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The World Since 1945

Random reading....

In the February issue of HARPER'S, Rebecca Solnit works to relate the Second World War to ... every environmental disaster since.

The following may be the money quote.

"In crucial, material ways, the technological modernization of World War II never ended. Pesticides, nuclear engineering, and plastics -- all developed during the militarization of industrial production -- are now part of a war by other means. All three industries sought profitable postwar applications and found them in agriculture, in energy production, and in the creation of untold disposable plastic items, the ubiquity of which was aided by he rise of advertising and marketing."

The reference to pesticides there brought me up short. Are pesticides the consequence of that war in the same  sense as nuclear engineering? Sulfur was used as a pesticide by the Chinese back around 1,000 BC. My understanding is that the modern and highly marketable nature of pesticides dates back to the days of Walter Reed, in the 1890s and early 1900s. It was Reed who determined that yellow fever is caused by mosquitoes, creating an obvious demand for ever-better ways to kill the carriers of that and (as it turns out) other diseases.

Solnit says nothing more on pesticides in her essay, and little on nukes or plastic either, but soon focuses on the issue of moving carbon from the ground into the air. A matter where her WW II connection is even less obvious.


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