Young public school artists draw award-winning inspiration from endangered species.

May 1, 2015

Young artists inspired by #endangeredspecies:1st prize D Starovoytov,6th grade http://1.usa.gov/1Koe2RY  @EcoSchoolsUSA  From @USFWSRefuges

Young artists inspired by #endangeredspecies:1st prize D Starovoytov,6th grade http://1.usa.gov/1Koe2RY @EcoSchoolsUSA From @USFWSRefuges

Maybe someone can make that 6th grader’s day, or life, by asking to purchase that piece (watercolor?) for a few thousands of dollars, to go into a college fund.

The USFWS blog, A Talk on the Wildside, announced the winners of the agency’s 2015 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest.

David Starovoytov, a sixth-grader from California, won the Grand Prize with his art of a Kentucky arrow darter, a beautiful fish found only in eastern Kentucky. During the breeding season, the males are blue-green with scarlet spots and scarlet-orange vertical bars on their body.  The Kentucky arrow darter is a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Federal candidates warrant ESA protection but are sometimes precluded from listing by other higher priority listing actions (other species are more imperiled and take priority).  Each year, the Service publishes a list and summarizes the current status for all candidate species in its Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR). The CNOR helps landowners and natural resource managers plan conservation to address threats to candidate species. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has identified the Kentucky arrow darter as a species of greatest conservation need and has been hard at work conserving it through captive breeding and other projects.  A key threat to the Kentucky arrow darter is degradation of habitat through surface coal mining and other human activities.  Changes in water quality have a profound impact on all aquatic species, including the Kentucky arrow darter.

The darter itself has an interesting story. Cool that a California kid heard the story, and made such a nice work of art.

The rest of the press release, and other winners:

AlligatorFourteen-year-old Seungeun Yi, of California, took second place with art of an American alligator, actually one of our greatest ESA successes. As recently as the 1950s, American alligator populations were at all-time lows as market-hunting and habitat loss decimated the species. ESA protection prohibited hunting, and the alligator began to recover, and states throughout the South helped make sure the population increased. We declared the animal fully recovered in 1987, but related species are still in trouble, so the American alligator is listed as “threatened due to similarity of appearance.

San Francisco garter snake

Another Californian, Mark Deaver, 8, won the Grades k-2 Category with his art of an endangered San Francisco garter snake. The San Francisco garter snake with its turquoise body and orange, black and red-orange stripes, is often called the most beautiful snake in the United States. Because they are so beautiful, some people collect them illegally. But the more significant threat comes from habitat loss. We are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and other partners to provide habitat for the snake.

eagle

Difei Li, 10, of New Jersey, won the Grades 3-5 Category with art of a bald eagle. Perhaps the ESA success story, the bald eagle population bottomed out in 1963 with just 417 nesting pairs in the contiguous United States. Habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting and the widespread use of DDT had sent the eagle population plummeting after World War II. Protecting habitat, banning most DDT use and a host of conservation actions by the American public helped bald eagles make a remarkable recovery. Though removed from the endangered species list in 2007 because their populations recovered sufficiently, bald eagles are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

Northern aplomado falconClaire Noelle Kiernicki, 12, of  Illinois, won the Grades 6-8 Category with art of an endangered Northern aplomado falcon. Once widespread throughout the American Southwest, the aplomado falcon disappeared in South Texas in the 1940s and 1950s because of widespread loss of habitat.  An aggressive captive breeding and re-introduction effort has improved population numbers and the aplomado falcon is making a comeback in southern Texas.

bat

Adam Pavan, 15, of California, won the Grades 9-12 Category with art of an endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. Also known as the ‘ope‘ape‘a, populations are believed to be threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, predation, and roost disturbance. Its decline may be primarily due to the reduction of tree cover in historic times, and they may be indirectly impacted by the use of pesticides. Conservation plans guide the management and use of forests to reduce negative efforts to known bat populations and, continued support for the ‘ope‘ape‘a research cooperative.

Congratulations to all the entrants and thank you for helping spread the word about the endangered species of  the United States and its waters.


Another conservation success: Bearded vulture returns to the Alps

May 31, 2014

Do conservation efforts pay off?  Yes, they do.

Film comes from the European-based Vulture Conservation Foundation.

Since the film, more of these majestic animals have been released.  Here are photos from the release on Friday, May 30:

Workers and volunteers from the Vulture Conservation Foundation, climbing the Alps to release to the wild another captive-raised bearded vulture.

Workers and volunteers from the Vulture Conservation Foundation, climbing the Alps to release to the wild another captive-raised bearded vulture. (We might assume the vulture is in the box.)

One must respect these volunteers, climbing such tors simply to watch a bird fly away.

The line of hiking Vulture Conservation Foundation volunteers stretched across an alpine mountain for a release on May 30, 2014.

The line of hiking Vulture Conservation Foundation volunteers stretched across an alpine mountain for a release on May 30, 2014.

You can tell

Not ready for his (her?) close up, this bearded vulture may be wildly happy, or sad to leave those who raised it.  Vultures, it may be said, are often inscrutable.  Vulture Conservation Foundation photos.

Not ready for his (her?) close up, this bearded vulture may be wildly happy, or sad to leave those who raised it. Vultures, it may be said, are often inscrutable. Vulture Conservation Foundation photos.

Tip of the old scrub brush to bird conservationist Amanda Holland.


