronising critique of “Miss Carson’s ideas”, he was a spokesman for American Cyanamid. That’s right: as refutation of Rachel Carson in 2012, this Hoover Institute Fellow is offering the PR put by a pesticide company in the 1960s, along with a screed by a far-right loony.

I suspect the reason these facts weren’t revealed is that Miller and Conko weren’t aware of them. Their piece looks to have been cobbled together from various bits of flotsam in the rightwing blogosphere.

I’d be interested to see if any of the rightwing luminaries associated with the Hoover Institute is willing either to criticise or endorse this piece. My guess is that tribal solidarity will preclude the former and residual intelligence the latter.

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  1. Megan
    September 2nd, 2014 at 19:40 | #1

    Bears a fairly close resemblance to a piece at “CapitalismMagazine.Com” from 2002 by Steven Brockerman. “Environmentalist Mythology, Part 1: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring–Killing Us Softly”.

  2. Ikonoclast
    September 2nd, 2014 at 19:53 | #2

    The right wing liars have got the world they want. Too bad it’s unsustainable. I wonder when they will realise it’s collapsing. Adam Smith once wrote that there’s a “great deal of ruin in a nation,” by which he meant it takes a lot to ruin a nation. However, there’s also a great deal of overshoot in exponential growth. Which means by the time the right-wing ideologues and oligarchs realise they and the rest of us are in dire trouble, it will be far too late.

  3. Michael
    September 2nd, 2014 at 22:24 | #3

    @Ikonoclast
    Don’t worry, the super rich are pretty confident they can insulate themselves from the downsides. This may not be entirely true, but when has reason and logic triumphed over greed in the short-term?

  4. Megan
    September 2nd, 2014 at 23:14 | #4

    There is a lot to deal with in the ‘Forbes’ piece. And so much of it is a Gish-Gallop.

    So I honed in on just one part that caught my eye:

    The World Health Organization stated that DDT had ‘killed more insects and saved more people than any other substance.’

    That it’s killed more insects than any other substance is maybe true, but ‘saved more humans’ is more dubious. Anyway, who from WHO said that? As far as I can tell it is attributed to a J.M. Barnes who is/was a big fan of chemical pesticides. I can’t find the source for the full quote, but I found a quote attributed to him which is close (it’s from correspondence from Professor Joshua Lederberg January 24, 1969):

    Unless epidemiological studies on the health of people who have been heavily
    exposed to DDT for 20 years or more reveal an unsuspected long-term toxic effect,
    this insecticide will go down in history as one that has killed more insects and
    saved more people than any other substance.

    J.M. Barnes seemed particularly interested in the benefits of chemical pesticides but looking at his papers he certainly never said there were no risks or dangers or even evidence of harm. He came from an era in the mid 20th century when it was OK to support these things but still qualify that support with concerns.

    From a paper of his – “Toxic Hazards Of Certain Pesticides To Man” (1953):

    ..Special circumstances in the USA make it imperative for the farmer to use pesticides: the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may condemn food found to contain insect parts as “produced under filthy conditions”. Also, in the USA – a country where particular fruits, vegetables or other foods are frequently raised in great quantities in a relatively small area and shipped to a large market, and where competition has made the profit margin very small – a premium has been placed on products which are free from blemishes. These conditions are peculiar to North America, but they do not detract from the fact that some use of pesticides is absolutely essential in the production of adequate crops under conditions of intensive cultivation.

    Even though he is very obviously “pro” chemical fertilization and pesticides, he expresses caution about toxicity, overuse, pest immunity and unforeseen harms that today would probably mark him as a raving environmentalist.

  5. Ikonoclast
    September 3rd, 2014 at 06:35 | #5

    No environment = No economy.

    “No environment” means no environment that humans can live in and produce successfully in. This would be due to exhausted resources, accumulated wastes and the associated biological and physical effects of these factors.

    No environment = No economy. It’s a really simple equation. The powers that be just don’t get it. They will get it soon enough.

  6. Doug
    September 3rd, 2014 at 08:34 | #6

    As Wendell Berry put it ‘the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment”.

  7. Fran Barlow
    September 3rd, 2014 at 08:49 | #7

    @Ikonoclast

    No environment = No economy. It’s a really simple equation. The powers that be just don’t get it. They will get it soon enough.

    They do get it. They just don’t care. They take the same approach as the embezzler. If my ‘appropriations’ were wrong, someone would stop me. In the meantime, this is the land of take what you want in the world of the Magic Faraway Tree.

  8. Ikonoclast
    September 3rd, 2014 at 09:50 | #8

    The destruction of oceanic wild fisheries continues. From the ABC:

    “The Australian who heads fishery management in the Western and Central Pacific has warned an international agreement is urgently needed to avert disaster for the tuna industry.

    Professor Glenn Hurry said bluefin and bigeye tuna should no longer be harvested, as stocks were dangerously depleted.

    He also warned “serious action” needed to be taken to reduce the yellowfin tuna catch.

    “Yellowfin tuna’s down to about 38 per cent of its original spawning biomass,” said Professor Hurry, the outgoing executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

    “Bigeye tuna’s down now to about 16 per cent.

    “In any sense in a well-managed fishery you’d actually stop fishing on that and begin to rebuild the stocks.”

    Professor Hurry said the situation for bluefin tuna was even more dire, with the Pacific population at “3 or 4 per cent of its original spawning biomass”.

    “It’s at a level where you shouldn’t be fishing,” he said.

    He said the key problem was that there are too many vessels – at least 300 – equipped with sophisticated radar, chasing the schools of tuna.

    He said the optimum number of fishing boats was passed 10 years ago.

    Any trans-Pacific action to stop or limit the catch would require an agreement between the 33 countries and participating territories which make up the WCPFC, which next meets in Samoa in December.” – ABC.

    The world’s natural capital stocks continue to deplete rapidly and alarming. The human race is just like a person with a too small income who is living off and rapidly depleting his/her capital savings. Such a state of affairs is not sustainable.

  9. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    September 3rd, 2014 at 10:38 | #9

    OT except in a broader sense of fitting in the same category, but the Australian front page today is trumpeting some new article which is being “launched” by Mattias Cormann, was funded by the MCA, and is written by Griffith University economics professor Tony Makin, which claims that the Rudd/Swan stimulus package weakened the economy and calls for austerity now now now. I’d be interested to know if anyone can provide a detailed analysis of this particular zombie.

  10. September 12th, 2014 at 13:50 | #10

    Hi @Megan
    I noted also his other question – implicit – about the consequences of using intensive farming as what is still the dominant agricultural economic business model. Perhaps the enduring problem-of-problems in agriculture.
    Jim

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