There are many clear examples of climate paternalism valuing “being green” over human life. Senators John Kerry, Patrick Leahy and Rep Barney Frank wanted the World Bank to turn down a loan for a coal-fired plant in South Africa, telling World Bank President Robert Zoellick, “We cannot ignore the reality that our planet is hurtling toward potentially catastrophic climate change.” South Africa’s Finance Minister points out the new plant is “necessary to sustain the growth rates [the country needs] to create jobs.” The Obama Administration ultimately abstained on the vote.
The Kerry-Leahy-Frank approach is just one of many clear examples of climate paternalism valuing “being green” over human life. Environmental activists lobby for government policies and fail to take into account the unintended consequences that lead to economic and environmentally destructive outcomes and worse, the loss of human life. One of the worst examples is the DDT ban.
DDT is the single most effective pesticide for Anopheles mosquitoes, the main carriers of malaria in Africa, and it has no side effects whatsoever for humans or other mammals. Over the course of two decades, the now-infamous pesticide prevented over 500,000,000 otherwise inevitable deaths from malaria. That’s 25 million lives saved per year DDT was used. But Rachel Carson, often considered the original American environmentalist, made her mark on the world by getting DDT production banned in America in 1972. This led to a worldwide ban of DDT at the Stockholm Convention of 2001.
In other words, since 1972’s DDT ban, almost a billion people in this world have died due to preventable cases of malaria. Approximately 3,000 people in the world die of malaria every day.
At Accuracy in Media’s 40th Anniversary Conference in 2009, Ann McElhinney spoke about what this means for mothers in the third world. Today, over 370 children die every day from malaria in Uganda alone. That is not counting the innocent children who die of malaria in the rest of Africa.
“This is one hundred percent unnecessary death,” McElhinney argued during her speech. What would happen if 370 American children die from malaria in Virginia every day? she wondered. “I think we’d all be going around and all our clothes would be covered in dust, they would be air-bombing us in DDT. We’d work out the problems later because we wouldn’t allow our children to die. But obviously it doesn’t work like that for black children,” McElhinney said, referring to the racism necessarily implicit in the DDT ban.
The environmentalism of good intentions is not always intelligent environmentalism, and the truth is that when it comes to DDT regulation, America’s policies do affect the world. Perhaps the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day is a good day to reevaluate whether or not America’s current policy regarding DDT is worth it. For more on the political and scientific history behind DDT, be sure to check out this new ReasonTV video.
Allie Winegar Duzett currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/About/Internships-Young-Leaders/The-Heritage-Foundation-Internship-Program