Signs of life: Endangered squirrels

May 13, 2014

From jbendery (Jennifer Bendery) --  I learned today that there are endangered squirrels, and apparently they have ginormous tails. (h/t @kate_sheppard) pic.twitter.com/Uu4QxiDa5M

From jbendery (Jennifer Bendery) — I learned today that there are endangered squirrels, and apparently they have ginormous tails. (h/t @kate_sheppard) pic.twitter.com/Uu4QxiDa5M

A lot of punchlines possible, e.g., ‘if the squirrels weren’t slow, maybe they wouldn’t be endangered.’

Still a rather unique sign, no?

I wonder where it is?  This sign marks habitat in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge  in Maryland for the Delmarva fox squirrel.

Update:  Well, maybe not wholly unique; World Wildlife Fund has this one — again, without a note about location.

Slow - squirrel crossing sign © Michael Mallet

© Michael Mallet


Insta-Millard: Look alive, kids, Fuego is lurking!

May 12, 2014

One way to get the kids out of their sleeping bags in the morning, no?  Just alert them to the passing California condor, looking for something that doesn’t move, to eat.

USFWS PacificSouthwest:

USFWS PacificSouthwest: “Now that is up close and personal! Melissa Galieti snapped this picture of #Condor 470 ‘Fuego,’ May 5 in Big Sur, California. pic.twitter.com/QKvURadqaV

Only way to get closer to these majestic birds is to do what our cousin Amanda Holland did, and work with the Condor recovery project.

Might be a life’s work in there somewhere.

 


More misunderstanding of the case against DDT

December 21, 2011

Well-meaning but misinformed dog breeder Terrierman (a guy who goes by the handle PBurns, too)  is just the latest to fall victim to false and nearly false claims about DDT and its effects on birds.

One of the claims made by pro-DDT and anti-environmental protection, anti-science groups is that DDT is not the bad guy in bird deaths.  The late DDT-nut Gordon Edwards said DDT had nothing to do with eagle deaths, and pointed to the 300-year decline in eagle populations from the time European settlers began shooting at them.  This idea has been touted by the chief junk science purveyor, Steven Milloy, and by many others over the years.

So, in one of his several posts slamming eagle conservation efforts that include stopping the use of DDT, Terrierman said:

What’s the story? Simple: that Bald Eagles and Osprey were pushed to the edge of extinction by DDT.

Not True.

Actually, that is true.  Terrierman got it wrong.  DDT was, indeed, threatening the very existence of the bald eagle.  While it is true that there were other pressures, some long-standing, it is also true that once those problems were cleared, DDT still barred the recovery of the eagle, plus other species like osprey, peregrine falcons, and brown pelicans.

What is the story?  The story is that eagles have been under assault since Europeans found America.  By 1900, eagle populations across North America were dramatically and drastically reduced.  A federal law in 1918 made it illegal to shoot eagles, but it had little effect.  A tougher law passed in 1940 finally got some traction.

But eagle recovery didn’t take off.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s bird watchers, and bird counters like those volunteers who contribute to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, noticed that young eagles disappeared.  Simply, adult, breeding eagles were not able to produce young who survived to migrate, mature, and breed later.

The culprit was DDT.  DDT kills young eagles in three ways, known in the 1960s.  It poisons them so they cannot grow in the egg.  It poisons them so they die after a period of growth.  It poisons them so they are unable to eat and digest properly, so they die shortly after they hatch.

DDT can also screw up the sexual organs of young birds, so they are unable to breed — perhaps a fourth way DDT kills young, by simply preventing their creation.

Then, in the 1970s, we found another way DDT kills species:  DDT makes the eagle hens unable to form competent eggshells.  The young die because the eggs cannot survive incubation.

DDT also kills adult eagles, especially migrating birds.  DDT accumulates in fat tissues, those fats that migrating birds burn.  When the birds migrate, the DDT comes out, and it can literally stop the heart or brain of the bird in flight.  (It kills bats the same way.)  Birds lost in migration rarely get found for necropsy.   The bird count simply falls, the population sinks one individual closer to extinction.

Does the dog breeder know all of this?  I can’t tell — I tried to correct his errors at his blog site, but after I provided a link to an article that showed DDT appears to be harming California condors as well — in a post he has censored in moderation and which will never see the light of day at Terrierman, I predict — it’s clear he’s not up to gentle correction.

One more blog from which I am banned from telling the facts.

PBurns, if you’re bold enough to comment here, your comments won’t be censored (so long as not profane).  We need robust discussion, and I encourage it.

Below the fold — my final post to Terrierman, which he won’t allow through moderation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Adventures in Condor land: Moonrise over Hopper Ranch

June 8, 2010

Moon over Hopper Ranch, by Amanda Holland

Moon over Hopper Ranch, by Amanda Holland

Kathryn’s cousin Amanda Holland writes from her great adventure helping to rescue the California Condor, with this photo of the Moon, behind clouds and haze, over the mountains, from Hopper Ranch.

Here’s where I feel the pangs of leaving biology behind for rhetoric, then politics and law.  Probably the best part of research in biology was the places one had to go.  The best adventures involve getting to and back from the places researchers must go to get data or samples.

And now, with electronic cameras and cards that will easily accommodate 1,000 photos, images are easy to capture.

Some of the images I wish I could get back:  Moonrise over Shiprock*; the rattlesnake who liked to hide in the equipment box at the New Mexico Agriculture Experiment Station; the field of asparagus at the Experiment Station, poking up through the desert for the first time (I wonder if they decided to grow asparagus); thunderstorms at Shiprock and over Kimberly, New Mexico; sunrise in Huntington Canyon, Utah; looking nearly into Nevada through crystal air after a summer thunderstorm near Seeley Mountain.  There are a lot more, really.

Adventures past: We remember them warmly.  Getting out in the wild, doing the hard, grunt work necessary to learn about endangered species, or save them, or just improve conservation practices, is close to godliness, and among the greatest pleasures life can offer.

