April 27, 2004


Bring back DDT: Eco-imperialism is killing African children (Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail, 27/04/04)

Who could possibly object to Earth Day, that benign occasion on which we are encouraged to throw away our pesticides, clean up our environment, and contemplate the damage we have done to Mother Earth?

Niger Innis, for one.

Mr. Innis is neither a shill for industry nor a raging neo-con. He is the spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, a leading African-American advocacy group, and last week he and other black activists got together to explain exactly what is wrong with Earth Day.

"We must stop trying to protect our planet from every imaginable, exaggerated or imaginary risk. And we must stop trying to protect it on the backs, and the graves, of the nation's and world's most powerless and impoverished people," he said.

Perhaps you didn't notice, but hard on the heels of Earth Day came Africa Malaria Day. Earth Day got more coverage, and that's a shame, because malaria is as big a scourge as AIDS, maybe worse. Malaria kills two million people a year and ravages economies. In Africa, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds, and many who don't die suffer brain damage.

But we've been blinded by environmental paternalism. And so we're standing back and watching.

The problem is our irrational aversion to DDT, which, in the popular imagination, is the most toxic pesticide known to man. So allergic are we to DDT that the World Health Organization will not fund its use, and most agencies are pushing for a ban worldwide. This, despite massive evidence that DDT as it is used today does no harm to people or the environment -- and saves lives.

"Our position is that DDT is perhaps the most effective, inexpensive way to wipe out malaria," Mr. Innis told me. "What's outrageous to us is that African countries aren't even being allowed to have the option of using it."[...]

Black leaders say that our prejudice against DDT amounts to ecological imperialism. But this brand of imperialism is even more insidious than the old kind, because it's done in the name of the weak. As Mr. Innis puts it, First World environmentalists have saddled the Third World with debt and death.

Foreign aid, socialist planning, drought relief, land reform, sex education and environmentalism. How much more Western charity can Africans take before the last one is killed off in agonized gratitude?

Posted by Peter Burnet at April 27, 2004 4:01 PM
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