Following in the footsteps of The Great Global Warming Swindle Channel 4 has produced a new documentary that also appears to favour being controversial over being accurate or fair: What the Green Movement Got Wrong.
In one scene they interspersed heart-wrenching photos of starving children in Zambia, their emaciated mouths crying out for help, with a story of how the environmental movement blocked the delivery of food aid to Zambia from the United States because the grain was genetically modified. To clear up the story, I might mention that the environmental movement doesn’t run the country of Zambia. Greenpeace has since published a letter that it sent African governments at the time encouraging them to accept food aid despite fears that genetically modified seeds would ‘pollute’ local seedstock.
And this isn’t he only thing they got wrong. A Channel 4 spokesperson claimed that the program had “been meticulously researched over a six-month period”, but they repeated the myth that greens were responsible for a ban on DDT that killed millions.
It doesn’t take six months of research to find that this is wrong but more like six seconds.
The documentary gets the myth from Stewart Brand’s book, which states:
“Environmentalists were right to be inspired by marine biologist Rachel Carson’s book on pesticides, Silent Spring, but wrong to place DDT in the category of Absolute Evil (which she did not). Most of her scientific assessments proved right, some didn’t — such as her view that DDT causes cancer. In an excess of zeal that Carson did not live to moderate, DDT was banned worldwide, and malaria took off in Africa. Quoted in a 2007 National Geographic article, Robert Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health said, “The ban on DDT may have killed 20 million children.”
In the past several years, we supplied DDT 75% WDP to Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand, Myanmar for Malaria Control project, and won a good reputation from WHO and relevant countries’ government.
But it was also clear that the campaign was far too ambitious. In much of the deep tropics malaria persisted stubbornly. Financing for the effort eventually withered, and the eradication program was abandoned in 1969. In many nations, this coincided with a decrease in foreign aid, with political instability and burgeoning poverty, and with overburdened public health services.
In several places where malaria had been on the brink of extinction, including both Sri Lanka and India, the disease came roaring back. And in much of sub-Saharan Africa, malaria eradication never really got started. The WHO program largely bypassed the continent, and smaller scale efforts made little headway.
Contrary to Brands’ claims, his own source shows that those evil environmentalists had nothing to with the abandonment of the eradication campaign. Nor is it possible for the abandonment of the eradication campaign to have caused malaria to take off in Africa since that campaign bypassed Africa. The National Geographic article continues:
In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, documenting this abuse and painting so damning a picture that the chemical was eventually outlawed by most of the world for agricultural use. Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. “The ban on DDT,” says Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, “may have killed 20 million children.”
The Stockholm Convention, adopted in 2001, does ban the agricultural use of DDT with an exception for malaria control, but did not make it “nearly impossible to procure”, as the list of countries using it shows. Gwadz’s claim is clearly false. In fact the ban on the agricultural use of DDT has saved lives by slowing the evolution of resistance.
In the film, Brand made a challenge:
I would like to see an environmental movement that’s comfortable noticing when it’s wrong and announcing when it’s wrong.
So George Monbiot challenged Brand to notice and announce that he’s wrong about DDT. So far it hasn’t happened. Unless it does, I think we should be skeptical about the rest of Brand’s thesis.