More:

  • See this photo of Shiprock and Moon, probably by a photography named William Stone; this photo of Shiprock and storm, by Radeka, is good, too; at one time my job was to drive from Farmington, New Mexico, past the Shiprock everyday, to get air pollution samples.  The Shiprock rivals Mt. Timpanogos in my personal pantheon of great mountains I grew up with.

Sage grouse non-listing: USDA offers $16 million to protect the birds

March 17, 2010

Remember the sage grouse? People groused because the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service determined most populations of western sage grouse are threatened enough to earn listing as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act — but then refused to list the bird, because other plants and animals are even more threatened, and need attention sooner.  (I was one of those people complaining.)

It’s a new administration.  U.S. Department of Agriculture offered $16 million for projects to protect the bird’s habitat.  This ruling put increased pressure on state wildlife agencies, in an interesting if not unique twist of the issue of federalism, state vs. federal responsibility for wildlife and wild lands.  Wyoming wants $3 million right away, for projects mostly on private land.

In other words, the administration will sometimes find ways to do the right thing without doing the most difficult or controversial thing.  Ranchers and energy developers cheered by original decision are also happy about Ag’s proposed spending.  Environmentalists unhappy with the first ruling shouled be cheered by Ag’s action, too.  State agencies that worked hard to make the case for listing the bird may be cheered, also.

Sage grouse habitat threatened by deveolopment, in Nevada - Las Vega Sun graphic

Sage grouse habitat threatened by deveolopment, in Nevada - Las Vega Sun graphic

Readers of the Las Vegas Sun learned about the program last week — the Sun has covered the sage grouse as part of its coverage of alternative energy programs.  Much sage grouse habitat in Nevada overlaps wind energy and geothermal energy development zones.

Ranchers across the west are being offered millions of dollars in aid from the federal government to make their operations more environmentally sustainable and reduce their impact on the sage grouse the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today.

“USDA will take bold steps to ensure the enhancement and preservation of sage grouse habitat and the sustainability of working ranches and farms in the western United States,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Our targeted approach will seek out projects that offer the highest potential for boosting sage-grouse populations and enhancing habitat quality.”

The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will soon begin accepting applications for two federal programs aimed at reducing threats to the birds such as disease and invasive species and improving sage-grouse habitat. The agency will have up to $16 million at its disposal for the programs.

The Wilderness Habitat Incentive Program provides up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to create and improve fish and wildlife habitat on private and tribal land.

Sage grouse face a difficult future.  State wildlife management agencies face a tough future, too, in trying to save the birds.  The nation needs energy resources found, often, where the sage grouse need lands to meet, mate and raise their young.  It’s a difficult balancing act.

More information:


Tracks on the beach, footprints in the sand

January 30, 2010

Maybe not the tracks you expected — pulse quickening, all the same:

Grizzly bear tracks, Sithylemenkat Lake, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska - photo by Steve Hillebrand USFWS, public domain

Grizzly bear tracks, Sithylemenkat Lake, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska - August 2006 photo by Steve Hillebrand USFWS, public domain


Climate change, and DDT: Monckton’s inconvenient and inaccurate history

December 31, 2009

Oh, Christopher Monckton raves on, and gullible or horribly ignorant journalists let him.  Maybe Michael Coren is both gullible and horribly ignorant.

Monckton’s grotesque errors of history suggest that he’s probably wrong on the science, too, considering that his studies were in the classics, and not science.  If he can’t get stuff right in his area of expertise, it’s almost impossible that he’d be right far afield.

I don’t know Coren’s other work, but the way he turned his microphone over to Monckton in the interview below is disturbing, with no challenge given to wild flights of imagination Monckton took, posed as history.  The Kennedy administration wasn’t that long ago; Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring had a 40th anniversary edition that is still on the shelves.  Bald eagles, the national bird of the United States, climbed off the endangered species list just a few months ago with accompanying dozens of news stories that explained DDT had nearly wiped the species out.

Coren slept through all of that?  Monckton thought no one would remember the accurate history?

Monckton’s appearance on Michael Coren’s program on CTS (a Canadian network) obnoxiously slapped my browser.  You may recall I had checked out Monckton’s speech to an unquestioning group of students at a religious college in Minnesota.  At about the same time, he showed up on Coren’s program, saying much of the same things he’d said earlier in Minnesota.

Rachel Carson persuaded President John Kennedy on her knowledge of oceans; it was the good science that hooked him. Illustration from Audubon Magazine: CARSON AND CAMELOT, Illustration by Joe Ciardiello

Rachel Carson persuaded President John Kennedy on her knowledge of oceans; it was the good science that hooked him. Illustration from Audubon Magazine: CARSON AND CAMELOT, Illustration by Joe Ciardiello

Have you ever interviewed a truly pathological liar?  Hoaxsters tell falsehoods, and the truly pathological ones keep exaggerating as they tell, testing the waters to see how much the audience will believe.  I think Monckton is one of those.

Consequently, the falsehoods grow grander as the hoaxster finds the audience gullibly lapping up the milk of human imagination.

Take this example, Monckton in part 5 of his interview comedy routine with Coren.  Coren doesn’t question any of the confabulations Monckton comes up with, apparently having been born after 1975 and never read much history of science or the enviornmental movement, and apparently having somehow missed the dozens of news stories in recent years on the recovery and removal from the Endangered Species List of the bald eagle and brown pelican, and recovery of osprey and peregrine falcons (does Canada have Google?  does Coren know how to use it?  does Coren have no producer, no fact checkers?)

