In partnership with American Experience
DDT, Malaria, and the Book That Changed Environmental Debate
Rachel Carson is often credited with helping give rise to the environmental movement. And with Silent Spring – her treatise on the danger of pesticides – she forced Americans to rethink how their actions might damage the world around them. Regulations were passed that virtually banned the use of DDT in the United States; most other countries followed suit. And, although she died two years after the publication of Silent Spring, her legacy over the decades continued to grow. As former-Vice President Al Gore noted during a remembrance ceremony in 2002, she “brought about change in all of our lives.”
But that change has not always been for the better, say Carson’s critics, who point out that DDT was more than an effective agricultural pesticide; it had also been a first line defense against a host of insect-borne diseases, such as malaria. They argue that the regulation of DDT drove malaria rates up across the developing world, after decades of decline. These critics are right that malaria remains a devastating burden, but they err in their understanding of why: correlation is not always causation, as Retro Report’s trip to Burkina Faso, an epicenter of the malaria fight shows.
More Like This
We’re Catching More Diseases From Wild Animals, and It’s Our Fault.
Scientists who venture into rainforests and bat caves explain how viruses, like Covid-19, spill over from animals to people, and what we must do to stop the next pandemic.
Our Appetite for Beef Is Growing. So Are Climate Worries.
Scientists warn that to slow climate change, we need to change how we farm and what we eat.
Meatless Burgers Are on Trend. Eating to Save the World Has a Long History.
Plant-based meats may be high tech, but the ideas behind them have been around for decades.
Population Bomb: The Overpopulation Theory That Fell Flat
In the 1960s, fears of overpopulation sparked talk of population control. So what happened?