A Democrat senator’s resolution to honor the centennial of famed environmentalist and “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson unexpectedly was blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who blamed Carson for creating a climate of “hysteria and misinformation” that led to the banning of DDT and the deaths of millions.
Carson, widely regarded as the inspiration for the modern environmentalist movement, warned in her 1962 book the pesticide DDT killed animals and threatened human health. She died in 1964, but her book led to a U.S. ban on the chemical in 1972 and subsequent bans worldwide.
A spokesman for Coburn said Carson’s work “both directly and indirectly created a climate of hysteria and misinformation about the impact of DDT on the human populations.”
“The result of that is that millions of people in the developing world died because the environmental movement, inspired by Rachel Carson, created a climate of fear and hysteria about DDT,” Coburn spokesman John Hart told Reuters.
The sponsor of the resolution, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, was surprised by the opposition, calling it inappropriate and arbitrary.
“Rachel Carson has been an inspiration to a generation of environmentalists, scientists and biologists who made a difference and changed the irresponsible use of pesticides,” Cardin told the news service. “Honoring her 100th birthday should not be controversial. I wanted to share that with our country.”
Cardin charged Coburn is “basically citing the line of the interest groups … because they had an economic interest in DDT.”
DDT originally was used during World War II in Europe to delouse troops and in South Pacific islands to kill insects causing malaria.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Critics of Carson cite the 500 million saved lives the National Academy of Sciences attributed to DDT before it was banned and note the World Health Organization’s affirmation that no substance had ever proved more beneficial to man.
In his book “Hoodwinked,” WND columnist and author Jack Cashill describes how esteemed entomologist J. Gordon Edwards eagerly raced through the first several chapters of Carson’s “Silent Spring” when it was first published, but as he did, his anticipation eroded into uneasiness:
“I noticed many statements that I realized were false.” Attracted by Carson’s message, Edwards tried to overlook the misstatements or to rationalize them away, but increasingly he could not. “As I neared the middle of the book,” he adds, “the feeling grew in my mind that Rachel Carson was really playing loose with the facts.”
Cashill notes how Carson disdained any assertion of man’s mastery over nature, writing, “The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.”
When Carson alluded to increased bird deaths during the DDT era, Edwards responded, “Is it possible that Carson was unaware of the great increases in mammals and game birds.” Her claim robins were on the verge of extinction because of DDT and related chemicals proved transparently untrue, Cashill said.
“At the end of the day, beyond all reasonable doubt, Edwards revealed Carson’s claim that DDT is ‘deadly’ to be “completely false,” said Cashill, who points out Edwards took to swallowing a tablespoon of DDT on stage before every lecture on the subject.
Coburn, who is also a physician, also has spoken out on many issues related to abortion and euthanasia. As WND reported last year, he said a Supreme Court upholding the state of Oregon’s assisted-suicide statute was wrong not only because of its questionable constitutionality but also because a doctors’ responsibility to patients is to heal them, not harm them.
“Nowhere does our Constitution give doctors the right to take the lives of their patients,” said Coburn. “Deliberately causing death is never a legitimate medical purpose. By creating another class of human beings whose lives have no value, the Supreme Court has put all vulnerable persons at risk.”
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