Gov. Perry to Texas community colleges: “Drop dead”

June 19, 2007

Drop Dead

That headline was pre-Murdoch, wasn’t it?

It fits this situation, too. Just read. I’m too steamed to comment.

At TexasEd .

Rachel Carson’s friends chime in

June 19, 2007

Anti-environmental long-knives leave the impression that Rachel Carson knew little about science, and had a crabby disposition toward business and life in general.

Go read this: “Rachel Carson: I knew her when.

She was a poet and a scientist. You won’t learn anything about the controversy, really, other than the fact that Rachel Carson was a genuine woman, a very nice person. But it’s worth the read.

While you’re at Mort Reichek’s site, noodle around and see what else he’s got. He is a retired journalist with a lot to say. Pay attention. [New Jersey history and economics teachers: Do you realize what a resource you could have in this guy? Washington correspondent for Business Week? Hello!!???]

Update: Sadly, Mort passed on in 2011.  His blog remains up as a tribute to a great journalist and early blogger.

Going native, going green

June 19, 2007

Vicki Thaxton all by herself has saved more water usage in the Dallas area than can be contained in one of our Army Corps of Engineers water projects — say, Joe Pool Lake (yes, it really is named “Joe Pool Lake” — named after Congressman Joe Pool).

Butterfly on a salvia, from interview with Vicki Thaxton

How did she do it?  How did she save so much water?

Vicki advises Texans on planting their gardens, and for the 20 years or so we’ve known her, she’s been spreading the word, and sometimes spreading the mulch and fertilizer, about xeriscaping with native plants. “Xeriscaping” means landscaping that relies on natural water, rain and dew, instead of irrigation from a hose.

Vicki has been at the same place for all that time, but the establishment’s name has changed — the nursery in Cedar Hill where you find her and get advice is Petal Pushers, on Old Straus Road. (No promotional consideration, by the way.)

Plus, Vicki’s a nice lady. It’s good to see her getting a wider audience for her flower indoctrinations, even if just for a few minutes, on our local NBC affiliate, KXAS-TV, Channel 5. For at least a short while you can view this piece with KXAS’s weatherman, David Finfrock.

Setting the record straight on Rachel Carson, malaria and DDT

June 19, 2007

The contemptible campaign of hoax and calumny against the work and memory of Rachel Carson continues. You should read more at the sites I cite near the end of this post.

The key false claim of the Carson critics is that, but for the ban on DDT, millions of lives would have been saved over the past 30 years. Chief problem with the claim is that national bans on DDT all preserve DDT use for essential mosquito eradication, especially if there are no other tools to fight the disease. But other problems with the claim include the fact that DDT had stopped being highly effective by the late 1960s; eradication was a pipe dream, and mosquitoes developed resistance to DDT.

That doesn’t stop the critics. So, Dear Reader, when you read criticisms of Rachel Carson and hear the pseudo-science whine that Carson alone has condemned millions to death by malaria, I want you to keep in mind this question: If DDT were such an effective tool against malaria, why didn’t the World Health Organization fight to keep it? Why didn’t the manufacturers fight to keep it? Why would more than 150 nations, tens of thousands of scientists, tens of thousands of health workers, and conservative “I-told-you-so” skeptics who hate environmentalists, all simultaneously fall asleep?

The answer is, Dear Reader, they didn’t all fall asleep. DDT stopped being effective, and malaria fighters realized there were other problems — the parasites that the mosquitoes spread also became resistant to anti-malaria drugs, a bigger problem than DDT resistance. People and organizations who fight malaria did ask that use of DDT be preserved for spraying to fight malaria; but they didn’t defend it against bans on other use because those bans help the malaria fighters.

Cover of  Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance (2004), from the National Academies Press

Cover of Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance (2004), from the National Academies Press

Below the fold, I offer two quotes from Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance (2004) Board on Global Health (BGH) (available from the National Academy of Sciences). You can see that DDT is not the golden-egg-laying goose, and that consequently Rachel Carson is not the mindless ogre she is made out to be in recent invectives.

Check out these sites:

Read the rest of this entry »

Quote of the Moment: Barry Commoner and presidential campaigns

June 19, 2007

Barry Commoner turned 90 on May 28. He is profiled in The New York Times Science section on June 19, 2007 (if your local newspaper has a science section half as good, I’d love to hear about it). Commoner is a plant physiologist and great eminence at Washington University in St. Louis for 34 years, now at Queens College. He was a key informant of public opinion during the rise of ecological awareness in the 1960s and 1970s, probably the nation’s best known “ecologist.”

Barry Commoner on cover of Time, 2-2-1970

In 1980 he helped found the Citizens’ Party, and ran for the presidency their ticket.

He explained to the Times:

The peak of the campaign happened in Albuquerque, where a local reporter said to me, “Dr. Commoner, are you a serious candidate or are you just running on the issues?”

Time Magazine cover from February 2, 1970; Time sells replicas of historic covers.

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