Saturday, April 17, 2004


The Buzz about DDT

For years, Westerners and environmental activists pressured developing countries to stop using the most effective malaria preventive around -- the pesticide known as DDT -- due to concerns over its harmful effects to the environment. Abandoning DDT, however, has resulted in devastation to human populations, says the New York Times.

---Each year, 300 to 500 million people contract malaria.
---Of the two million people who die each year from the disease, 90 percent are children under the age of 5, predominantly from African countries; children who survive are often brain-damaged.
---The World Health Organization estimates that countries with malaria endemics experience a decline in their economies by about 20 percent over 15 years.

Many experts agree that DDT, in spite of its falling out of favor with the Western world, is the most effective means of preventing malaria. In countries where spraying has resumed or continued, the results have been amazing, notes the NYT:

---The hospital in Mosvold (a province of South Africa) reported 2,303 cases in March 2000, before the use of DDT; by March 2003, the hospital reported only 3 cases that month.
---Latin America stopped using DDT in the 1980's only to see their malaria cases rise to over 1 million additional cases per year; only Ecuador was able to keep Malaria under control, simply because they continued using DDT.

Many humanitarian organizations are recognizing the effectiveness and the cost savings of using DDT, however, the World Bank and World Health Organization will not fund its use. Moreover, many research agencies refuse to fund studies on DDT due to the stigma associated with the chemical.

Source: Tina Rosenberg, 'What The World Needs Now is DDT," New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2004.

For NYT text (subscription required)

Bush a Piker at Manipulating Science, Compared to Clinton, Gore

The political silly season has spawned a flurry of attacks on the Bush administration for “politicizing science.” To be sure, some of the criticism is justified. It appears political for the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit over-the-counter sales of the morning-after contraceptive, for example.

But the critics seem to have become overnight converts in wanting public policy to be science-based. Not one of them was publicly censorious of the Clinton administration’s blatant and heavy-handed abuse of science. Moreover, the primary force behind the condemnation of the Bush administration, the Union of Concerned Scientists, is notorious for its anti-technology zealotry.

When political fortunes change and a new party comes into power in the executive branch, one must expect pervasive changes in the philosophy of government. This is part and parcel of the political process. However, the improper coercion and influence on governmental, science-based activities that we saw during the Clinton administration were outside the recognized rules of the game, and in some cases illegal....

Celebrate Earth Day, Positively

“This is my long-run forecast in brief,” said free-market economist Julian Simon in “The Skeptical Environmentalist” by Bjorn Lomborg:

“The material conditions of life will continue to get better for most people, in most countries, most of the time, indefinitely. Within a century or two, all nations and most of humanity will be at or above today’s Western living standards.

“I also speculate, however, that many people will continue to think and say that the conditions of life are getting worse.”

At no time is Simon’s perceptiveness more appropriate than during Earth Day celebrations....

Energy Bill Illusions

With Congress back from recess and energy prices soaring, politicians are beating the drums to stir up public support for the energy bill stalled in the Senate. The United States "desperately needs a coherent energy policy, and S. 2095 (the bill in question) will address many of the critical issues facing our nation," say 20 senators of both parties in a letter to Senate Majority leader Bill Frist. President Bush likewise charges, "If [lawmakers] are interested in jobs staying here at home, if they're interested in creating an environment in which we're competitive, we need an energy bill, one that encourages reliability for electricity, and one that encourages conservation and helps us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

This is not simply nonsense -- it's nonsense on stilts.

Why must the government establish a "coherent energy policy"? Generally, we've left decisions about energy investments to private investors. Five- or ten-year economic plans are traditionally the stuff of Russian Politburos, not American presidents. It's amazing to hear Republican politicians argue that, absent some guidance from Washington, businessmen will blindly stumble through the marketplace, unable to intelligently invest in the energy sector absent some sort of congressional blueprint. It's also insulting to one's intelligence to hear politicians claim that, absent political interference in the marketplace, consumers will not have the faintest idea how to conserve energy or even be aware of the benefits of doing so in the face of high prices....

Loggers and Environmentalists Clash -- Again

The Western United States is expected to be drought-ridden this summer, and a plan for the U.S. Forest Service to log an area previously devastated by fire may be challenged, says the New York Times.

In 2002, 120 acres of the Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon and northern California was charred by the "Biscuit fire," leaving behind burned trees that are now decaying, creating even more of a fire danger:

---Last year, a plan to salvage 29,000 acres in the Siskiyou Forest was released, and pending a public comment period, the plan is expected to be finalized.
---However, 12,000 acres of the logging would take place in Inventoried Roadless Areas (a result of President Clinton's roadless rule), which, previously protected from logging, has been cleared for salvage by a Federal District Court judge.

Environmentalists, are alarmed by the exemption of a designated area from Clinton's roadless rule, and fear that the amenable relationship between them and the Siskiyou National Forest managers may deteriorate. They are suing to halt the logging plan, and have not ruled out tree sitting and human roadblocks if they lose their court battle.

Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington argues in Science Magazine that recent science on post-fire logging indicates that salvage logging policies should be developed and carried out before major fires are allowed to happen.

Source: Matthew Preusch, "Amid a Forest's Ashes, a Debate Over Logging Profits is Burning On," New York Times, April 15, 2004, D. Lindenmayer, et. al. "Salvage Harvesting Policies After Natural Disturbance," Science Magazine, February 2004.

For NYT text (subscription required)

For Science text (subscription required)

The Rocky Road to Biotech's Success

The first Earth Day celebration, conceived by then-US Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), was held in 1970 as a “symbol of environmental responsibility and stewardship.” In the spirit of the time, it was a consciousness-raising experience organized, appropriately, at the grassroots level. Now, however, Earth Day offers little more than an opportunity for environmental alarmists to gain media attention, dispense anti-technology tirades, and pressure government regulators for more stringent regulation.

Government officials have been only too glad to oblige, often citing “public concerns” as the reason for “precautionary” regulation. The new biotechnology—also known as gene-splicing or genetic modification (GM)—offers a good example....

Dominion and Stewardship: Believers and the Environment

A welcome development of the past thirty years has been the emergence of less-utilitarian attitudes towards the environment by believers and non-believers alike. No longer do serious Christians, Jews or Muslims cite Scripture to legitimize the wanton destruction or misuse of the world that God sculpted out of nothingness.

As we mark Earth Day on April 22, however, it is appropriate that those who adhere to orthodox Christianity ensure that the framework through which Christians view the environment does not slip into the wilderness of a type of neo-pantheism. Indeed those Christians who take a particular interest in the environment ought to remain watchful of ideologies underlying much secularist environmental thought.

Though more known for his advocacy of euthanasia and infanticide, the thought of the philosopher Peter Singer continues to inspire considerable sections of the environmental movement. His promotion of “animal rights” and assertion that, in many instances, some animals are worth more than certain types of human “non-persons” contradicts the truth revealed by faith and reason. But his ideas have, in this regard, seeped into the consciousness of many secularist environmental activists....

Congress Seeks Authority to Overturn Supreme Court Decisions

Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY) has offered legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Congress to overturn future U.S. Supreme Court decisions by a super majority vote.

"The Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act," or H.R. 3920, would give Congress permission to override certain U.S. Supreme Court rulings if two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote for it.

Lewis said he drafted this legislation to combat the activist judges who have been "legislating from the bench" in recent years....

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