Nor, apparently, does Monckton have any ability to control his ability to say patently offensive and absolutely impossible things to blame others.  Monckton blames Jackie Kennedy for killing 40 million kids with malaria; never mind that he’s wrong, he pushes on to call President Jack Kennedy “her foolish husband;” never mind that he’s got all his facts wrong, he proceeds to call William Ruckleshaus “an environmental nincompoop”:

[At 2:50 of the video]

LORD MONCKTON: I think it is particularly sad that what is essentially a scientific question has been politicized.  In Britain it’s different.  All parties have sort of gone along with the bedwetting theory.  They’ve all said, “Oh, yes!  We’re doomed!”

The Conservative Party — which is nominally the right-wing party, though now it’s kind of center-left, really — it has come out and said — in fact it has produced the stupidest document on climate change that I’ve ever seen, it’s even stupider than Al Gore’s film; it’s unbelievable how half-witted it is.  It isn’t universal that it’s right-left.

Certainly it is true to say that the left are more enthusiastic about this, worldwide, than anyone else.

But, you see, then, they’ve got it wrong before.  Let’s take the DDT example, where 41 years ago, Jackie Kennedy read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  And the thesis of this book was that because of DDT and other chemicals we were pouring into the atmosphere, the world was going to be so grossly polluted that every species other than humankind would die, and then eventually we would die, too.  And it was all going to be terrible.

From where did Monckton get the idea that Jackie Kennedy read Carson’s book, and that she initiated action? Famously, President Kennedy took a question about DDT in one of his popular afternoon press conferences.  He said he had read the book, and that he was looking into it.

President Kennedy did in fact task his science advisers to check out the book.  The President’s Science Advisory Council (PSAC) reported on May 15, 1963.  They said Carson’s book was accurate, and that the government should act immediately to investigate harms from synthetic chemicals including DDT.

Carson didn’t write anything about ‘pouring chemicals into the atmosphere.’  One of the great concerns among wildlife biologists was the damage done in water — where, it turned out, DDT was quickly absorbed into all living things, which then multiplied the dosages of DDT several million times as it climbed up the trophic ladder (food chains).  The problem with DDT is that it doesn’t go into the air, or water, but is instead rapidly absorbed by living tissue.  DDT sprayed in an estuary is taken up by first-level producers, including zooplankton, phytoplankton and plants, as well as any other creature that happens by.  As these producers are consumed by creatures higher up the food chain, the dosage multiplies geometrically.

Carson didn’t whine as Monckton claims she did.  She coolly and calmly laid out the facts.  The facts were, and are, that DDT and its sister compounds pose serious dangers to living things.

And Jackie Kennedy read this, and shivered, and plucked at the sleeve of her husband — who was then President of the United States — and said:  “Look.  You’ve got to do something about this!  We’ve got to save the planet from DDT!”

Isn’t that a remarkable coincidence?  Jackie Kennedy’s husband was president of the United States! He always had such cute cuffs to tug on, too.  Monckton’s infantilizing the First Lady and President of the U.S. lacks the charm Monckton must think it adds.

Jackie Kennedy was a smart and capable woman, a journalist who went on to a long and successful career as an editor at a major publishing house.  Monckton’s disparaging of Mrs. Kennedy here is uncalled for, untoward, and ugly — and factually wrong.

I’m sure that if the president’s wife told him to look into an issue, he did.  She was not in the habit of being frivolous or silly.  There is film of President Kennedy at a press conference, being asked by a reporter if there is any official reaction on Carson’s book (hardly the pillow-side sleeve tug Monckton imagines); and anyone can check the presidential papers to see the report from the science advisors.  As we know now, Carson was right.  The Nobel winners  and others on the PSAC agreed.  Incidentally, they won their Nobels for hard research, not by writing letters to the editor of an publication from an organization that won a Nobel and then getting a sycophant to manufacture a replica Nobel, as Monckton claims with his dime-store “Nobel pin” (like a man whose mother refused to buy a deputy sheriff star for his cowboy games).

In his efforts to make the story entertainingly memorable, Monckton gives us the equivalent of passed gas in a crowded elevator.

But, Dear Reader — Dear God! — brace yourself:

And so Kennedy appointed a friend of his who was an environmental nincompoop, to take charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

How can we know Monckton is lying? Well, John Kennedy died in November 1963.  The Environmental Protection Agency took form seven years later, in the administration of Richard Nixon, the man Kennedy defeated for the presidency in 1960.  John Kennedy was dead, and his younger brother suffered assassination, too.  Monckton’s English — U.S. history is not his forte.

So, EPA did not exist in John Kennedy’s life.  Unless Monckton claims Kennedy came back from the grave and wrested the pen from Nixon’s hand, it would have been impossible for Kennedy to appoint anyone to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

To whom is Monckton referring as director?  William Ruckelshaus, the old Republican political operator?  Monckton’s slip of the grip on history is so severe that it can’t be restored.  He’s so far out in fantasy land it’s difficult to tell.

But let’s take the next line:

Result:  Unfortunately; they banned DDT.

Ruckelshaus was Director of EPA when DDT was banned.  Ruckelshaus signed the documents.  Monckton could only be referring to Ruckelshaus.  To make his case for DDT, Monckton must bend time and all of politics.

And then, Monckton, of all people, refers to Ruckelshaus as a “nincompoop.” Um, Monck, this is one of the heroes of the Saturday Night Massacre, one of America’s better lawyers of that time or any time, a committed man of reason and solid environmental credentials.  If Ruckelshaus is an environmental nincompoop, Monckton is a lobotomized environmental pisant with a bad attitude.  (Regardless whatever he may be, Monckton has a bad attitude.)

