DDT and the American Century

DDT and the American Century: Global Health, Environmental Politics, and the Pesticide That Changed the World

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    DDT and the American Century
    Book Description:

    Praised for its ability to kill insects effectively and cheaply and reviled as an ecological hazard, DDT continues to engender passion across the political spectrum as one of the world's most controversial chemical pesticides. InDDT and the American Century, David Kinkela chronicles the use of DDT around the world from 1941 to the present with a particular focus on the United States, which has played a critical role in encouraging the global use of the pesticide.The banning of DDT in the United States in 1972 is generally regarded as a signal triumph for the American environmental movement. Yet DDT's function as a tool of U.S. foreign policy and its use in international development projects designed to solve problems of disease and famine made it an integral component of the so-called American Century. The varying ways in which scientists, philanthropic foundations, corporations, national governments, and transnational institutions assessed and adjudicated the balance of risks and benefits of DDT within and beyond America's borders, Kinkela argues, demonstrates the gap that existed between global and U.S. perspectives on DDT.DDT and the American Centuryoffers a unique approach to understanding modern environmentalism in a global context.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0263-9
    Subjects: History, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-11)

    In 1969, the World Health Organization (WHO) suspended one of the largest public health campaigns in world history. Established in 1955, the Global Malaria Eradication Programme was designed to rid the world of the parasitic disease at its source. Because malaria is transmitted by the bite of the female anopheles mosquito, the only mosquito genus capable of infecting humans with the disease, the public health campaign targeted the insect rather than the disease-causing plasmodium. In other words, malaria eradication required mosquito eradication.

    Public health experts believed eradication would ultimately succeed in the historic struggle against malaria. And they had what...

  5. 1 AN ISLAND IN A SEA OF DISEASE: DDT Enters a Global War
    (pp. 12-34)

    The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into a global war. It also set in motion a series of transformative events that redefined the nation. Millions volunteered for military service, including thousands of Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans, and African Americans who navigated the complexities of military service, racial discrimination, and citizenship. Millions of other Americans, including women, supported the war effort through their labor. Domestically, the Arsenal of Democracy afforded women and minorities real, albeit temporary, employment opportunities within the industrial sector. Massive public investment in defense also reversed the nation’s economic fortune, which had been mired...

  6. 2 DISEASE, DDT, AND DEVELOPMENT: The American Century in Italy
    (pp. 35-61)

    In 1934, the editors ofFortune, the nation’s premier business magazine, devoted the entire July issue to Italy. For Henry Luce,Fortune’s founding editor, Italy’s fascist regime both intrigued and repulsed him. The sheer force of Benito Mussolini’s political will to radically transform and modernize the Italian state reflected Luce’s search for political and professional stability and order at home. “The good journalist must recognize in Fascism certain ancient virtues,” the magazine acknowledged in an introduction that was unsigned, though likely written by Luce. These virtues included “Discipline, Duty, Courage, Glory, [and] Sacrifice.” At the same time, the antidemocratic impulses...

  7. 3 SCIENCE IN THE SERVICE OF AGRICULTURE: DDT and the Beginning of the Green Revolution in Mexico
    (pp. 62-83)

    Following the election of Mexican president Manuel Ávila Camacho in 1940, U.S. vice president–elect Henry A. Wallace traveled to Mexico City to attend the inaugural festivities. As Wallace was the first high-ranking member of the U.S. government to attend a presidential inauguration in Mexico, his trip symbolized President Roosevelt’s renewed commitment to building better relations with Mexico (and Latin America), better known as the Good Neighbor Policy. Roosevelt believed that the United States, through engaged diplomacy and economic cooperation, could help fulfill the nationalist and social democratic promises of the Mexican revolution, while at the same time promoting industrial...

  8. 4 THE AGE OF WRECKERS AND EXTERMINATORS: Eradication in the Postwar World
    (pp. 84-105)

    In 1934, the noted urban critic Lewis Mumford releasedTechnics and Civilization, the first of a series of classic studies on the connections between human societies and the technologies those societies developed. InTechnics and Civilization, Mumford questioned the prevailing interpretations of technological change, suggesting that the social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals that materialized during the nineteenth century were not necessarily new, but were, in fact, part of a longer process rooted in medieval times. Mumford also suggested that the technological and scientific processes that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century created something unique; this was a...

  9. 5 GREEN REVOLUTIONS IN CONFLICT: Debating Silent Spring, Food, and Science during the Cold War
    (pp. 106-135)

    In 1961, the United Nations launched an ambitious project to “promote social progress and . . . to employ international machinery for the advancement of the economic and social development of all peoples.” Embarking on a “Decade of Development,” the United Nations challenged member nations to use private and public funds to accelerate economic development in “less developed countries through industrialization, diversification and the development of a highly productive agricultural sector.” This campaign was to be the beginning of a dramatic transformation of the Third World. It was a call to arms to help those who “needed” assistance, a call...

  10. 6 IT’S ALL OR NOTHING: Debating DDT and Development under the Law
    (pp. 136-160)

    Over the course of the contentious debate touched off bySilent Spring, the WHO’s global malaria eradication program appeared to be at a crossroads. Despite the stunning reversal of malaria rates in large parts of the world, skyrocketing administrative costs, funding cuts, mosquito resistance, and, perhaps more importantly, the realization that eradication of the disease was more fantasy than reality placed the global campaign in a precarious position. “We have reached a point of no return,” malaria specialist Leonard Bruce-Chwatt commented in 1969, “and we must persist in our efforts to eliminate the major endemic diseases, even if our strategy...

  11. 7 ONE MAN’S PESTICIDE IS ANOTHER MAN’S POISON: The Controversy Continues
    (pp. 161-181)

    In 1970, William R. “Bob” Poage, the representative from the 11th Congressional District in Texas and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced a new bill for consideration. Poage, who a few years earlier had traveled extensively in India and Africa on a congressional junket, was acutely aware of the interconnections between the U.S. environment and the world. During the late 1960s, he was firmly committed to Johnson’s Food for Peace program, a project designed to use American surplus grain to feed the hungry in India. Poage also represented a congressional district of farmers. The agricultural plains of central Texas...

    (pp. 182-190)

    If you were to compare the global use of DDT to the rates of malaria during the postwar period, the results would be astonishing and highly misleading. High DDT use between 1945 and 1965 produced a spectacular decrease in malaria transmission. In places like Sardinia, Sri Lanka, and India, malaria rates dropped so low that the disease appeared to have been eradicated. By the mid-1960s, however, the trend was reversed. Malaria rates rose steadily, while DDT use began to wane. Since then, DDT use has plummeted, although DDT is still in use for malaria control and as an agricultural pesticide...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 191-228)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-248)
  15. Index
    (pp. 249-256)