When people learn I grew up in Florida, they invariably ask about hurricanes and alligators. They’re skeptical when I say alligators were scarce in the late 1950s and through most of the 1960s, when I was a kid. We lived on Lake Sybelia in Maitland, now part of the blob-like sprawl of Orlando. I practically inhabited Sybelia’s warm and clear waters as well of those of many other Central Florida lakes and rivers. The few gators I saw were no bigger than my arm.
How is this possible, I’m asked, when today many of the the state’s waterways resemble scenes from Tarzan movies? I’m surprised so few people know about the chemical DDT, ubiquitously used as a pesticide decades ago. It devastated the reproductive cycles of not just gators but osprey, bald eagles, and other wildlife. The EPA banned DDT in 1972, two years after the agency that many Republicans now want to kill was established. The suspected carcinogen likely lurks in my body too. Many times with other kids I ran behind trucks spewing mosquito-killing smoke that contained DDT. We were clueless.
The retro ad above (more of it here) and others help to explain our cluelessness way back then. We were manipulated to bring the chemical industry enormous profits. Now the same forces behind the ads are trying to stop the federal government from routinely publishing a list of known or suspected carcinogens. I guess “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” and “ignorance is bliss” could be planks in the GOP platform.