West Nile Virus: The
[September 24, 2002]
By Nicholas Provenzo
The Washington Post
reports that a 54 year-old Northern Virginia woman died this Sunday
after being infected with the West Nile virus. The woman was Virginia's
first death from the mosquito-borne illness. To date, the Centers for
Disease Control reports over 2,000 Americans have been infected and over
100 Americans have died as a result of the disease.
The suffering and
death caused by the West Nile virus is tragic, yet this suffering is made
all the more tragic when you consider that the best technology to prevent
the spread of the disease has been illegal for 30 years. Despite long
being held as the most effective means of eradicating the mosquitoes that
carry West Nile virus and other diseases, including malaria, the US
government still upholds its ban on DDT.
The premise behind the
ban on DDT is that when misused, DDT harms the reproductive cycles of
small animals. When DDT is sprayed in excessive doses, as was done by the
federal government in the 1950’s and 1960’s, some species of birds can
suffer negative effects. Yet as 50 years of evidence shows, when DDT is
used properly, no negative effects to humans are reported (or to animals,
for that matter), while a whole host of mosquito-borne diseases are
Even with DDT’s clear
value to humans, its ban is nowhere near being repealed. By conservative
estimates, the enforcement of the worldwide DDT ban has caused the death
of tens of millions of human beings by malaria and resulted in economic
losses measured in the billions. And now, in the US, we are forced to
contend with the West Nile virus with no effective tools to stem the
Yet even in the face
of a death toll nearing that of WWII, the DDT ban is held as one of the
crowning achievements of the environmental movement. Despite its
scientific claims having long been disproved by science, it was Rachel
Carson’s crusade against DDT though her 1960’s book Silent Spring
that launched today’s environmentalist movement and it is precisely
today’s environmentalists that stand in the way of DDT.
So why, in the face of
having their scientific arguments refuted and with the benefits of
technology so clear, are the environmentalists able to keep the use of
pesticides like DDT illegal? The reason is that the environmentalists’
moral premise is all but unchallenged today. Environmentalists hold that
nature has a worth separate and above the worth of humans and that human
beings are incapable of properly controlling nature. Practically no one
argues effectively against this view.
That human life is a
value should be self-evident. That the deaths and suffering caused by the
West Nile virus and malaria prove that we must dedicate ourselves to
effectively controlling nature should be just as clear. There needs to be
an alternative to the view that mankind is impotent and unworthy to
control the world around him.
In the face of the
anti-man actions of the
environmentalists, it’s time the veneer that they are concerned about the
health and welfare of human beings be removed once and for all. If the
benefit to human beings is the standard by which we judge the value of a
technology, there should be no law against the use of DDT and we should be
left free to use our technology to better our lives. But before epidemics
such as West Nile virus and malaria are eradicated, the epidemic of
environmentalism must be eradicated first.
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