by Chris Donaghy, President of Residex
Green Cool-Aide: The Taste is Sweet, but the Hangover Could be Deadly
Like a heavy bank of fog rolling off the cold Pacific Ocean into San Francisco, or a dense London fog where it is hard to see where the road begins and ends, the Green Movement is shrouding our industry with a blanket of confusion and potential risk. The anti-pesticide groups are there in the clearing and they can see perfectly through the green mist that we find so alluring yet confusing as an industry. The anti-pesticide movement couldn’t be happier as the manufacturers, pest management companies and support associations pull in so many directions that they can hear the fabric of our once united front tearing away. In order for our industry to reunite and to be known again as the protectors of health and property, we must revisit the archives of our most successful moments in history as well as the anti-pesticide’s most prominent moment in history to understand how we came to this place, and why we need to define “Green”.
Anti-Pesticide Movement’s Greatest Moment in History:
Rachael Carson is the heroine of the “Green/Environmental Movement” because she is considered the savior of the American eagle and our environment through the power of her pen in her legacy publication “Silent Spring”, published in 1962. In fact Rachael saved nothing and she is actually indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent men, women and children. Her treatise “Silent Spring” was based on speculation and unsupported claims against the most effective and important pesticide of the times, DDT, and led to the banning of DDT in 1972 as well as sparked the beginning of the endless assaults against all synthetic pesticides.
Carson’s only true claim is that she pointed out the irresponsible use and disposal of pesticides by some people, not all, in our society at that time. This discovery should have led to better controls, education and training, and not the outright banning of DDT, the most effective and life-enhancing insecticide of its day. Sound science had no place in the assaults that followed Carson’s “Silent Spring” by her “world-saving” crusaders. Again, they saved nothing, and countless men, women and children died needlessly from malaria and other insect-born disease. “Science along with economics has a role to play (but) the ultimate decision remains political.” William Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator, 1972 after overruling the EPA science panel to ban DDT.
It can be argued that Rachael Carson and her legions of self-righteous followers are responsible for the Dark Ages that people of the third world still have to endure because disease-vectoring insect populations go unchecked and inflict their deadly and debilitating scourge on the masses, and therefore their economies are anemic or non-existent. The 70’s should be likened to the dark times of the Middle Ages when claims of heresy were commonly levied against science and the likes of Galileo, Da Vinci and many other notable greats because the misinformed and ill-intentioned didn’t want or understand the truth.
Pest Control’s Greatest Moment in History:
If we could travel back in time and erase the discovery of DDT, life as you know it today would be quite different. Many of you would not be here especially our friends of Jewish heritage because the German extermination effort would have continued to completion. Many others would not exist because “one-day” fathers would have been killed in battle or died of an insect-born disease before their offspring were ever born. The world language would either be German or Japanese, and if you were not of pure German or Japanese heritage, then you’d be placed into eternal servitude, tortured or killed.
The facts are that typhus, malaria, dengue and yellow fever were disabling and killing more of the Allied troops than bullets and bombs, and if DDT wasn’t introduced during WWII, the Allied Forces could have easily lost the war because they were incapable of fighting. The invention and broad scale use of DDT was pest control’s greatest moment in history to date. It could be argued that DDT was the greatest modern discovery of the 20th Century because its use allowed for the preservation of lives and civilization as we know it today.
Much of the coastal sections of the USA were virtually uninhabitable because of yellow fever, dengue and malaria. Other parts of the modern world were also uninhabitable for the same reasons. The invention and use of DDT allowed for modern societies to flourish and live life without the fear of contracting deadly and debilitating insect-born diseases.
As Rachael Carson’s fanatical followers worked hard to reverse the benefits of modern science and still to this day their work continues with a high degree of success. Yet one man goes unmentioned, forgotten for his monumental discovery that helped lead to the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, that led to a better lifestyle for billions of people in many countries around the world, that led to the advancement of commerce, that led to the freedoms we enjoy from deadly and crippling disease-vectoring insects. Who is this great person you ask?
