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Western Moral Preening Leads to Millions of African Dead


I have posted below an article by Sam Zaramba, the Director General for Health Services for the nation of Uganda entitled “Give us DDT.”   Dr. Zaramba argues that the ban on DDT was misguided and has resulted in countless unnecessary deaths in Africa.

I  have limited personal experience with this issue.  A couple of years ago my daughter and I traveled to Kenya (just east of Uganda).  We met with many nationals, many of whom had the tell tale yellowish tinge to the whites of the eyes of malaria sufferers.  I will never forget one father in particular, who literally begged us for money for malaria treatment for his daughter.  He could not afford the $10.00 cost of treatment.  Our hearts were broken, and of course we helped as much as we could, but we realized our efforts were a drop in a vast ocean of pain caused by the disease.

When I got home I did some research and was horrified to learn that the malaria epidemic in Africa is perhaps the most preventable health care tragedy in the history of the world.  We could eradicate African malaria if only we would allow them to use DDT to combat the mosquitos that spread the disease.  I also learned that everything I thought I knew about DDT was flat wrong.  Not only is DDT safe, scientists have known this for decades.

It turns out the DDT ban was based on a combination of junk science and moral preening by the environmental movement.  It as if greenies said, “What are a few million African lives so long as we affluent Westerners can feel good about having ‘done something’ even if that something means nothing?” 

As it turns out, the western environmental movement’s push for polices that will kill millions of Africans is far from over.  The drive to force LDC’s (lesser developed countries) to reduce their CO2 emissions will delay the electrification of the continent by decades, and millions will die as a result of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases caused by smoke inhalation from indoor wood fires –- a very real cost for environmental gains that are, to say the least, speculative. 

Give Us DDT


June 12, 2007; Page A16

KAMPALA, Uganda — Though Africa’s sad experience with colonialism ended in the 1960s, a lethal vestige remains: malaria. It is the biggest killer of Ugandan and all African children. Yet it remains preventable and curable. Last week in Germany, G-8 leaders committed new resources to the fight against the mosquito-borne disease and promised to use every available tool. Now they must honor this promise by supporting African independence in the realm of disease control. We must be able to use Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane — DDT.

The United States and Europe eradicated malaria by 1960, largely with the use of DDT. At the time,
Uganda tested the pesticide in the Kanungu district and reduced malaria by 98%. Despite this success, we lacked the resources to sustain the program. Rather than partner with us to improve our public health infrastructure, however, foreign donors blanched. They used Africa’s lack of infrastructure to justify not investing in it.

Today, every single Ugandan still remains at risk. Over 10 million Ugandans are infected each year, and up to 100,000 of our mothers and children die from the disease. Recently Ugandan country music star Job Paul Kafeero died of the disease, a reminder that no one is beyond its reach. Yet, many still argue that Africa’s poor infrastructure makes indoor spraying too costly and complex a means of fighting malaria.

Uganda is one of a growing number of African countries proving these people wrong. In 2006, Uganda worked with President George Bush’s Malaria Initiative to train 350 spray operators, supervisors and health officials. In August 2006 and again in February 2007, we covered 100,000 households in the southern Kabale district with the insecticide Icon. Nearly everyone welcomed this protection. The prevalence of the malaria parasite dropped. Today, just 3% of the local population carries the disease, down from 30%.

This exercise pays for itself. With 90% fewer people requiring anti-malarial medication and other public-health resources, more healthy adults work and more children attend school. When we repeated the test program in Kabale and neighboring Kanungu district this year, our spray teams required little new training and were rapidly mobilized. Our health officials at every level were able to educate our communities, implement spraying programs and evaluate operations. With each passing year, it will now be easier and less expensive to run the programs.

But DDT lasts longer, costs less and is more effective against malaria-carrying mosquitoes than Icon. It functions as spatial repellent to keep mosquitoes out of homes, as an irritant to prevent them from biting, and as a toxic agent to kill those that land. The repellency effect works without physical contact. And because we will never use the chemical in agriculture, DDT also makes mosquitoes less likely to develop resistance.

The U.S. banned DDT in 1972, spurred on by environmentalist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring.” Many countries in Europe and around the world followed suit. But after decades of exhaustive scientific review, DDT has been shown to not only be safe for humans and the environment, but also the single most effective anti-malarial agent ever invented. Nothing else at any price does everything it can do. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has once again recommended using DDT wherever possible against malaria, alongside insecticidal nets and effective drugs.

We are trying to do precisely this. In addition to distributing nearly three million long-lasting insecticidal nets and 25 million doses of effective anti-malarial drugs, we will expand our indoor spraying operations to four more districts this year, where we will protect tens of thousands of Ugandans from malaria’s deadly scourge. We are committed to storing, transporting and using DDT properly in these programs, in accord with Stockholm Convention, WHO, European Union and U.S. Agency for International Development guidelines. We are working with these organizations and to ensure support from our communities, and to ensure that our agricultural trade is not jeopardized.

