Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hack Alert: NYT's John Tierney pulls hatchet job on Rachel Carson

Maybe it's not as important as promoting a false case for war, inventing sources or refusing to understand Value Over Replacement Player, but John Tierney's hatchet job on Rachel Carson, deserves a spot in right alongside Judith Miller, Jayson Blair and Murray Chass in the New York Times Hall of Shame. Tierney's article is so bad, in fact, that it merits attention in a blog dedicated to Los Altos and Mountain View.

John Tierney, for those who don't know him, is a conservative political columnist who tends to start with a conclusion and invent arguments to support it. In short, he has no business writing for the science section, but that's where yesterday's article ran.

Carson, who would have turned 100 this week, wrote the most important book of the second half of the 20th century. Naturally, Tierney's starts with the conclusion that it is a bad book. Sure, it explained to the general public that chemical alteration of the natural environment has consequences, it spurred the modern environmental movement, and it eventually led to the creation of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. But, says Tierney, some dead guy it is "not a scientific balancing of costs and benefits."

Actually, Tierney bases the entire article on one 45-year-old critique of Silent Spring. The only thing that he adds of any substance is that some unnamed environmentalists, who presumably read Silent Spring, don't think the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, a.k.a. Superfund) is perfect. Nevermind that Congress passed CERCLA, establishing the principle of "polluter pays," in response to the Love Canal crisis, nearly two decades after Silent Spring.

Tune in next week as John Tierney regurgitates the work of an art critic who thinks Betsy Ross was actually not that good a seamstress.


Nemesis of Evil said...

Next week is Flag Day.

Lauren said...

The New York Times missed the boat not only by publishing outdated arguments, but with a belated article. Carson's birthday was May 27. The Times article came out June 5. As for Tierney's assertion that DDT has become a taboo, even underused, pesticide, that is the case in the U.S., but not in many developing nations, particularly Africa. Some countries have or plan to use it to control malaria. A much more insightful article ran in the New Yorker.