His name is Paul Hermann Muller. Muller discovered the DDT molecule in 1939, just in time to save the Allied Forces in WWII. Muller was a Swiss born chemist and the winner of the Nobel Prize in 1948 for his lifesaving discovery of DDT. Paul Hermann Muller saved billions of lives since his discovery of DDT. Our industry needs to raise Muller to the highest superhero status, and never forget about the man who created our professional industry and allowed us to hold our heads high as the protectors of health and property.
Ancient History of the Green Movement:
Traveling even further back in time, we find the origins of “Green” pest control. “Green” has been around for a long time, and what is meant by Green is “natural”. The media and special interest groups have done an excellent job of convincing the consumer that “Green” and “Natural” mean safe and effective. In the meantime, I get the sense that many of our industry professionals are buying into that same popular belief of our time, and that is where the real danger exists. Sometimes captive audiences begin to believe the propaganda of their captors as the truth, known as the Stockholm syndrome. But is the truth really being told here, and are the American consumers being misled by the misinformed or worse yet, the ill-intentioned? We need to explore history in order to find the real answers and the truth.
Green isn’t a new concept as many are led to believe, as a matter of fact, it is quite ancient. Ancient populations, the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians and the Chinese, all used “green” products and practices to keep themselves, their livestock, their pets, their children and their homes safe from the devastation of the multitude of crop, property and public health pests of their day, the same exact pests that exist today.
The ancients used “green” products and techniques such as herbs, essential oils, fire, crop rotation, cutting weeds, plowing, trapping, crushing, etc. to ward off disease vectoring insects and plant destroyers including mosquitoes, fleas, aphids and weevils. The result was that the ancients died in mass from plague, dengue, malaria, yellow fever, typhus and starvation because their “Green” and natural methods were no match for mosquitoes, rats, fleas and crop pests. Their forests and subsequently, their villages burnt to the ground due to devastating tree pests such as moths and a variety of borers, leaf miners, leaf rollers, and other insects leaving nothing but dried timber in their wake of destruction awaiting the first lightning strike. Even in modern times where third world countries still rely on ancient pest remedies, mechanical and cultural methods to protect home, health, livestock and crop, such as those used in Africa, Asia and South America, people are living in abject poverty and dying in mass from pest-related disease and starvation events related to crop devastation by pests.
The average American and European citizen is so far removed from our ancestral experiences with pest-related disease and devastation events that as a society, some simply can’t be concerned about those things that are not negatively impacting their lifestyles at the moment. Do you really believe that the average American or European citizen realizes that the number one killing disease in the world is a mosquito-born disease called malaria, and that it remains as the number one human killing disease of all time? Do you think that the average American or European citizen realizes that the tiny flea and a bacterium partnered to kill more humans in a single event than any other single event in the history of mankind? Do you believe that the average American or European citizen understands that malaria-carrying mosquitoes continue to kill at a steady rate today (one child every 30 seconds in parts Africa), and that both the malaria-vectoring mosquitoes and the plague-vectoring flea live right in their very own backyards, and from time to time venture inside their homes and bite their children and pets? Do you think they know that Yersinia pestis, the plague bacterium is alive and well in the USA and Europe and just waiting for its opportunity to devastate mankind again?
Scare tactics? NO. Scary? YES because it is reality and backed by hard scientific fact. Futhermore, I’d like to hear CDC’s spin on the fact that our nation’s uncontrolled borders are allowing human carriers of many diseases long forgotten in this country to be reestablished on our soil. Diseases like dengue, filariasis, West Nile, malaria, etc., are crossing the borders and entering through airports across the land, and the pest vectors that are capable of broad scale spread are already endemic to the region.
