Today Sardinia, Tomorrow the World: Malaria, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Mosquito Eradication

Jan 01, 2004 | by
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For most of us, mosquito eradication may be one of our secret hopes. At least in this instance, we might ignore biocentric arguments that remind us that these creatures, too, deserve a place in the great chain of being. The little brutes, after all, serve as fish fodder or bat fodder; swarms of them coax caribou herds to migrate each summer across the arctic plains -- in fact caribou lose so much blood during the mosquito season, that they must compensate by consuming extra calories and so transform arctic grasslands in the process. Mosquitoes undoubtedly occupy vital niches in ecosystems from the poles to the equator. Yet mosquitoes are almost never protected by environmental regulations. The U.S. Endangered Species Act, for one, does not apply to insects that are pests that pose an "overwhelming and overriding risk" to humans. While working in the Rockefeller Archives Center this summer, I discovered that the mosquito war is alive and well when helicopters began spraying plumes of insecticide over New York City as a measure for controlling West Nile Virus.