Although Uganda’s National Environmental Management Authority has approved DDT for malaria control, Western environmentalists continue to undermine our efforts and discourage G-8 governments from supporting us. The EU has acknowledged our right to use DDT, but some consumer and agricultural groups repeat myths and lies about the chemical. They should instead help us use it strictly to control malaria.

Environmental leaders must join the 21st century, acknowledge the mistakes Carson made, and balance the hypothetical risks of DDT with the real and devastating consequences of malaria. Uganda has demonstrated that, with the proper support, we can conduct model indoor spraying programs and ensure that money is spent wisely, chemicals are handled properly, our program responds promptly to changing conditions, and malaria is brought under control.

Africa is determined to rise above the contemporary colonialism that keeps us impoverished. We expect strong leadership in G-8 countries to stop paying lip service to African self-determination and start supporting solutions that are already working.

Dr. Zaramba is director general of health services for the Republic of Uganda.

Dear Dave: "I see nothing about biological design that implies classical theology." We are in complete agreement. "All it implies is a designer with some advanced but still perfectly material skills in biochemistry and engineering." I'm not exactly sure what content the bolded phrase has, but otherwise, it seems we agree again. "If human capacity for design continues to grow ... we’ll be able to create life based on chemistry and physics quite different from protein." Here, we part ways. I can imagine a future in which, no matter how technologically advanced humans get, they still never even figure out how to build a cell, made from ordinary known proteins, from scratch. Whose imaginary scenario wins? "So before you go inferring a need for supernatural powers in the universe, particulary powers needed to create life as we know it, you first need to understand what can be accomplished without supernatural powers." Dave, other people can know things you don't, or believe cannot be known. Also, Dembski's work on the design inference has implications, such as the non-materiality (so to speak) of intelligence. So, we have non-material (supernatural, in your vernacular?) entities as a logical implication of design theory. But thanks for the link, I will definitely check it out. jaredl
Jaredl: Cf here. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
H'mm: It seems the thread will not accept an addressing of the problem of evil that shows how Plantinga's free will defense has in fact done what Jaredl seems to think has not been done. I have now tried twice GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Jaredl: Actually, one of the foremost philosphers and Christian thinkers of the past generation has put forth a serious answer to the problem of evil, namely Alvin Plantinga, whose free will defense is generally viewed as having decisively answered the logical/deductive form of the problem of evil. What he did was to express the alleged dilemma, then showed by augmenting it with a logically possible -- as opposed to plausible to any given person -- auxiliary proposition, that the theistic set of claims so augmented is coherent. Thence, even without the augmenting claims, it must be coherent. [QS is probably in a rather distinct minority on the claim that his formulation of the problem of evil is a sound one!) Of course, arguments in phil, generally speaking, are only ever settled tot he level of comparative difficulties. Not least, because when I don't like a given conclusion had enough, I can deny it in order to reject premises that I would have otherwise accepted. [This of course then raises the issue of selective hyperskepticism, as I have offten argued.] The problem of evil has three heads, logical, inductive and existential. On a cross-worldviews basis, the Judaeo-Christian faith targetted by the argument from evil is robust enough to handle the three forms. You may wish to read CS Lewis onthe Problem of Pain, and it is worth asking competing worldviews why they accept evil as a significant and problematic issue at all relative to their own assumptions. (Evil as an issue entails morality as an issue, thence mind as an issue and also the vexed problem of the one and the many. Evo mat views founder on the significance of morality and mind, and monist ones have a problem accounting for the coherence and diversity implied in the contrast good/evil.) Trust this helps as a starter onthatr subject . . . More generally, isn't it ironically interesting that Darwinn's dysteleology starts from a phil -theol problem not a sci one -- the problem of pain and evident evil in the natural world. Here we see Lakatos' point that sci research programmes embed a worldviews core surrounded by a belt of theories, with telling force. So, why the censorship of serious worldviews engagement -- a censorship carried out in the name of "science"? GEM of TKI kairosfocus
jaredl If biological design implies classical theology, then if classical theology is false, so also is biological design. And if biological design doesn't imply classical theology then the rest of the argument collapses. I see nothing about biological design that implies classical theology. All it implies is a designer with some advanced but still perfectly material skills in biochemistry and engineering. If human capacity for design continues to grow at an accelerating pace in a mere eyeblink of cosmic time (say just a thousand years or even a few million years both of which are next to nothing on a cosmic timescale) we'll be able to create life based on chemistry and physics quite different from protein. Will that make us into Gods? Maybe it will to the life we create but maybe not if and when they discover or are informed of their origin and have the capacity to understand it. In appendix A of Behe's Edge of Evolution he mentions the seminal tome on nanotechnology Engines of Creation by K.Eric Drexler. I've mentioned Engines here over a dozen times imploring people to read it to familiarize themselves with the limits of technology within