Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I will never buy a dress for my wife. I will PAY for a dress but I will never buy a dress … again. When we were first married a quarter of a century ago, I found, what I thought, was a “pretty” dress for Frankie. I simply looked at the dresses that were on the rack and saw on that caught my eye. It wasn’t her birthday, it wasn’t our anniversary, it was just an unexpected gift. I had it wrapped and brought it home. My intentions were noble and good but the unintended consequences of my actions killed me.

The fabric was cheap and obviously so, I didn’t know, I just liked the color and style. It was a number of sizes too small, I didn’t know, I just liked the color and style. The style was definitely OUT, I didn’t know, I just liked the color and well, style. My noble intentions became a heated discussion on Frankie’s taste, style and even weight; ALL topics better left undisputed in a young marriage. Unintended consequences.

We all know about HIV/AIDS in Africa and the popular opinion is that it is spread through a particularly promiscuous population and heterosexual sex. So to solve the problem the US and other “Western” cultural countries flooded the continent with health care training and condoms. The thought was that 90 percent of the infections were through heterosexual sex but it turned out (according to peer-reviewed analysis of 22 studies by the authors of “Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits”) that it was only 25 – 35 percent compared to US percentage of over 50.

So where did the epidemic of HIV/AIDS come from in Africa? The predominant group with HIV in Africa are non-promiscuous adults involved in strictly monogamous relationships. The culprit is poor medical care, specifically dirty needles. Unfortunately for those living in Africa the more “health care” they receive the greater their chances of being infected. Sanitary conditions that we take for granted don’t exist. They reused not only needles and syringes but surgical instruments. The World Health Organization now admits that the needles used to administer the contraceptive Depo-Povera actually GAVE HIV to women in Africa because the needles used were reused. Unintended consequences.

I can still remember the use of DDT in the sixties on our farm in Indiana. It was a great controller of crop eating insects. We even used it to control spiders on our porches and in barns. Anyone growing up in rural America remembers those nasty spiders that found the corners of your porches, lawn furniture, and swings. Even tent moths that would cover and kill trees were sprayed with DDT to keep the trees alive. In WWII our troops were bathed in it to control mosquitoes which controlled typhus, malaria and other diseases. Then came the book by Rachel Carson called “Silent Spring” calling into question the uses of DDT. She stated that she found the unintended consequences of cancer in humans and threats to other wildlife as well as the insects. It was the one of the first fights in the new environmental movement and by 1972 DDT was banned in the US and around the world.

Yet it has been proven that DDT does NOT cause cancer. It has been proven that DDT kills only insects and NOT birds or other wildlife since “Silent Spring” came out. DDT kept our troops safe, including my father, while fighting in the mosquito laden South Pacific. Today over 515 MILLION people are infected with malaria and THREE MILLION people die every year because they have been bitten by a malaria carrying mosquito. There is no vaccine; there is only maintenance drugs that must be taken the rest of your life to keep it in check. The most effective and proven prevention of malaria cannot be used. Unintended consequences.
While I cannot really connect buying a dress for my wife and millions of people dying of AIDS and Malaria I can connect the Law of Unintended Consequences. Check your sources and your facts before you climb on a bandwagon or the latest trend. When you find the unintended consequences of your actions don’t be afraid to suck it up and admit your were wrong, change direction, or simply stop what you are doing. Rachel Carson died before she could retract what her book started, don’t you wait that long.

1 comment:

Ed Darrell said...

"Yet it has been proven that DDT does NOT cause cancer."

Actually DDT is listed as a probable human carcinogen by every cancer fighting agency on the planet (check out the American Cancer Society, for example -- they do not fool around). While DDT appears to be a rather weak human carcinogen in adult humans, recent research establishes a strong link to cancers in the children of people exposed, especially women. DDT is now known to be an endocrine disruptor, and many other disruptors are carcinogens. There is very little work on DDT in that regard.

But DDT has never been proven not to be a carcinogen.

"It has been proven that DDT kills only insects and NOT birds or other wildlife since “Silent Spring” came out."

Actually, as Discover Magazine noted in November 2007, there are more than 1,000 studies since Rachel Carson's book that verify the connections between DDT and the near-extinction of several species of birds, including the bald eagle, brown pelican, pergrine falcon and osprey. DDT is particularly deadly to bats, which we count on here in the American Southwest to help control disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Come on over to Millard Fillmore's Bathtub; you'll find a dozen or so posts on DDT and its effects.