mosquitos were already resistant to ddt -- 3/04/20

Today's selection -- from Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard. Mosquitos were already resistant to DDT:

"In 2012, environmentalists around the world celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson's seminal treatise Silent Spring. The villain of Carson's story was of course the 'elixirs of death,' or DDT.

"'Few books published in the United States have enjoyed the influence of Silent Spring,' acknowledges James McWilliams in American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT. 'Rachel Carson's at­tack on DDT and related insecticidal compounds had an impact that has been compared with that of Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin ... and sparked the modern environ­mental movement.' McWilliams asserts that 'Silent Spring, much like Common Sense and Uncle Tom's Cabin, tapped an emotion deeply embed­ded in the American psyche, a belief ineradicable and genuine.' Follow­ing the release of Silent Spring, Judy Hansen, former president of the American Mosquito Control Association, remembers that 'suddenly, it was fashionable to be an environmentalist.' The book remained atop the New York Times bestseller list for an astounding 31 weeks. In 1964, only 18 months after publication, Carson died tragically of cancer during her fifty-sixth spring, knowing that she had made a heroic difference.

"During the tumultuous protest decade of the 1960s, the seed of the environmental revolution was planted by Carson's 1962 ecofriendly worldview, fertilized by the use of the defoliant Agent Orange in Viet­nam, and watered by Joni Mitchell's 1970 hit song 'Big Yellow Taxi.' As academic findings and field research confirmed Carson's fatalistic phi­losophy, the Canadian folksinger begged farmers to shelve their DDT in favor of birds, bees, and the beloved spotted apples and fruit trees of DDT's pioneering chemist Paul Muller. With the benefit of looking back at the bygone DDT clouds from both sides now, Mitchell was right to reprimand farmers for paving paradise with the insecticide. It was the widespread, carpeting agricultural application of DDT that created en­vironmental degradation and mosquito defiance, not its relatively limited and surgical use solely as a mosquito killer.

Rachel Carson

"While the toxic and damaging environmental ramifications of the blanketing agricultural use of DDT are well known and generally un­disputed, not all recent commentators support Carson's prophecy of gilded paradise cities with estranged DDT spray guns and welcoming jungles of organic roses. 'Of note,' reported the American Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2004, 'when used indoors in limited quantities, DDT's entry into the global food chain is minimal.' While the current squabble over Carson's scientific evidence and meth­odology and the reinstatement of DDT as an agent against mosquito­ borne disease persists, the reality for most mosquito-infested regions of our planet is that DDT simply doesn't work anymore. The rancorous venom between environmentalists and those ripping on Rachel for her role in the demise of DDT, and the ensuing resurgence of mosquito­ borne disease, are spinning their wheels in an endless, futile circle game. Rachel is innocent.

"If it is somehow pacifying or soothing to assign blame to anyone or anything, we can point the mollifying finger squarely at the mosquito's evolutionary survival instincts. During her last stand on the final fron­tiers of the war of attrition between man and mosquito, she withstood the initial shock and awe of our insecticidal onslaught. Borrowing time as an ally, the mighty mosquito gained biological strength and eventu­ally outsmarted and resisted science by genetically counterattacking and defeating DDT. Amid the rallying cries of the fomenting counterculture marches and social revolutions of the turbulent sixties, the mosquito and malaria led their own defiant movements by rejecting the established order of DDT and antimalarial drugs.

"In 1972, a decade after Silent Spring went viral and America slapped a domestic agricultural ban on DDT, it didn't matter much anyway. The death knell of DDT as the frontline defense against mosquitoes had already been sounded. DDT had overstayed its welcome. The mosquito had outlasted her enemy's effectiveness and utility and no longer feared it. In the face of extermination, the mosquito and her empire of disease struck back and adapted and evolved during the silent springs of the 1960s. Malaria parasites snacked on chloroquine between meals of other antimalarials, and mosquitoes built up a luxurious lather of immunity during their showers in DDT."


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author:

Timothy C. Winegard

title:

Dutton, a division of Random House

publisher:

Copyright 2019 by Timothy C. Winegard

date:

397-400
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