Barabara Solow shows a humorous, compassionate side of pesticide use ("The Bugman Commeth", Dec. 10). The other side, which most people are unaware of, is dangerous, insidious and merciless. Pesticides destroy the biochemical foundation of life. Rachel Carson called them biocides. No pesticide container says "safe if used as directed."
There is strong, though incomplete, scientific evidence that pesticides can cause cancer, birth defects, infertility, depression, suicide, abnormal sexual development, miscarriage, learning disabilities and neurological conditions like Gulf War syndrome and mulitple chemical sensitivity. They are especially toxic to children and fetuses. The evidence is incomplete because little research has been done. Pesticide corporations and the government keep it that way. Instead of research, they collude in disinformation to make people think these chemicals are harmless, beneficial and necessary. Solow's bugman, who thought he could breathe the toxic chemicals and get them on his body with impunity, was, like many pesticide applicators, a duped victim.
Pesticides attack the nervous system and disrupt hormones, without distinguishing between insects and people. They don't stay where they are put. Put them on your lawn and they end up in your and your neighbor's house. Spray them on the kitchen baseboard and they end up on the counter and the children's toys. They continue harming people long after insects have forgotten them.
If these chemicals weren't safe, would the government let us use them? Pesticides are regulated the same way Enron and savings and loans banks were--for the profit of the rich. The EPA is like the SEC in this regard. The rest of us pay for it--with our and our children's health.
The only way to protect yourself and your children is to get these poisons out of schools, parks, offices, stores, homes and lawns. Bugs can be controlled without them. To learn more, start with www.beyondpesticides.org.
The reviewer returns
I was interested to see that my brief commentary on the fascistic leanings of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is still causing shock-waves some two years later ("Talk Back," Dec. 31). I had thought that, by now, after much of Bush's egregious reign, and after the inescapably militaristic mindset of Ang Lee's follow-up film ("The Hulk"), I would have been considered wholly vindicated in my prophetic assessments. But, as Delmore Schwartz used to say, even paranoiacs have enemies, and even The Independent should pause to consider its obvious complicity with our current regimes.
Big is bad
"Rebellion in the Ranks" (Dec. 10) probes the corruption fostered by the enormity of our two-party political system. (Significantly, "enormity" means "hugeness" and "abomination.")
I'm a lifelong Democrat, but with enough wit to realize Democrats and Republicans are the two wings of The Capitalist Party. I tend to vote Democratic but realize the Donkies will evoke doom as surely as the Republicans--perhaps a little more slowly.
There is a "threshold of scale" beyond which corruption, self-interest and mindless institutional metastasis are overwhelmingly likely.
John Kenneth Galbraith observed: "The greater the wealth, the thicker the dirt." Yet the Left, the Right, the AARP, the NEA, the AFT, the ABCDEFG all continue to amass wealth, certain a huge "war chest" will establish--by some mystical calculus--an era of Enlightened Progress.
Don't hold your breath.
Under the watchful eye of Compulsory Government Schooling--whose budget far exceeds the military--we have been taught to gawk at Mere Magnitude.
It's time to break the spell of Sheer Size and embark on radical decentralization.
Small polities work better than big ones. Plato said that any urban population exceeding 5000 would engender anonymity and a host of associated evils. Predictably, the largest polities promise peace but deliver perpetual war.
Abiding peace is grounded in smallness. Peace on earth may require such smallness that we nourish its taproot in our own lives, re-locating the energy currently misspent on large, self-serving organizations.
With the exception of home-schools, charter schools and the Vermont secessionist movement, it's impossible to discern the lineaments of this gathering sea change.
This much is certain. Large organizations--big government, big churches, big schools, big armies, big stores, big Health Care--do not, ultimately, serve our interest. These lumbering organizations have become sovereign automatons whose impersonal agendas seek to control, dominate and finally depersonalize the human beings they've co-opted as servomechanisms.
Got something to say about an Independent article? Send no more than 300 words to email@example.com; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include your name, phone number and mailing address for verification; we cannot publish a letter without confirmation from the writer. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style and clarity.