We confront the reality here that Monckton is not engaging in any discussion about science, where simple facts of history got wrong can be subject to swift and gracious correction.  He’s off in Faux Propagandaland, making up nasty things to say as he bulldozes through the facts and truth, pushing them out of the way of his rant.  Facts, history and science be damned!, Monckton froths.  This is a crusade against the evils of socialism, and Monckton will carry on the war even when there are no socialists and no evil!  So what if they are not socialists!  Monckton will label them so and that will be that!

Oy.  Monckton’s so far out in left field at Wrigley that he’s in the bar across the street.

This was copied worldwide, because the left got going.  “Aha! We can show who’s boss!  We can ban DDT!”

Nope, sorry.  Sweden banned DDT, and then the U.S. banned DDT from use around babies, and then in 1972 the U.S. banned use of DDT in agriculture.  Most European nations eventually followed with tighter regulations.  History shows, however, that DDT was never banned in most of the world.  In the U.S., sadly, DDT manufacture for export continued until 1984 (to the day before the enactment of the Superfund bill), and DDT manufacture continues today in India and China.

Not only did the left not ban DDT around the world, no one did.

Not content to merely rape history and stuff its bloody body in a garbage can, Monckton then invents a whole new class of evil for environmentalists to do:

And of course a lot of them were in league with people who were producing chemicals other than DDT, which they wanted to replace, so they were making money out of it the usual — unfortunately the usual money-packed story, and inglorious story.

Got that?  He says Kennedy, though dead for nearly a decade, conspired to ban DDT so he could get kickbacks from companies who manufactured competing pesticides. And so did Ruckelshaus, one of the few men who stood up to Richard Nixon and refused to fire Archibald Cox.  Monckton says Ruckelshaus was crooked, and taking kickbacks from chemical companies.

So, they banned DDT.  Now, DDT is, in fact, safe enough you can eat it by the tablespoonful — I wouldn’t recommend that, but you can do that, it won’t hurt you if you do.  It’s completely harmless to humans.  It’s completely harmless to birdlife and animals.

In 1975 a committee of the House of Representatives asked for a history of EPA.  Among other topics, the DDT restrictions were discussed — here’s a 312-page document showing which harms were of greatest concern, and what was the science that backed the analysis of those harms.  It’s 312 pages that Monckton hopes you will never read.  He probably hopes it doesn’t even exist anymore.

By 1975 all the harms of DDT worried about by Rachel Carson 13 years before had been confirmed, with the slightly happy news that DDT is not a potent human carcinogen, but a weak one.

The only thing it’s harmful to is the anopheles mosquito, which is the vector that carries the falciparum parasite that causes malaria.  And to the aedes egyptii mosquito, which carries the yellow fever parasite.  It’s fatal — and really fatal — to both of them.

DDT acutely kills fish, birds and bats.  Had Monckton done his research, he’d have seen the plea from the U.S. Army to keep DDT available for poisoning bats in old, dilapidated barracks.  (EPA did not keep that use.)  DDT manufacturers bragged about how deadly the stuff was, in trying to make a case that it should be left on the market for unrestricted use.  40 years later, wild populations of bats are beginning to recover from collateral poisoning from DDT.  Bats fall into that branch of the animal kingdom known as mammals, where humans also fall.  Generally, if a poison is toxic to one mammal, it will be toxic to all others if dose is altered to consider body mass.  But also, if a substance is carcinogenic to one mammal, it will be cancer-causing to other mammals, too.

In mosquito control DDT is problematic.   It kills mosquitoes, but it also kills all other small creatures.  Especially, it kills those things that prey on mosquitoes — other insects, birds and arachnids, fish and small animals especially.  Since mosquitoes recover from DDT rather quickly, and predators take much longer to recover, this means an outdoor dose of DDT will result in a dramatic population explosion of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in a few weeks, as the mosquitoes recover more quickly than their predators do.

Monckton appears to think DDT is selective to mosquitoes.  DDT is a broad-scale killer, not selective in any way we know.

And the guy who invented it, who was German, got the Nobel Prize, because before DDT was introduced, a million people a year around the world, nearly all of them children, were dying of malaria.  It was one of the biggest killers.

Paul Muller won the Nobel in Medicine in 1948 for discovering that DDT kills insects.  But he was not the guy who invented the stuff more than 50 years earlier. Once again, where it’s easy to check facts, Monckton just doesn’t get the facts straight.

Before DDT was introduced, and for a long time thereafter, malaria killed about three million people annually.  When WHO conducted its eradication campaign, malaria deaths fell to about two million per year by the middle 1960s.  Once DDT use in that campaign was stopped, malaria death rates continued to fall to about a million a year today.  Malaria incidence and deaths rose in the 1980s when the malaria parasites themselves developed resistance to medicines used to treat and cure malaria in humans.

The chief barrier to lower malaria infection rates is education on barriers against mosquito exposure.  The chief barrier to lower malaria death totals is the development and delivery of pharmaceuticals to treat infected humans.  DDT is a panacea in neither theatre.

DDT came along and deaths fell to 50,000.

Monckton is flat out wrong.  He’s off by a factor of 20.  He’s making this stuff up.

We were on the point of wiping it out.

Flat out wrong again.  The World Health Organization (WHO) undertook a very ambitious program to eradicate malaria in the 1950s.  By the mid-1960s it was clear the program could not work:  In Africa, overuse of DDT (in agriculture) bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT.  Worse, in most of Subsaharan Africa, governments were not stable enough to have the discipline required to mount an effective campaign against the disease, knocking down the insect carriers briefly, then furiously treating humans with the disease so that when the mosquitoes returned there would be no pool of human infection from which to draw the disease.  This is all detailed in one of those fascinating New Yorker profiles of the legendary Fred Soper, by Macolm Gladwell.  For most of the world, we’ve never been to the point of wiping out malaria, and in those places where we’ve been successful in wiping out the disease, DDT was not the chief weapon.

