Phelim McAleer: "That's the Environmentalists' Attitude: Ban DDT, Let the Black Children Die"


Photo via the Star

I've been sharing some of the videos I shot (shakily, with a Flip cam) from last night's raucous debate between Power Trip author/Grist writer Amanda Little and Phelim McAleer, the climate skeptic behind the notorious Gore-bashing film Not Evil, Just Wrong. Sarah Silverman was moderating, and thinks got rowdy--so rowdy in fact, that McAleer resorted to arguing that if environmentalists continue to support action to mitigate climate change, then they want African women and children to die. I'm telling you, it got nasty. Just watch:

You may have heard this argument before--or some of it at least. As you can see McAleer argue, the case goes something like this: Rachel Carson discovered that the widely used pesticide DDT caused cancer in mammals that were subjected it to it. She wrote Silent Spring, which helped birth the environmental movement decades ago. Due that activism, the world acted in scaling back DDT use. But since DDT was also an effective killer of mosquitoes, and mosquitoes carry malaria, a disease still often fatal in Africa. So the banning of DDT lead, unintentionally, to the subsequent deaths of thousands of Africans.

This is argument is nothing new--but where Phelim goes next is. He argues that since reckless environmentalist urging led to deaths by malaria from the premature banning of DDT (which isn't even actually true, but for Phelim's sake we'll leave that premise alone), then similar reckless environmentalist urging that we tackle climate change will somehow lead to catastrophic consequences. Somehow. The law of unintended consequences dictates it, see?

Not only that, but note that McAleer says that if we environmentalists are stupid enough to want to fight climate change, then since that's what (he imagines) happened with DDT, we must want African babies to die. His words.

This is absolutely, entirely absurd. Even the half-drunk, disinterested crowd knew to boo him. By shifting to less-polluting energy sources and improving energy efficiency and embracing cleaner technologies, the absolute worst that can happen is populations get healthier air by not being subjected to the byproducts of fossil fuel emissions. At the best, we avert catastrophic climate change that will impact generations to come. In fact, the chances are far greater, scientists say, that if we do nothing, millions of more people will be negatively impacted--any way you look at it, fighting climate change is the safer bet.

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