What's with the Rachel Carson backlash?

First, Maryland Sen. Brian Frosh introduces a bill in the General Assembly to proclaim May 27 Rachel Carson Day in Maryland. Carson, who died of breast cancer in 1964, two years after she wrote Silent Spring, would have been 100 years old this year. Her work is credited with saving the lives of many bald eagles, whose eggs were destroyed by the pesticide DDT, and with banning that pesticide.


No doubt Frosh expected little opposition to this bill -- after all, we have days to honor various athletes, students and others, so why not a day to honor one of the world's most famous environmentalists? Plus, as my Sun colleague Candy Thomson notes here, Maryland wasn't exactly a pioneer. Pennsylvania has celebrated her birthday for years, and Toronto, Canada, uses the day to increase the awareness of breast cancer.

But Frosh found opposition not from the pesticide lobby, but from Del. Pete Hammen, a member of the Nature Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The bill failed; and an astounded O'Malley Administration, clearly perplexed that such a routine matter wouldn't get passed, honored her by executive proclamation anyway.

Now comes Ben Cardin, former Speaker of that deliberative body in Annapolis, now a U.S. Senator, with his own tribute to Carson. Cardin had intended to submit a resolution celebrating Carson, for her "legacy of scientific rigor coupled with poetic sensibility."

But Cardin didn't submit it, because Sen. Tom Coburn said he'd block it.

Coburn's reason? He thinks Carson was an alarmist environmentalist. Her brand of "junk science" has turned the country against pesticides, like DDT, that could stop the spread of malaria, the Oklahoma senator says.  If we could just spread DDT on the walls in infected places, he seems to be saying, we could save the lives of many children.

Coburn is a medical doctor (his Senate receptionist always answers the phone "Doctor Coburn's office.") He's also a resident skeptic, and a guy who likes to stick his finger in the eye of conventional wisdom. He had long railed against earmarks, including the one that my colleague Greg Garland and I wrote about for the Oyster Recovery Partnership. He even asked that our stories be entered into the Congressional Record.

Guys like him keep things interesting, that's for sure.
Would Rachel Carson really object to the use of DDT if it could save people's lives? The Chicago Tribune seems to think not in this editorial

What do you think?