When the left got in on the act — it’s exactly the same people:  the Environmental Defense Fund — you know — people who have got hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank!  Goodness knows where they get it from!  Foreign governments, possibly!  I don’t know!  I haven’t looked.  But it’s certainly an alarming question:  Are the environmental movements being backed by China or India so they won’t have to compete with us for natural resources because we will have shut our industry down.  It’s a question that the security services, I hope, are looking at, because it certainly worries me.

Monckton at his most scurrilous, and most distant from the facts.  Are environmental groups funded by China?  No.  In any case, the environmental groups don’t have nearly the funding of the pro-DDT groups, with their corporate funds. While we’re thinking about it, we should think about which side China would intervene on, were China to follow through on its historic reluctance to do anything about global warming.  Who is running around the world claiming we need to do nothing, and should do nothing?  Christopher Monckton.

If Monckton is worried about who is funding him, I’m sure the CIA and FBI would be happy to let him tell them about his well of money  he uses to frustrate the United Nations and treaty obligation of a hundred nations.  (Bill Dembski?  Are you still alive?  Why don’t you turn Monckton in — you’ve still got the number of Homeland Security, don’t you?)

Perhaps most egregious, or most funny, is this:  Environmental Defense has been a leader among all agencies, governmental and NGO, to urge the extremely limited use of DDT in indoor residual spraying – and yet, they are the one group Monckton complains about.

It’s a wonder to me that Monckton can figure out which part of his foot goes into his shoes first, in the mornings.  He has such a flair for getting the facts exactly wrong, and then getting into a dudgeon about his own error.  Monckton:  Not only wrong, but 180 degrees precisely wrong.

But there was the Environmental Defense Fund, and it came in and said, “Right, we’re going to press for a ban on DDT.” They succeeded.

The number of deaths went back up, from 50,000 a year to a million a year, and it stayed there for 40 years, while the likes of me were saying, “This is killing millions.  It ought to be stopped.  What on Earth is the World Health Organization doing?”

And eventually, just three years ago, on the 15th of September, 2006, Dr. Arata Kochi of the World Health Organization said, “Right.”  He said, “In this field, politics usually predominates.  Now we are going to take a stand on the science and the data.”  He ended the ban on DDT and declared that once again it would be the frontline of defense against the mosquito.

DDT has never been banned in most of the world — especially not in Africa.  WHO never banned DDT, they simply stopped using it when it ceased to be effective. Plus, you’ll recall from just a few paragraphs above, Environmental Defense (formerly EDF)  led the campaign to get DDT restored to use in IRS campaigns in Africa.

Monckton’s game is worse than blaming the messenger — he’s blaming the heroes.

COREN:  40 million people died . . .

MONCKTON:  Children!

COREN:   . . . because Jackie Kennedy read a silly book.

MONCKTON:  Yep.

COREN:   . . . and her foolish husband bought into it.

So, Coren’s bought Moncktons rude infantilizing of the Kennedys and all the false claims that went into it.  Anybody know how old Coren is?  Was he even alive in 1962?  If not, can he read?  Does he?  Carson’s book is out now in the 2002 40th anniversary edition, still available for anyone interested in the facts.

MONCKTON:  And then, the entire international left came in on the act.  And that was what did the damage.

And so the problem is that you have this political faction which likes to show who’s boss.  That’s the characteristic of the left.  They are instinctive interventionists.  And I know this is a little much of a political point, but it is unfortunately true that it was they who pushed the DDT ban.  And it was they who — to this day! — will say that David Suzuki and others who advocated this ban — and David Suzuki will tell you today that he regards this as one of the most successful campaigns he ever conducted.  That killed 40 million people, nearly all of them children. And it took 40 years before this decision could be reversed.  Why?  Because we had to wait until all the people responsible for the original decision had either retired or died, and were no longer in the way of doing the decent thing.

COREN:  Because they thought it was harmful to people, to animals . . .

MONCKTON:  They didn’t think any such thing.  It was purely to show who was boss.  There was never any scientific case for this.

Well, it’s in Canada, after all, so Monckton feels obligated to take a swipe at the most prominent local scientist who urges environmental protection.  David Suzuki was probably active in Canada on pesticide regulation, but of course he played only a tangential role in the U.S. action, which is what Monckton complains about here.  Suzuki was no personal confidante of the Kennedys.  Suzuki was 27 in 1963, probably completing graduate school.  Monckton’s swipe at Suzuki is almost completely gratuitous.

This is where the serious charges come.  Monckton accuses Carson, and all environmentalists, of ignoring human conditions.  He accuses us — he accuses you, since you were not active to stop the DDT ban — of being mass murderers, because, he claims, DDT would have been a safe and effective way to fight malaria, which has killed about a million people a year worldwide over the past 40 years.

Monckton is dead wrong.

