AC Alert for September 18, 2012 What Are They Spraying? Is Government Helping or Hindering?

Primary tabs AC Alert for September 18, 2012 What Are They Spraying? Is Government Helping or Hindering?

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Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 4:20pm

CONTENT: Newsletter

Sometimes government solutions have unintended consequences.  Consider mosquito control.  Our friend Tim grew up in the suburbs of a major Northeast city. His home was built prior to the start of World War II and was adjacent to a large wooded area that disappeared when a new (postwar) development was built in the 1950s. Due to the location of the newer homes, the entire community (rapidly growing in population) was besieged by a healthy crop of mosquitoes during the warmer months. To address this problem, local government officials and the real estate developer agreed to have a tanker truck circulate throughout the area once every week, spraying a fog throughout the air.

What was in that fog? Primarily DDT, a well-known pesticide at the time.  For a while, this approach worked, significantly reducing the influx of those nasty insects. In the 1940s and 1950s, DDT was recognized as a major way of attacking the growth of mosquitoes.  Governments liberally sprayed the chemical compound in many areas of the USA -- and in other nations.

But then the American public view of the miracle of DDT began to change:  The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's landmark work, "Silent Spring," shed light on some of the serious effects of DDT on wildlife.  (The 50th anniversary of publication is being observed this year.)  Silent Spring highlighted the danger of DDT and certain other pesticide to local wildlife.  And the product also began to lose its effectiveness.

Consider this:  "In the late 1940s and 1950s DDT was considered a panacea, as it could be applied as a powdered dust on the water in relatively small amounts per acre and could keep killing mosquito larvae for many months with a single application. DDT enjoyed success until the development of chemically-induced resistance by mosquitoes.

"Resistance developed in insect populations because all of the insects exposed to DDT were not killed by the chemical. A few resistant individuals remained, they bred, and their offspring proved more resistant to the effects of DDT. In following applications, more DDT was sprayed. Eventually, the insects became so resistant that it became impractical to try to control them with DDT. This necessitated substitutions with other chemicals, to which the insects eventually became resistant. Pesticide resistance remains a serious problem today."(Source: The Encyclopedia of Earth)

So indeed, while DDT spraying offered initial help to control the mosquito population -- welcomed by the public -- after a time public sector managers and environmental groups began to question the practice.  Public authorities had to turn to other means of controlling mosquitoes. DDT use was banned in the USA.  Problem solved? Not quite!

What no one in the 1950's might have imagined is the danger posed by mosquitoes today as the delivery system (vectors) of West Nile Virus. Unheard of in the USA until the very end of the 20th century, West Nile Virus today poses a serious challenge to government and health officials.  How the public sector tries to address this disease and controlling its spread is just one of the many vital issues AC spotlights each day in our Public Governance Section -- the Government/Political Governance selection on our content menu.

In a representative democracy, men and women serving in public office, whether elected or appointed, must view their service as a public trust.   They raise their right hands to be sworn in as executives, legislators and administrators, agreeing to protect and defend the constitutions of the United States and of their home States, and the laws, rules and regulations of their governmental subdivisions. 

Public servants then embark on careers where they are entrusted with the health, finances, safety and well-being of their constituents. News, research and commentary on how they handle these challenges have become an important part of this AC consent section. The subject matter is varied, as this recent sampling from this section of AC indicates:

Record outbreak of West Nile virus waning
(Source: USA Today) This year's outbreak of West Nile was the most serious since the virus was discovered in the United States in 1999, but health officials hope the worst is over. According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile virus outbreaks in the United States tend to peak in late August.

US EPA to aid Baton Rouge's greening design
(Source: Daily Comet) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is partnering with [the city of] Baton Rouge, Louisiana to help create more green spaces and trails to connect the LSU area to downtown. Baton Rouge was actually one of five cities selected for the EPA's Greening America's Capitals program. The others are Indianapolis, Des Moines, Helena, Montana and Frankfort, Kentucky.

The Fed steps in, and stocks soar: Dow climbs 206
(Source: Associated Press) The stock market staged a huge rally last week after investors got the aggressive economic help they wanted from the Federal Reserve. The Fed said it would buy $40 billion of mortgage securities a month until the economy improves. It left open the possibilities of buying other assets and of buying long after the recovery picks up.

Wider US health coverage spurred by reform, income decline
(Source: Reuters) Some 1.3 million more Americans had health insurance in 2011, as healthcare reform helped blunt a decade-long decline in private coverage and government safety nets expanded to cover growing numbers of the poor, elderly and disabled.

Moody’s Warns That U.S. May Face Debt Downgrade
(Source: New York Times) Moody's, one of the nation's major credit rating agencies, warned last week that it would downgrade the federal government’s debt if no solution was found by year’s end. The agency said Washington must come to agreement to head off billions of dollars in simultaneous tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to begin in January, and to put the government on a sustainable fiscal trajectory.

And our coverage is not just focused on the USA; consider:

From athletes to lawmakers: Could London’s Olympic Park be Parliament’s new (temporary) home?
(Source: Washington Post) After hosting record-breaking athletes and jubilant crowds, east London’s Olympic Park could find its next tenants are British lawmakers who may have to temporarily vacate the Palace of Westminster to permit major repairs to begin.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.

Keywords: Events, Media & Communications | Accountability | Accountability Central | Governance & Accountability Institute | esg | government | sustainability

CONTENT: Newsletter