our current understanding of the physical laws which govern the universe. Engines, orginally published in 1987 and the year I first read it, is still relevant today and many of its predictions or milestones on the way to full mastery of nanotechnology have been realized in the intervening 20 years right on schedule. It is available to read for free in hypertext format (the phenomenal growth and integration of hypertext and the world wide web into human endeavour were among its predictions, by the way) here so there's little excuse for not reading it except perhaps sloth or disinterest. I'd be quite surprised if Bill Dembski hasn't read it and now I know that Behe has too. So before you go inferring a need for supernatural powers in the universe, particulary powers needed to create life as we know it, you first need to understand what can be accomplished without supernatural powers. Get back to me after you've read it. A summary with links to both the original text and a 2007 updated free ebook is on Wikipedia in the external references at the end of the article. DaveScot
off-topic - lots of what Dembski has written in his theodicy is good stuff. jaredl
DS - then you should be able to point out where the errors of logic, such as false premises, must be in the posts I alluded to previously, either Smith's, or my own. When I went to Tom Woodward's book signing, I tried to engage him on this point. Design theorists get the problem of evil thrown in their face as a response to the design inference because most design theorists are also classical theists (God as ground of all being, &c.). If biological design implies classical theology, then if classical theology is false, so also is biological design. This is straightforward modus tollens. jaredl
James Hogan, a favourite author of mine, addresses the DDT issue in his recent book Kicking the Sacred Cow. He also addresses other current "Sacred Cows" including Darwinism. What I find most interesting and satisfying is his conversion away from Darwinism. I highly recommend this book as a nice overview of the Sacred Cows of current mainstream science. dacook
duncan If Behe is right then the world hasn’t been left ‘to its own devices’. I disagree. The design input could have started and ended when life first appeared on the earth and then unfolded according to plan. In human ontogeny a single cell unfolds and diversifies over a course of weeks into trillions of cells of hundreds of different types. None of the unfolding is left up to chance - the complexity of the adult organism is entirely contained in the single cell from which it began. Phylogeny can be considered a similar process except the unfolding and diversification takes place over billions of years and life in its entirety today is the adult form of a process that began with a single cell with chance playing little or no role in how it unfolds and diversifies. jaredl I disagree. It appears to me that intelligence is the sole exception to an otherwise deterministic universe - free will is real. While I don't put much stock in theological answers to scientific questions I believe that the theological question of evil is accounted for in theological explanations. As Behe points out neither the question of evil nor any answers to it are scientific. It appears to me Behe is playing the separate magisteria card in this case and I fully agree with him. The design of life is what it is and we can determine that empirically through observation and experiment (scientifically). Delving into the possible motives of an unidentified designer is not something that can be investigated in the same manner. DaveScot
DS - As a matter of fact, classical theology has NOT answered the problem of evil, and cannot have any coherent answer for the existence of evil. Dembski attempted to employ Newcomb's paradox to lay responsibility for natural evil on humans, but it seems to quite miss the point of the argument from evil, as can be seen from Quentin Smith's utter demolishment of Plantinga's free-will defense. Moreover, on classical theological views, humans cannot have free will, as I have noted elsewhere. jaredl
Thanks for your responses. I don't have a position on this, except I find it troubling! If Behe is right then the world hasn't been left 'to its own devices'. duncan
duncan Behe also says on p239 "Revulsion is not a scientific argument." Darwin didn't believe life was created because he couldn't bring himself to believe that a beneficent God would have designed such horrific things. That's a conclusion based on theologic presumptions, not science. Behe's point was that Darwin wasn't thinking like a scientist. Judeo-Christian theology of course has a pat answer for the existence of evil - the fall from grace or original sin. The world was created in a state of perfection with no death or destruction, humans were given free will, they used it to break the covenant with God, and the world was punished by leaving it to its own devices. That's a perfectly valid theological rebuttal to a theological conclusion. One has to wonder about Darwin's competence in both science and theology to first use a theological presumption to support the scientific theory of evolution by chance & necessity and then be ignorant of the theological answer to the theological presumption. DaveScot
duncan, What if there are designers? We know that there must be more than one designer in the history of the universe, because humans are examples of designing intelligences. To me, I am open to the idea that there are malevolent designing intelligences at work, perhaps working dysteleology into "orginal" designs. But this is tangential to this thread... Atom
All very pertinent to Michael Behe's new book 'The Edge of Evolution', in which he says "an intelligent agent deliberately made malaria" (p237), life on earth is "horrific", and "maybe the designer isn't all that beneficient" (p239). Doesn't this raise the specter of the designer planning to kill millions of people, including children, especially as Behe says that mosquito mutations leading to resistance cannot happen without the input of the designer? What do we think of that? duncan