First, malaria fighters stopped using DDT heavily in Africa in the early 1960s, years before any nation banned the substance.  There were three problems that contributed to the cessation of DDT use, as outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in his heavily researched and authoritative tribute to malaria fighter Fred Soper in The New Yorker:

  1. Many nations in Africa did have governments capable of conducting the regimented campaign necessary to successfully eradicate malaria — and in fact, most of the nations in Subsaharan Africa didn’t participate in the campaign at all.  Soper’s goal was to knock down mosquitoes for at least six months, and in that time cure malaria in every human.  When the mosquitoes came roaring back — as everyone in the program knew they would — there would be no pool of malaria in humans from which the mosquitoes could get infected.  The program was to break the chain of transmission required for the life cycles of the malaria parasites.  But that meant that governments had to have health care systems that could accurately diagnose malaria, and often which malaria parasite, and complete a cycle of treatment needed to flush the parasites out of the infected humans.  In the end, many entire nations simply did not participate.
  2. Malaria fighters were well aware of the race they were running:  Mosquitoes breed quickly, and consequently evolve quickly.  WHO’s malaria fighting teams understood it was a simply matter of time before mosquitoes became resistant or immune to DDT.  If that happened before malaria could be eradicated in a country or region, the game was over.  Resistance to DDT in mosquitoes started showing up as early as 1948 in Greece; by the 1960s several populations of mosquitoes were highly resistant.  (Today, every mosquito on Earth carries at least one of the two alleles that produces DDT immunity — and some carry as many as 60 copies of the two alleles, leaving them completely unaffected by DDT.)
  3. Industry didn’t get on board with the campaign.  Over-use of DDT out of doors by agricultural interests speeded the evolution of DDT-resistant mosquitoes.  Industrial use competed against, and ultimately frustrated, health care use of DDT.

Gladwell describes how WHO abandoned the eradication campaign with DDT as the key element, in the middle 1960s.  This was done not as a reaction to Carson’s book, but because the mosquitoes showed resistance.  Malaria fighters couldn’t build medical care in several nations at once while racing agriculture to use DDT.  WHO turned to other methods of fighting the parasites.

It’s important to note that WHO cannot dictate to nations what they do, nor did WHO ever “ban” DDT.  There are a lot of claims that there was pressure applied by environmentalists to get DDT use stopped, but the facts remain that DDT manufacture for export to Africa continued in the United States for more than a decade after DDT use was stopped in the U.S.  Manufacture of DDT moved to Africa and Asia — India and China make the stuff today.  Any African nation who wished to use DDT could have gotten it cheaply and in great quantity.

Second, there is no indication that DDT could have saved any more lives.  Simple mathematics tells the story:  The WHO eradication campaign reduced world-wide deaths from a high of 4 million annually, to about 2 million annually.  Each nation that eradicated malaria did so by raising incomes and improving the housing of poor people, making effective screening from mosquitoes the central part of the campaign.  Also, nations copied what the U.S. had done prior to the discovery that DDT killed insects:  They institute improved public health campaigns to educate people how to avoid being bitten, and to diagnose the disease and deliver knock-out pharmaceuticals quickly.

But, since heavy DDT use was stopped, the malaria rates continued to fall until recently.  Over the last decade, annual deaths numbered under a million, lower than when DDT use was at its greatest.  It’s impossible to square decreasing death rates with Monckton’s claim that DDT is a panacea against malaria, still.

Finally to this point of DDT and malaria, we have a conundrum:  Those nations who still use DDT, still have epidemic malaria.  If, as Monckton says, DDT is a miracle weapon against malaria, those nations that use DDT should be malaria-free.  If we think through the process, we see that malaria eradication is a much greater task that simply killing mosquitoes, and too complex to be cured simply by poisoning Africa and Africans.

Monckton ultimately tries to reduce the complex science, medical, geographical, political and education issues of malaria to a political question.  He accuses everyone who ever worked to reduce DDT use of being part of an out-of-control, monolithic and unthinking “left.”  It’s a popular idea among loud talkers from the right, including Monckton, Limbaugh, Rockwell, Hannity, the Hoover Institute, and most people who resist the science of global warming.  Monckton’s crude revisions of history away from accuracy might be justified as proper propaganda, if there were a noble political goal behind his work.  No noble goal can be discerned, latent or patent.

Many on the western left, in North America and Britain, urged tighter controls on DDT, especially once it became clear that the stuff was dangerous.  They got this from a long tradition of conservation in the U.S., for example, and not from any particular political orientation.  Fact is, the radical, socialist left who took over Russia and created the Soviet Union, who dominated Eastern Europe after World War II and who created the Peoples Republic of China, have always been unfriendly toward environmental protection, including the banning of DDT.  There was no ban on DDT use in the Soviet Union, nor in China.

Conservation, and the fight against pollution, is a product of western, capitalist nations.  It may be surprising news to a few, but the American conservation movement was led by people like John D. Rockefeller II, and Laurance Rockefeller, the Vanderbilts, and other people who were wealthy enough to have time to look around to see what was happening to America’s wild resources — or who appreciated the value of wilderness and conservation and the role it played in making America great.  Monckton is turning his back on one of the greater achievements of American capitalism, the strong desire to preserve the wild, and have clean air and clean water, for the health and benefit of all citizens.  Monckton completely shuns this great heritage of western civilization.  It’s quite astounding.

Ultimately, the decisions to reduce the use of, and now to phase out DDT (under 2001’s Persistent Organic Pesticides Treaty (POPs)) were scientific decisions.  In the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences wrote about DDT early on, noting (with an egregious typographical error) the great utility and benefit DDT provides to humans, but finally weighing the harmful effects and finding that they outweigh the benefits.  The number of assessments of DDT by august scientific and policy bodies is impressive, each deciding DDT had to go:  The 1958 U.S. Forest Service, the 1963 President’s Science Advisory Council, two federal courts in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration in 1969, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1972, two more federal appellate courts ruling on the appropriateness and scientific soundness of EPA’s rule, the National Academy of Sciences, Congress under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA, the Superfund Act), and finally an international treaty between nearly 100 nations.  At each step science was the driving force.  At most steps, an absence of sound science would have made the ruling go the opposite way.

