The Law of Unintended Consequences

(This is my first post not written exclusively for this blog. Information was mainly taken from here and here.)

A central message of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is that chemical spraying causes unintended consequences; it not only attacks weeds and pests but has negative effects on the entire environment, including us. Despite being a visionary that almost single-handedly began America’s environmentalist movement, one thing that Carson didn’t see was the unintended consequences of her work.

Although DDT may have been proven to have many negative effects on the environment, the cessation of its use throughout the world has led to countless deaths because of malaria and other diseases. During the chemical era following WWII that Carson so bemoaned, many countries eliminated the scourge of malaria through the use of DDT. From 1943 to 1958, Venezuela cut its cases of malaria from 8,171,115 to 800. India had over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, but by 1969 it was down to 285,962. In the wealthy, developed, Western European country of Italy, it’s hard to imagine that in 1945 there were 411,602 cases of malaria- a disease that today is associated only with the Third World. In 1968, there were 37 cases of malaria in Italy, and this was due largely to the eradication of mosquitoes using DDT.

After DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, environmentalists set out to stop its use elsewhere. This has prevented other countries from using DDT to combat malaria like Venezuela, India and Italy did. There are now an estimated 300-500 million cases of malaria each year, most of them easily preventable. An estimated three million die. In this author’s opinion, the prevention of this unconscionable human suffering from being alleviated by chemical means is unjustifiable. A silent spring is better than a silent village.