Moreover, the moral outrage summoned by Carson's critics is as dubious as their facts are suspect. Indeed, it appears there is a hidden agenda at work here. Take the example of the group called Africans Fighting Malaria. It turns out the organization has close ties to the free-market ideologues at groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the American Enterprise Institute and that it was once pitched to the tobacco lobby as a way to drive a wedge between environmentalists and their allies in public health. How? By advancing the simplistic and erroneous notion that banning DDT killed millions of innocent Africans. Ultimately, the hope was this: By calling attention to malaria deaths, tobacco companies might head off a World Health Organization campaign against smoking.
The reality is that DDT was never banned outright worldwide and is still manufactured and used for mosquito control. And it's safe to say that Rachel Carson would have supported its judicious application. Her aim was not to eradicate all pesticides but to employ them in such a manner that "they do not destroy us along with the insects." She also felt that science should show "prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life."
As Mark Lytle observes in his excellent new biography of Carson, The Gentle Subversive, it is this aspect of Carson's legacy -- not the DDT issue per se -- that the conservative forces find so galling; i.e., "wedded to the notion that humans can and should control nature," they "resent the limits placed on economic growth by those seeking to protect the environment." Which is to say, it's not about African lives; it's about keeping the world safe for unbridled capitalism.
One last note: If you're wondering why the chemical companies are not pushing DDT or leading the charge against Carson, (as they did upon publication of Silent Spring) the answer is simple: The patent on DDT expired long ago. Ironically, constraints on the use of the compound now serves their financial interests as it creates a market for alternative pesticides.