With cancer, the treatment can seem worse than the disease. Ask anyone who has watched a neighbor endure chemotherapy and radiation. Ask the patient, and he will say it is better than the alternative.
In his recent commentary, Roger Guffey celebrates the banning of DDT in the United States as an environmental triumph. Its use was subsequently severely restricted elsewhere, to disastrous effects.
At the time, the ban was based more on emotion and anecdote than science, like using a picture of a polar bear perched on an ice cube as evidence of global warming.
Subsequent science has shown that the use of DDT is not without pitfalls. It has a propensity to concentrate in the food chain and to breed resistance, just like antibiotics. It may kill eagles, but so do wind turbines and hunters.
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There are many substances that human beings find useful in certain circumstances. Malaria was once endemic as far north as New England, but it was eradicated from this country largely due to the widespread use of DDT.
It is one thing to experience mosquitoes only as a nuisance and to pontificate about the evils of DDT; it is quite another to watch your child die of malaria, the No. 1 killer of kids in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The decision to ban DDT possibly led to the deaths of more human beings than any other single decision in the history of man. Sacrificed on the altar of environmentalism.
Because DDT is currently approved for selective use overseas, it may have a place in the control of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is now ravaging the Americas and has crossed our border.
Pregnant women infected with Zika sometimes give birth to babies with microcephaly — small head and small brain. In El Salvador, the government has told women to delay child-bearing, while another authority, the Catholic Church, is telling couples not to use condoms.
Whether these big-brained policies will be more effective than DDT in preventing small brains remains to be seen.
Guffey wants a more powerful Environmental Protection Agency. He must have missed the dumping of 3 million gallons of toxic sludge by the EPA into the Animus River in Colorado. The agency was also swimming in the Flint, Mich., drinking-water tragedy.
What expectation is there that the EPA will be held to proper account, as would the executives and shareholders of a similarly culpable private entity? And who can forget regional EPA administrator Al Armendariz? He joked about crucifying the few to intimidate the many.
The EPA is just another tool statists use to advance their agenda of power and control over the individual without going through the democratic process. It is now a well-documented arm of the environmental movement, with which it coordinates.
When it designated frog ponds on farms as “navigable waters” and thus subject to regulation, the EPA began to resemble, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, a tyranny of “new offices and swarms of officers sent to harass us and eat out our substance.”
Most Americans understand that common-sense environmental regulations are necessary, and that the right to subdue the Earth is not a license to ruin the health and property of others. That is a libertarian concept.
What most Americans resent is having their lives run by men, through policies and practices, who make us less free, more poor and more sick. These are men with big heads and small brains, intoxicated with power.
Cameron S. Schaeffer is a Lexington physician.
At issue: Feb. 27 commentary by Roger Guffey, “Who needs the EPA? Ask Flint”