[permaculture] Re: Mosquito spraying
mgs2369 at attbi.com
Tue Mar 5 17:42:42 EST 2002
Claude wrote regarding his county's plan to spray for "mosquito
control" (lovely fantasy, that) to provide tourists the illusion that
they aren't visiting part of a planet with living ecosystems:
>Ya'all have any good ammo/info web sites you could provide for ths upcoming
>battle please ?
>I'm looking for
>1. reasons why spraying is a bad idea and
>2. Organic alternatives to "controlling" the mosquito population...
I'd go first thing pronto to the New York City Greens' No Spray
Coalition. These folks have been 100% down for years with the citizen
battle against the City's policy of responding to a few dozen cases
of West Nile Virus by widespread spraying of malathion, resmethrin,
sumithrin, permethrin, and piperonyl butoxide from helicopters and on
Their Web site is a bit of a mish-mosh, but there's a wealth of
information there on their organizing, activism, and sundry research.
No Spray Coalition Hotline
P.O. Box 334, Peck Slip Station, New York, NY 10272-0334
List server: sprayno at yahoogroups.com
Mitchel Cohen is the contact, same phone as the coalition.
E-mail: mitchelcohen at mindspring.com
I communicated with Mitchel about this in the late 90s and into 2000.
At the time I was growing food in Wisconsin and working as the
communications director for the UW-Madison's sustainable ag research
center. I've done pro bono research for chemically injured and
disabled people since the 80s. At the time of the West Nile
"outbreak" some enlightening research information was coming out of
Madison regarding the interactive effects of pesticides and other
chemicals on biological systems at very low doses (drinking water
concentrations, PPBs). Let me know if you want to know more about
Second, try PANNA
Go to the search engine (on the tabbed box, top left of home page),
and search their archives on
the names of particular pesticides proposed for use by your county
For instance, PANNA Resource Pointer #181 (10/98) focused on malaria control...
Third, be aware of the New Jersey Department of Health's Right to
Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets:
This is an outstanding resource, and I'm kind of surprised it's still
up on the Internet, for free. I've used it for years to educate
myself on the demonstrated effects of various substances, as well as
the chemistry of various substances. Note that each fact sheet is
cross referenced to the CAS and DOT databases.
Fourth, know that you are entitled by law to ask for, and receive,
MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) for any product used in your
environments. The cleaning chemicals used in your office. The toner
in your company's photocopier. The wall-mounted stinkum in the public
restroom designed to help people deny (?) what people are doing in
restrooms. The pesticides sprayed in your apartment complex, your
park, the golf course down the street, or the trees over your head.
The carpet glue under your feet.
MSDSs detail the contents of the product, the chemical composition,
etc. HOWEVER, be aware that these sheets are produced *by the
manufacturer* of the substance. Once upon a time (late 80s, early
90s) they actually contained good information about the products'
contents, and the health effects of those. But over the years, as
manufacturers started distancing themselves from burgeoining
knowledge about the health effects of industrial chemicals, they've
sanitized MSDSs till they contain pretty much only a litany of
chemical properties (boiling point, freezing point, flashpoint, etc.)
and a few vague, imprecise terms like "not toxic to fish and
wildlife." ("Toxicity" as defined by classical toxicology is not a
measure of overall effects; it's a measure of how many tested
organisms were killed by what concentration of the substance.) Also,
more and more, corporations are getting away with withholding
information on the grounds that, for instance, chemical composition
of a particular product is proprietary, or a trade secret.
Claude, one of the things to bear in mind is that mosquitos *can be*
disease vectors. It takes very little tinkering with existing
ecosystems to make that happen, and outbreaks can appear at any
moment in areas where that tinkering is constant and widespread.
So I'd recommend you not push that perspective too hard--"not because
they pose any real health hazard." I get your point. But the minute
you get this perspective out, someone in county, state, or other
government will come out and demonstrate that, oh look, we've found a
case of West Nile or some other mosquito-borne illness. Aieeee! And
those stupid environmentalists said these hideous Satanic flying
beasts were SAFE!!!
The point, I think, is to focus on the issue that mosquito "control"
efforts generally do nothing other than harm living creatures and
ecosystems while creating super-resistant mosquitos who can and will
act as vectors later on. This is one of the potential horrors of
human-induced climate change. It's pretty clear that epidemiological
bands of tropical diseases are spreading north and south as winters
become less severe. Between that and strategies that foster
super-resistance...well, I don't need to close the equation in this
Another teachable issue is how existing human practices *foster*
mosquito populations by
--destroying native prey species (in North America, bats, dragonflies
and their nymphs, nighthawks, damselflies and their nymphs,
daddy-long-legs, water beetles, caddisfly larvae, mayfly larvae) and
--creating stagnant pools of water (old tires, ditches, other crap).
--not understanding the five-stage life cycle of mosquitos, and
failing to take actions that can increase predation and reduce
mosquito success at all five stages (people tend to think only in
terms of destroying adult mosquitos, which of course is what the
pesticide companies' marketing departments have taught everyone).
By the way, it's a common misconception that martins and swallows are
good mosquito eaters. Think about it. Adult mosquitos (female) mostly
come out at night. Martins and swallows are asleep then. Bats and
nighthawks are your folks for that job. But even more effective is to
encourage predation of mosquitos *before* the adult stage, and limit
Finally, the thing I always recommend to folks approaching an
education campaign or project like it sounds you're facing, is:
Don't go into it as a "battle," even though it's likely to be.
Approach this as an intensely teachable moment, one that will help
galvanize and educate people in the community. While you're letting
folks know about potential threats to health, and best alternatives,
while hammering out understanding and agreements, make sure you do
whatever you can to keep or inject a sense of healthy, centered,
appropriate levity, if not humor. It makes the issue less threatening
to folks, making it easier for them to get on board. You will be
surprised, I'll bet, by how many people in the community already have
concerns about things like super-resistant insects, pesticide use,
children's health, asthma, etc. And what makes the county fathers
think that tourists would want to visit a place that's been
pesticide-saturated for their "protection"?
It's *so* easy to get sucked into bitter power struggles,
anger-fests, and other soul-sapping dysfunctions when dealing with
such primal issues as the right of some people to destroy life for
cosmetic reasons. I speak as somebody who was nearly done in by
diazinon in the mid-80s, btw. It's hard for me to have a sense of
humor about this issue...but when I manage it, I find it's far more
powerful than even the volcano of righteous-babe indignation gushing
up from my soul.
In many communities in the Upper Midwest, in the summer, tourists
aren't offered the illusion of cavorting in mosquito-free splendor in
the northwoods. No, mosquitos are the size of birds, and rule the
place three months a year. Period. However, tourists have ample
chances to attend local "Mosquito Days" festivals, or to purchase
tiny "mosquito traps," mosquito-spotting field guides, special
commemorative calomine lotion, and other kitschy souvenirs, which
help them laugh while swatting and trying not to scratch. It's also
good for local markets in essential-oil-based repellents, citronella
candles, netting hats, and other time-honored methods for living with
that which it is folly to assume we can live without.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Home office: 360-459-5683
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical
barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life. --Rachel Carson
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