What happens when and if the “Green Movement” is so well-entrenched that regulatory constraints and bans on the use of highly effective synthetic pesticides prevent us from quickly combating insects carrying killer diseases such as malaria, dengue or the plague? Do you really want to face these pests and the devastation they bring with essential oils and glue boards? This is where the industry is heading and we are being led there by the misinformed and ill-intention special interest groups, and even some of our own industry brethren who seek a marketing advantage for their product line or service offering. It is time we listen to reason, review history and take back the destiny of our industry. Our rightful place is as protectors of health and property, and we cannot effectively perform those operations without effective chemistry.
Our industry has a grand opportunity to take a stand and educate the misguided and the misinformed, and not waste our time on trying to convince the eco-activists and the ill-intentioned that our industry is a noble trade and that we understand their point of view. Please take notice that the other side rarely, if ever, spends time or resources on trying to convince the professional industry to stop using traditional pesticide, and they NEVER understand our point of view. Instead, they effectively convince consumers, the general public, the media and the regulatory community to act against our industry, and demand changes without any concern for proven scientific and medical facts.
The time has come for a change in our tactics on how to target the general public with the facts. In reality the time to change our tactics resides a few years back; however it is not too late to take back our rightful place in protecting health and property. Traditionally, we have used hard, cold scientific facts presented by high-powered technically educated individuals to deliver our accurate, truthful yet non-compelling message to the general public. On the other hand, the anti-pesticide movement has used highly sensationalized non-factual, emotional appeals to a much higher degree of success. We must use the emotional appeal backed by scientific and medical facts if our industry is to successfully turn the tide that is against us.
The other side is winning and winning big. The big fear that I share along with other industry professionals is that some within our own industry may be drinking big gulps of the anti-pesticide cool-aide, and are now beginning to believe or at least feel the need to embrace the ideal that the other side might be right and there are plenty of effective “green” options out there.
“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Lenin, and the basis behind propaganda.
The truth is that current “Green” technology is nowhere near as effective on serious pests such as stinging insects, disease vectoring and blood sucking ticks, fleas, flies and mosquitoes, bed bugs, disease carrying rodents and cockroaches as are the synthetic modern pesticides. If we allow the other side and some industry opportunity-seekers to tie the use of effective synthetic pesticides into regulatory knots, then I just hope we all realize the potentially deadly and destructive consequences that humankind will face when epidemic and pandemic insect-vectored diseases of third world status are unleashed on us.
Over the past 2 years, I have had the unpleasant opportunity to witness the mass devastation caused by gypsy moths in the NJ Pine Barren communities. Sections of a once pristine mixed forest of hardwoods and pines stands skeletonized and dead just awaiting a lit cigarette or lightning strike to cause additional devastation. Why? NJ restricts the use of effective pesticides needed to safely and properly control the gypsy moth, and NJ, as well as other states, continues their drive to eliminate all effective modern synthetic pesticides from use in the state. Also, I must remind the reader that the gypsy moth is an introduced species.
Also, there are 20,000+ cases of Lyme disease reported annually to the CDC and on a steep rise as physicians become better at the diagnosis of the disease. Many medical experts believe, with a high degree of evidence, that the real number of Lyme cases in America alone exceeds 400,000 annually; however complex symptoms are confused with other misdiagnosed medical conditions. This epidemic, when fully proven, is 10 times larger than the current AIDS epidemic in America. Lyme is a debilitating and deadly disease found in every state in the USA, and it gets very little government and media attention as to its seriousness. Lyme could become our industry’s “poster child” disease to bring America back to its senses.
For some in our industry, the “Green” cool-aide may taste real sweet right now, and the “Greening” of our industry may seem like a great marketing opportunity; however allow common sense, science and history to drive the defining of “Green”. Otherwise “Green” may turn to “Brown” as our pristine landscapes and forests fall victim to insects and disease, and our lives may turn to “Black” as the plagues of insect-born diseases return to USA and European societies as they did when “Green” pest management practices were vogue once before.