Go on to Google today and you’ll see a charming illustration celebrating the life and work of environmentalist Rachel Carson. There’s a turtle and a pelican and a crab and a delightful seal in an idyllic landscape of flowers and trees and water. But what are missing from the picture, for some bizarre reason, are the dead bodies of the millions of people who died of malaria thanks to Carson’s principled campaigning against the insecticide DDT.
Will Google be paying similar tribute to any of the other mass killers of the 2oth century? Hitler? Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? Probably not. But then, none of the others have had the benefit of having their images burnished by a thousand and one starry eyed greenies. Nor, unlike Carson – as I note in The Little Green Book of Eco Fascism – do they have named after them a school, a bridge, a hiking trail, threeenvironmental prizes and an annual “sustainable” feast day (at herbirthplace in Springdale, Pennsylvania).
“Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all,” wrote Al Gore in his foreword to a reprint of Rachel Carson’s 1962 bestseller Silent Spring.
And on this rare occasion, Gore was probably right: Silent Spring, perhaps more than any other book, was responsible for launching the modern environmental movement.
It also set the tone for the environmentalists’ modus operandi: radical, counterproductive action inspired by public hysteria based on junk-science.
Silent Spring predicted a terrifying future in which the birds would stop singing and we’d all die of cancer because of our wanton use of evil pesticides. To reach this conclusion, Carson had completely to misrepresent the expert she’d quoted in support of her argument. James DeWitt of the US Fish And Wildlife Service had shown that pheasants fed high doses of DDT actually hatched more eggs, not fewer.
Carson may not personally have authorised the ban on DDT. But she was most certainly responsible for the groundless scaremongering which led to its ban in the US, against all expert advice, by the EPA’s William Ruckelhaus in 1970 – and which gave activist pressure groups the ammunition they needed to campaign successfully for similar bans all around the world.
How many people died as a result of Carson’s scaremongering? We cannot be sure. But in 1965 the National Academy of Sciences estimated that over the two previous decades DDT had “prevented 500 million deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable.”
Then again, if you share the view of Rachel Carson – and so many ardent greens – that man is but one species among many, maybe that’s not such a problem.
“In truth, man is against the earth,” she once wrote to a friend.
So maybe, by unwittingly engineering all those human deaths, Rachel Carson was doing mother earth a favour, right?