You are here

Jamaican Malaria: Blame Rachel Carson, not global warming

Malaria cases in Jamaica have surpassed 160, the Associated Press reports. This is the first outbreak there in more than four decades. One headline says, incorrectly as we will see, "Jamaica Fights Rare Malaria Outbreak." Expect to hear endless arguments about how this is due to global warming and human-induced climate change. How horrific it is that human are changing the natural climate cycles!     

One problem with this theory! The disease was never "rare" in Jamaica until man-made DDT, despised by enviros from Rachel Carson onward, wiped it out there in the 1960s. Malaria has long been a part of Jamaica's "natural" climate, which is very attractive to the mosquitoes that spread the disease. It has only been since the spraying of the man-made insecticide DDT, so hated by enviros from Rachel Carson on, that malaria had been eliminated there.

As Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of The Tipping Point and Blink, wrote in an excellent article in the New Yorker, Jamaica was part of the World Health Organization's Global Malaria Eradication program in the 1950s and '60s, in which countries with endemic malaria were subject to extensive spraying of DDT in the areas where disease-spreading mosquitoes congregate.

In the article, Gladwell had a fasicinating interview with Jesse Hobbs, who helped the Jamaica anti-malria campaign for the WHO in the early '60s. "What we all had was a handheld pressure sprayer of three-gallon capacity," Hobbs told Gladwell. "Generally, we used a formulation that was water wettable, meaning you had powder you mixed with water. Then you pressurized the tank. The squad chief would usually have notified the household some days before. The instructions were to take the pictures off the wall, pull everything away from the wall. Take the food and eating utensils out of the house. The spray man would spray with an up-and-down movement--at a certain speed, according to a pattern. You started at a certain point and sprayed the walls and ceiling, then went outside to spray the eaves of the roof. A spray man could cover ten to twelve houses a day. You were using about two hundred milligrams per square foot of DDT, which isn't very much, and it was formulated in a way that you could see where you sprayed."

Because of DDT, malaria was eliminated in much of the world, including parts of the United States. But with decades of no DDT spraying due to the bans and restrictions inspired by Carson's hysteria in Silent Spring, malaria has returned to areas where it once disappeared, such as Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and the highlands regions of Kenya.

The malaria incidents are a resurgence, not rare new outbreaks, as the Associated Press continues to misreport. What's causing this malaria is not global warming, but nature. And the problem in these cases is not human interfering too much with natural systems, but the fact that, due to environmentalist pressure, we are not interfering enough to stop deadly but perfectly "natural" diseases. As I note in Eco-Freaks: Envrionmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health, which this week became an Amazon non-fiction best-seller, Because technology has shielded us from the natural world, we don't perceive simple dangers from nature as easily as our grandparents did. ... And long before we had cars, electricity, or any of the other products that allegedly contribute to global warming, humans knew Mother Nature could be harsh."

Let's lift the DDT ban to protect the health Jamaica, Kenya, and possibly the United States from the old-fashiones ravages of nature.