A new assault on the environment

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 23, 2002

In the past, when the Bush administration has been poised to destroy the environment, be it his "Clear Skies" initiative or arsenic in drinking water, the New York Times editorial page and its writers have written to the rescue. The Times has spared no amount of vitriol when it comes to protecting the environment from Republicans.

In today's paper, the Times tackles a new plan to use the banned pesticide DDT around the world -- and pronounces it good!

The world is losing the war against malaria. Once considered near eradication, malaria today kills more than a million people a year in Africa alone. One reason is that wealthy nations have limited the use of one of the best weapons, a pesticide that once saved hundreds of millions of lives.


Today, malaria control relies mainly on insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, most of which have lost effectiveness as malaria grows resistant. DDT, which is sprayed on the inside walls of houses twice a year, is used in only about 24 countries. Wealthy nations that banned DDT at home will not pay for its use elsewhere. But the poorest nations depend on such donations. America used DDT to eradicate malaria, as did southern Europe and India.


The developed world has been unconscionably stingy in financing the fight against malaria or research into alternatives to DDT. Until one is found, wealthy nations should be helping poor countries with all available means -- including DDT.

After recovering from the shock of the editorial, I concur with the Times' editorial. One of the benefits of going to a school with a good agriculture program, was the opportunity to take a (required) class on "Agriculture and American Life." One of the classroom exercises was a debate on using DDT in the developing world. Being assertive (and a loudmouth) I represented the developing world in a four-way debate between the U.S., U.N. and environmental groups.

My method of attack was similar to that of the Times' editorial -- people are dying, DDT is cheap, and the rest of the world isn't helping. You (the U.S., Europe and the rest of the first world) used it when you needed it, and now you want to bar us from using it.

Needless to say, I won.


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December 2002



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