There is an excellent summary of the DDT issue on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT). It defies simple analysis or moral judgements. This quote gives a flavour: While raising important questions about how the West deals with health crises in the Third World, the core of the argument is controversial. Although the publication of Silent Spring undoubtedly influenced the U.S. ban on DDT in 1972, the reduced usage of DDT in malaria eradication began the decade before because of the emergence of DDT-resistant mosquitoes. Indeed, Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed that eradication programs had to be wary of relying on DDT for too long as "resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years." markf
I did hear however that DDT was not applied correctly in Africa, and mosquitoes developed a resistance to it. Does anyone know if this is true? yes tribune7
Sadly, it might be said that Rachel Carson was reponsible for more deaths than Sadam Hussein. That's starting to be a cliche in some circles but as I understand it she never called for an outright ban -- it was Richard Nixon's EPA that went ahead and dunnit well after her death -- but advocated using it pretty much as Mr. Zaramba is suggesting. And she was dead right to criticize how it was being used circa 1962. tribune7
Sadly, it might be said that Rachel Carson was reponsible for more deaths than Sadam Hussein. I did hear however that DDT was not applied correctly in Africa, and mosquitoes developed a resistance to it. Does anyone know if this is true? ajl
Rachel Carson’s 1962 doomsday book, “Silent Spring” made the prediction that DDT and other pesticides would lead to a cancer epidemic and wipe out "practically 100 percent" of the human population within one generation. Crop-eating insects would “evolve” resistance to pesticides, and anxious farmers would use more and more DDT in a vain attempt to keep resistant insects from destroying their crops. Carson’s analysis was based on junk science and hysterical speculation, but it was enough to cement her deification among ideologically motivated environmentalists and to vault her into popular culture as a hallowed crusader; (my daughter attended a local public middle school named after her). From there all it took for Carson’s weird vision to succeed was to win the admiration of William Ruckelshaus, the first Administrator of the fledgling EPA. At his urging the EPA conducted seven months of hearings on a proposed ban of DDT, interviewing over 100 witnesses and generating 9000 pages of testimony. At the conclusion Judge Edmund Sweenry ruled against the ban saying, "DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man...is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man...[and the] use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Ruckelshaus preempted Sweeny and banned DDT anyway. The UN, recognizing that banning DDT dovetailed nicely with its own agenda forged ahead, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ruckelshaus was the quintessential “green” bureaucrat, anticipating the likes of Al Gore. He did fundraising for the Environmental Defense Fund using his personal stationary. The EDF, like many environmental organizations, has always tilted toward the population theories of Malthus and Darwin. Dr. Charles Wurster of the EDF’s Scientific Advisory Council was famously quoted as saying: "[Any known alternative to DDT] only kills farm workers, and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes. So what? People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as any," Indeed. Anyone wishing to delve into the incestuous symbiosis of Malthusianism, Darwinian eugenics and the left-leaning green movement would have a fertile field to plow. MeanSquare MeanSquare
Atom said:
...But to some people, by saving their lives you’d just be creating more “poor” people that need to be taken care of. The same type of people who argue that it is better to kill an unborn baby than to allow it to live in what will be uncomfortable/impoverished conditions…
You are correct, this is one of the rationales given. I've hear this argument used in support of abortion first hand, on more than one occasion. "Who would want to live an impoverished, disadvantaged, even neglected life?" Well, I'll take it any way I can get it. If I were to choose, sure, I'd be tempted to select a fat life of drinking wine and eating peeled grapes fed to me by tropical beauties fanning me with palm leaves. But I'd rather be hungry than dead, and we should give the benefit of the doubt to those who don't have the luxury of discussing the environmental dangers of DDT over a vanilla latte at Starbucks. (And Atom, I'm not mistaking you for one of the latte sippers.=D) Apollos
And to clarify, I am not one of those people. I think there is much more we could be doing to assist the poor of the world, in ways that respect their cultures and are not arrogant. Atom
Using DDT, building up basic sanitation systems, and improving public education about disease would save thousands upon thousands of lives and improve the lot of millions.
Good ideas. But to some people, by saving their lives you'd just be creating more "poor" people that need to be taken care of. The same type of people who argue that it is better to kill an unborn baby than to allow it to live in what will be uncomfortable/impoverished conditions... Atom
We keep trying to force our affluent upper middle class problems (real and imagined) on countries striving to just build A middleclass. It is absurd the cost from developing countries that we expect to combat global warming. We could have a much larger and much more definite impact on human welfare if we would use a small fraction of those resources to combat disease in the developing world. Using DDT, building up basic sanitation systems, and improving public education about disease would save thousands upon thousands of lives and improve the lot of millions. How about we start with the problems that currently kill so many needlessly and worry about boogeymen later. jmcd
Michael Crichton has some interesting thoughts in this same direction: Environmentalism as Religion
So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.

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