But all that is legal “mumbo-jumbo” to Monckton.  All that science is for naught, to Monckton’s classics trained mind.  What Monckton wants, Monckton should have, damn the facts, damn the courts, damn the scientists, damn history.

It’s really astonishing to add up the error Monckton piles on.

It’s the same with global warming.  There is no scientific case for this, either.  It’s the same people, trying to assert themselves in the same way.  They have succeeded, yet again, in getting the entire classe politique . . .

COREN:  I wish we had another hour.

So, with Monckton dead wrong or hallucinating on DDT, we should now trust him on global warming? No, we should not trust him on any issue.

Monckton will not understand those issues, either.  They are even more complex.

Update:  Monckton continues to smear the Kennedys in Australia, nearly two months later.

More:

Help others to remember history, so as not to be condemned to repeat it:

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Poachers kill massive grizzly in Montana

August 24, 2009

Ralph Maughan’s Wildlife News reports that Maximus, an 800-pound grizzly bear thought to be Montana’s second largest, was illegally killed recently.

The poacher shot the bear about four weeks ago.  A reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of the poacher.

Can you tell a grizzly from a brown bear?  Chart from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Can you tell a grizzly from a brown bear? Chart from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Update, 1-30-2010: The chart linked to above has disappeared in a website redesign.  Below is a crude representation of the chart I made from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife information sheet on grizzlies, here.

How to tell a grizzly from a black (.pdf download)

Grizzly bear/black bear identification chart, adapted from USFWS by Ed Darrell, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

Grizzly bear/black bear identification chart, adapted from USFWS by Ed Darrell, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub


Spreading miasma on malaria

July 23, 2007

The Straight Dope has a motto: “Fighting ignorance since 1973. (It’s taking longer than we thought.)”

Alas, the motto could work as well for people who understand science, who understand chemistry and biology, and who urge sanity in discussions about DDT, malaria prevention and control, and Rachel Carson.

Photo from a 1950s science text, showing DDT spraying on crowded beach

DDT sprayed on a crowded beach -- photo from an unidentified 1950s publication. Caption in the photo: "This machine is spreading a kind of fog of DDT spray to see if it will kill the mosquitoes and other insects on the beach. Outdoors, the spray soon spreads and does not harm people."

The meme that “Rachel Carson caused millions of deaths” and prompted the disappearance of DDT is factually in error, but popular, and still spreading. It doesn’t help that there are well-funded groups that work hard to spread the disinformation.

As Ben Franklin noted, in a fair fight, truth wins. The difficulty is that the fight for truth about DDT and Rachel Carson has never been fair, and the anti-sense forces have a 25-year head start on wise people like Bug Girl, Deltoid, Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, and even dunderheads like me.

How widespread is the damage? Well, how many editorial pieces were there slamming Rachel Carson, falsely, on the event of the 100th anniversary of her birth? Has Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., lifted his holds on naming a post office for her?

The damage continues to spread.

For example, these blogs have fallen victim to the malaria/DDT/Rachel Carson hoax:

a. London Fog, ostensibly about government in London, Ontario, goes off half-cocked on DDT

b. Irrational Optimism, about a Georgian transplanted to Utah, picks up the misunderstandings of DDT

c. The Squamata Report, a general diatribe, accepts at face value all the falsehoods about DDT, especially those that cast scientists and environmentally-concerned politicians in a light where they can be ridiculed

d. PoliPundit.com — not the most bizarre view there, so of course it also accepts the false myths as good data

e. Boots and Sabers, sort of a frat party for young military guys, makes the gung-ho gonzo claim that it would have been worth it to sacrifice bald eagles because DDT could have saved African kids

d. Even Forbes Magazine’s blogs put out the faulty version of the story

e. Red State includes an artless and caustic piece here (repeated during what appears to be a brain power failure at PowerLine)

f. The famous column at the Wall Street Journal, marking a premature end of fact checking at that newspaper’s opinion columns

g. “Rachel Carson’s Genocide,” hysteria at a Ron Paul site misnamed Rational Review

h. Even Nobel Prize winning economists and distinguished federal judges get sucked into the vortex of specious information if they are not scrupulously careful — as Becker and Posner did here, and again here. (See final installment,too.)

And even while fighting ignorance and generally rebutting the wild claims about Rachel Carson, even Cecil Adams at Straight Dope gets suckered in by some of the myths. (In “moderate amounts,” DDT concentrates up to 10 million times in the wild, poisoning birds of prey and predator fishes, especially; DDT is deadly to mosquito-eating birds and bats, and pest-eating lizards; EPA’s hearings on DDT were overwhelmingly in favor of banning the substance — a court suit cited EPA for not moving fast enough to ban such a dangerous substance, and evidence in such trials is not made up; the cause of egg-shell thinning in birds is pretty solidly established to be DDT and its breakdown substances, only the exact process is not well understood; the international treaty against POPs has a specific out-clause for DDT to be used to prevent malaria; and so on).

So, there’s a lot of work to be done, and little time. Stay tuned.

Update: The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, had a wonderful feature on the 1970 hearings in that state to ban DDT,[alternate URL here] and the subsequent success with the spectacular return of the bald eagle to local waterways. In comments, early in the process, the junk science about DDT and malaria appear. It’s everywhere.

P.S. — Here’s a reading for a lecture at Purdue University that neatly summarizes Carson’s life and work, accurately. (In fact, the entire lecture series, by Jules Janick, should prove interesting to people interested in horticulture.)


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