Environmentalists have a history of self-inflicted wounds. Unfortunately, these wounds usually end up affecting far more people than just the activists who perpetrate them. Now, I will never question the need for environmental responsibility, but one of the great challenges of our time is to distinguish fact from fiction, reality from fantasy and truth from propaganda regarding the environment.
Unfortunately, when discussing the environment and man’s role within it, too often facts are no longer necessary because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. If you doubt that statement, look no further than to New York’s 14th Congressional District where a 30-year old bartender from Queens has millions of Americans hanging on her every pronouncement about how we only have eleven years left before calamity.
I’m not putting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez down, she’s a bright woman who graduated cum laude from Boston University in 2011—but she’s not a climate scientist. So why do so many on the left blindly follow the lead of a woman with no background in climatology (but who endorses the Green New Deal), a “Deal” that’s so vague it’s impossible to estimate its costs? The answer is simple—it’s because this is what the activists WANT to believe!
Allow me illustrate how a conviction based on belief rather than fact caused the unnecessary death of millions. In 1963, Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist and leader of the global environmental movement appeared before the Department of Commerce and demanded that Congress create a “Pesticide Commission” to regulate the untethered use of DDT to safeguard both human and plant life.
Ten years later, Carson’s “Pesticide Commission” became the Environmental Protection Agency, which immediately banned DDT. Then, following America’s lead, support for international use of DDT quickly dried up. However, soon after DDT was banned, malaria reemerged across the globe, consider:
- In India, between 1952 and 1962, DDT caused a decrease in annual malaria cases from 100 million to 60,000. By the late 1970s, no longer able to use DDT, the number of cases increased to 6 million.
- In Sri Lanka, before the use of DDT, 2.8 million people suffered from malaria. When the spraying stopped, only 17 people suffered from the disease. Then, no longer able to use DDT, Sri Lanka suffered a massive malaria epidemic and 1.5 million people were infected by the parasite.
- In South Africa, after DDT became unavailable, the number of malaria cases increased from 8,500 to 42,000 and malaria deaths increased 10-fold.
Since the mid 1970s, when DDT was eliminated from global eradication efforts, malaria has killed tens of millions people. But the truly tragic aspect of the matter is that most of the deaths involved children less than five years old. So why was DDT banned when studies in Europe, Canada, and the United States have shown that DDT didn’t cause the human diseases Carson had claimed? The answer again is these environmentalists were believers, when as a factual matter DDT has proven to be one of the safer pesticides. And to put a fine point on the matter, as it turned out the only type of cancer showing an increase in U.S. during the DDT era was lung cancer, which actually had another likely cause, i.e., cigarette smoking.
Today California’s misguided policies regarding the environment have exacerbated the wildfires that have become an annual occurrence in the Golden State, while the environmentalists fall back on their standard talking point, i.e., that this is simply more evidence of climate change. Never mind how forestry experts have for years warned that worsening conditions across the state were increasing the risk of a “perfect storm” of cataclysmic wildfires. Or how for decades, misguided priorities perverse incentives, and flawed public policies have led to what we see in California today.
The real problem is that California public officials have meekly succumbed to pressure by environmental groups who were more concerned with protecting some species of spotted owl than instituting proactive fire prevention policies that would protect entire communities. In fairness, the hope was always to preserve land in its “natural state,” but good intentions don’t necessarily lead to good results especially when predicated on unsubstantiated belief systems.
Can California address its wildfire problem? Of course it can, but it will require a change in a culture that needs to embrace a whole new line of thinking, because when politicians and bureaucrats place the blame on climate change it relieves them of their responsibility to actually address the problem.
Thought for the day: “How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?”