- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

DDT saves lives, trees cause pollution and environmentalists are partly to blame for the

Hurricane Katrina disaster. Those are just a few of the surprising conclusions reached by award-winning reporter John Berlau in his new book, “Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health.”

The director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mr. Berlau has worked for Investor’s Business Daily and Insight magazine. In 2002, he received the Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism from the National Press Club. The following are excerpts of a recent e-mail interview with Mr. Berlau:

Question: I’m sure many trees were killed in order to produce the paper that “Eco-Freaks” was printed on. If it becomes a best-seller, more trees will die to produce more copies. Doesn’t that make you and your book a threat to life on Earth as we know it?

Answer: Whatever the amount of trees that have been killed, I only wish it were more — for humans’ and wildlife’s sake. Trees are wonderful, but too much of anything is bad. Many areas in the U.S. have too many trees, and America is becoming a landscape of all forests and no meadows. And I wish the paper could have come from diseased and dying trees in national forests. These are fuel for the fires in those areas that kill healthy trees, wildlife and sometimes humans. Some improvements have been made — through the much-vilified Healthy Forests Act — but there is still much excess fuel on federal land that needs to be thinned.

Q: On a more serious note, how did environmentalists contribute to the disaster in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina?

A: They blocked the building of large steel and concrete floodgates around Lake Pontchartrain that the Corps of Engineers, the … state congressional delegation, and the New Orleans levee board had all endorsed as being able to provide the best protection against storm surge from hurricanes.

The gates were similar to the folding “seagates” that were being built, and now have been built, in the Netherlands that only close during North Sea storms. Like those, these gates would have only closed during severe storms — blocking water from getting into Lake Pontchartrain and flooding New Orleans. Renowned hurricane experts say these gates would have likely prevented most of Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans. But the Environmental Defense Fund (now Environmental Defense) and the Louisiana group Save Our Wetlands persuaded a federal judge to halt the gates in 1977 because of the alleged damage they could do to fish, even though the project had already been granted a thumbs-up in a review from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: You are very critical of Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring,” who is viewed as a hero by the environmentalist movement. Why?

A: For both her results and her intentions. The results are clear. Two million dying every year in Africa of malaria, a disease proven to be preventable by killing and repelling the mosquitoes that carry it with DDT. DDT wiped out malaria in much of the world, including the southern U.S. Carson vilified DDT based on distortion of facts known even then. For instance, she implied DDT was developed as poison gas, when history shows it was developed to protect our troops in World War II from typhus and malaria.

Q: In your book, you explain the amazing history of the campaign against DDT. Were you surprised to find that, for instance, the population-control movement was involved in trying to get DDT banned?

A: I quote in my book the late scientist and author Dixy Lee Ray as saying that for many enviros, the problem with DDT was that it worked too well at saving lives. I refer to a passage by Alexander King, co-founder of the Club of Rome, where he said that DDT wiped out malaria in Guyana but “greatly added to the population problem.” There are many other statements like that in the book. Population-control guru Paul Ehrlich was and still is a big supporter of banning DDT.

Q: Rush Limbaugh sometimes does an “SUV update” segment mocking the environmentalist campaign against sport utility vehicles. Why do environmentalists like Al Gore hate SUVs and other automobiles so much?

A: Much of this hatred also has to do with population control. The Sierra Club’s official position is still to advocate policies to discourage families from having more than two children. Paul Ehrlich also pushed for actions by the government making it difficult for families with more than one or two kids to live what he called “the plush life.” And, by effectively banning the family-size station wagon with fuel economy standards and trying to greatly downsize SUVs, environmentalists’ policies are achieving their goals of creating more difficulties for large families.

Q: Mr. Limbaugh famously dubbed environmentalists “tree-huggers” — do you wonder what he might say if he were to read the chapter of your book where you explain how tree-hugging leads to problems like forest fires, Lyme disease and even increased air pollution?

A: I imagine he would say some things that were very profound, just as he has all these years about the tragic effects of the DDT ban. He deserves credit for bringing the facts to millions of Americans. Now the New York Times editorial page and the World Health Organization have to some degree followed his lead and endorse DDT spraying to combat malaria in Africa. His constant stating of the facts is a significant factor in the millions of lives that hopefully will be saved from malaria.

Q: Environmentalists often accuse their critics of taking money from companies that cause pollution. Is that fair? Is everybody who disagrees with Al Gore just a sold-out shill for corporate America?

A: No. In fact, starting with Wal-Mart, corporations seem to be lining up to embrace Al Gore and show how “green” they are. But, thankfully, there are still organizations such as [the Competitive Enterprise Institute], with a broad base of funding, that point out his and others’ distortions and show what the cost of many enviro prescriptions would be to prosperity and public health.

Q: Is being critical of the environmental movement the same thing as being pro-pollution?

A: No. It’s supporting the prudent use and conservation of our resources. It looks at what’s best for the humans and animals on the planet, rather than vague concepts like the “ecosystem” and “environment.”

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