Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Respect for Mosquitoes

Walter Williams is very worried about "environmental extremists," whose scaremongering has already killed millions of innocent people, and will surely kill millions more unless we do whatever it takes to stop them.

It's not just the genocide that makes these "eco-freaks" so objectionable; it's also their irresponsible rhetoric:

Jeff Hoffman, environmental attorney, wrote on, "Malaria was actually a natural population control, and DDT has caused a massive population explosion in some places where it has eradicated malaria. More fundamentally, why should humans get priority over other forms of life? ... I don't see any respect for mosquitoes in these posts."
What Williams neglects to mention is that Jeff Hoffman is not a staff writer for Grist; he was merely commenting on the site, just as you or I or the man in the next street might. (Incidentally, Hoffman's comment was in response to a post suggesting that environmentalists should question their opposition to DDT use in the global South, in light of malaria's toll on humans. Regardless, conservatarian demonology will now classify Grist as militant advocates for the rights of Anopheles mosquitoes. Such is life!)

Williams offers some interesting scientific evidence for DDT's nontoxicity:
In one long-term study, volunteers ate 32 ounces of DDT for a year and a half, and 16 years later, they suffered no increased risk of adverse health effects. Despite evidence that, properly used, DDT is harmful to neither humans nor animals, environmental extremists fight for a continued ban.
'Til now, I hadn't run across anyone who claimed that DDT isn't harmful to animals, so this is pretty exciting. As for the study - the details of which are apparently not as germane as the name of some guy who once said something unwise on someone else's blog - I've often wondered why DDT fanciers don't put their mouths where their money is, and tuck into a bowl of the stuff on live TV. It seems like a small sacrifice to make in order to help save millions of lives.

Next, Williams complains that environmentalists caused the World Trade Center to collapse, by agitating for a ban on asbestos.
After the attack, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) confirmed other experts' concerns about asbestos substitutes, concluding, "Even with the airplane impact and jet-fuel-ignited multi-floor fires, which were not normal building fires, the building would likely not have collapsed had it not been for the fireproofing."
A Google search for this quote returned eight hits, all of which led back to Williams' article. However, a report by Steven Milloy includes a tantalizingly similar quote:
The NIST report concludes that, “The WTC towers would likely have not collapsed under the combined effects of the aircraft impact damage and the extensive, multi-floor fires that were encountered on September 11, 2001, if the thermal insulation had not been widely dislodged.”
This is consistent with the NIST Final Report, which says that the planes' impact dislodged fireproofing at key structural points. Thus, assuming that Williams' quote is accurate, it almost certainly refers to dislodged fireproofing. As for the performance of the fireproofing, the NIST says:
“These tests alone cannot be used to determine the actual performance of the floor systems in the collapse of the WTC towers....The fire conditions in the towers on 9-11 were far more extreme than those to which floor systems in standard U.S. fire rating tests are subjected.
Milloy, meanwhile, concedes that "NIST was not able to test the original asbestos fireproofing because it is no longer available."

We'd better not fill up on gnats, though, or we'll have no room left for the camel:
None of this is news to politicians. It's just that environmental extremists have the ears of politicians, and potential victims don't.
There's nothing quite so intellectually bracing as "sound science," eh?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increasingly relies upon corporate research joint ventures, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These corporate partnerships are on the rise as EPA research funding is on the wane, magnifying the effects of diversions of resources away from public health priorities toward regulatory topics that serve commercial bottom lines.
UPDATE: Tim Lambert advises us on some possible contraindications for The Walter E. Williams Diet.

(Illustration: Still from "How a Mosquito Operates," by Winsor McCay, 1912.)


ellroon said...

Phila, I can't find your email anywhere, so I'll drop interesting stuff here.

Paper battery:

And my son sent me this: Make a Solar Water Heater for Less than $5:

ellroon said...

Oops, for your Friday Hope Blogging that I love so much.

Phila said...

Thanks, elroon!

For the record, the e-mail's at the foot of the page.

MikeJ said...

Grrrr. The US doesn't stop anybody from using DDT. Hell, from what I understand, DDT isn't even banned in the US for mosquito control, only for agriculture. (There's a big difference between treating the odd pond here and there and treating every acre of cropland in the US.)

Kristoff points to Sri Lanka and says the US should "allow" them to use DDT. The US never stopped them. Sri Lanka stopped using DDT when local mosquitoes evolved resistance. Then when other methods stopped being effective, they tried DDT again, and use it now for mosquito control.

Tim Lambert is THE source for dispelling the lies about DDT from the right.

Phila said...

Grrrr. The US doesn't stop anybody from using DDT.

Yeah, I know. The problem with the DDT people is that there are so many lies crowded into every paragraph that dealing with all of them can be...impractical.

Tim Lambert is THE source for dispelling the lies about DDT from the right.

Agreed! I've read a bunch of his posts on the subject, and even waded through some of the troll-infested threads.