Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A Paean to DDT

A young Rachel Carson, in repose

Tis 53 years since Rachel Carson’s influential book, Silent Spring, burst like ecological napalm upon the public consciousness of doom. Rachel’s bleak ecological scenario galvanised the environmental lobby which culminated in the banning of organo-chlorine pesticides such as the much maligned DDT, in the 1970's.

I think Rachel was right to alert the public to the dangers of indiscriminate pesticide use. Unfortunately, her peculiarly grim environmental prognosis was not supported, at the time, or subsequently, by hard scientific evidence. Her strident and articulate advocacy drove the anti agenda and elicited a highly charged emotional response from the public. Politicians, who are prone to this sort of thing, recognised an easy bandwagon to board and travelled it all the way to ‘Irrationalville by the Sea’.

It has transpired, that DDT is not as harmful to birds and humans, in moderate doses, as originally thought by Carson. In fact, any negative effects are more than outweighed by its extremely toxic action against mosquitoes that act as vectors for deadly diseases such as malaria. It has been estimated that the banning of DDT has been responsible for more deaths than occurred during the First World War. Indirectly, and sadly, Rachel Carson must shoulder the responsibility for these deaths. Surely not a legacy she would like to be remembered for.     

Carson managed to change the world because of her energy, her passion. She was also successful because her ideology came at the right time. The 1960's had an obsession and an insistence on all things natural, good and wholesome. And, conversely and perversely, there followed the counter doctrine that all things man made were inherently inferior and downright harmful. It is wise to recall that the most poisonous chemical ever discovered, ricin, is plant derived. 

What lurks within 

Please note, what my prose lacks in rhyming couplets and iambic meter it more than makes up for in sage veracity.


O' Typhus where is thy sting,
As mediated through the lice vector, Pediculis humanus.
You can no longer stalk humanity as you did,
Except in certain parts of the Southern United States and Asia.
Was it not DDT that saved the Eyeties from certain doom in 1943,
Was not the minions of death laid low and beaten unto dust.
All insects smited and crushed under foot,
And spread as a chitinous carpet of impotent, crunchy, pestilence.

Although it cannot be denied that DDT is a bit indiscriminate,
It still has charms to still the beating wings of death.
Bloody shame about the honey bees,
But what ya gonna do?

O' fickle man, O' capricious man,
Although I did good work, how do you repay my toil,
You placed a ban on my dust and pandered mightily to hippy twats.
I can only spread my pall of death in lands covered in shit,
No longer can my mist envelop the vale of civilisation.

Except the Flaxen haired one did manage to smuggle a 56lb drum into Nuzzyland,
Where it stands proud and garaged ready to be used as a sword upon the crawly foes.
There it can be seen striking the humble aphid and the mighty cockroach alike,
Arse, big fat arse.


  1. I don't want to even know how you managed to smuggle DTT . But can I just say you o make me chuckle. I agree about the over reaction from powers that be about topics like this. But DDT was bad for the small hedgerow animals and lots of birds, because they were all eating very toxic pests. It did decimate the wildlife.

  2. He's a poet
    And he don't know it