Adam Curtis, 1992
4. Goodbye Mrs Ant
When Chemists were Heroes
Thomas Midgely was born in 1889. He became a chemist and an inventor. In 1921, he solved the problem of knocking in car engines: he put lead in petrol. In 1930, he discovered a new coolant for fridges. It was called by
its initials: CFC.
Midgely became part of a golden age of chemistry in America, in the thirties.
[Clip from the 1940 DuPont film A New World Through Chemistry]
In 1935, Midgely predicted that in the future, chemistry would solve many of the world's great problems.
The ozone layer, he said, could be altered to control the Sun's rays and allow scientists to govern the world's
In 1940, Midgely contracted polio. He built a pulley system to lift himself in and out of bed. But, in 1944, he
became trapped in it and strangled himself.
That same year, the American army began mass-producing CFC to help spray a new – some said miracle – chemical over the Pacific battlefields. It killed insects. It was called DDT.
GOODBYE MRS ANT
Professor Robert Metcalfe [Metcalf?], entomologist, National Defence Research Committee 1943–1946
I was a project officer in the first aerial application of DDT that was ever made in the world, I
guess; and we flew it over several square miles of jungle and I was walking around some kraals
we'd cut in the jungle floor and there was an incredible, [in]describable rain of insects of all kinds
coming down out of the tops of these huge jungle trees – a hundred to a hundred and thirty,
forty, fifty feet; we got cerambycid beetles, beetles of all descriptions – and probably many people
had never seen [them] or [?if] anybody had ever seen [them], because they're in the tops of the
trees... I remember particularly some [..?..] of these long [..?..] beetles were coming down; there
were wasps and bees of all descriptions and so forth [..?..] it was an incredible experience; and I
guess what occurred to me then was that maybe this was one of the best ways to collect insects
and find out what kind of insects there truly were in a representative area of the jungle... and
that's just one of the more innocent things I guess one could read into it.
[Period film showing Douglas C-47 (Dakota)s spraying Manila in the Philippines]
[Voiceover:] "Low-flying planes cover every section of the city, from the coast of Manila Bay to the
outlying environs, in an effort to destroy the large numbers of flies and mosquitoes plaguing
the area ... Prior to the spring, the populous was informed that the insecticide would not injure
vegetation or clothes."
[Clip from black-and-white film featuring an unidentified man]
"In American bars, there was a drink which was called "Mickey Slim"; and it was a good gin with
a spot of DDT in it. And this was supposed to give you a feeling of happiness and merriment –"
... then in Naples, in 1943 and '44, there was an enormous epidemic of typhus transmitted by the
human body louse; and [there were] about ten million applications of DDT dusting powder [given]
to people and they wiped that out – and those things got enormous publicity in household
magazines like  Reader's Digest ... Everybody wanted to try DDT; and [the] civilian population
could hardly wait to get their hands on it when it was released in 1945 for civilian use.
Harry Renken, farmer
Well, it was sort of a miracle that happened; and, by word of mouth, it spread rapidly and I
think everyone tried it.
I remember one time in 1952; it was summertime and we were going to have a birthday party
right here on the lawn – right here where we're sitting – and the day before I sprayed all the grass
with water and DDT. And this got rid of the flies and also killed mosquitoes; and, you know, flies
in the afternoon – while the sun's shining – and mosquitoes after dark; those are two things [that]
if you could get away from them, you could have a wonderful party out here – and we did. We
had a pest-free party out here [on] this farm.
Wilbert Joyce, farmer
Chemical people would show us test plots and the quality of the corn – and it would have little
small ears, for the weeds and the insects had taken over; [but] where they'd used the chemicals,
the ears were bigger and the yield was two to three times as much.
The United States was [on] a continent plagued with insects. Farmers lived in perpetual fear of finding a new infestation. Whole crops were regularly destroyed by pests. DDT and the other insecticides invented in its wake promised victory in this war.
Shirley Briggs, biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service 1945–1948
You don't in England... [have] anything like the insect life that we have. You don't have to have
screens on the windows in many places – can't survive here that way.
We are edgier about them. Anything with six legs is... an enemy.
[Brief clip (no dialogue) from the movie] "EARTH VS. THE SPIDER" [released] 1958
I've seen the time [when] full fields of crops would be ruined [by] the insects before the chemicals
[came] into effect. I can remember the cutworms and the wireworms would absolutely clean
the fields of corn and wheat; and there would be nothing left to harvest. And then, when your
chemicals [came] along, you had this to eliminate the insects and... you had your crop then.
Lillard Heddon, crop sprayer 1945–1983
It was a miracle chemical to us because we thought it would control practically every insect ...
but I guess it was just the time and the period that God had decided that he would let us discover
these chemicals and use them wisely; and... I suppose everything, the whole system, is directed
by God, so I guess this was the time that we would find our knowledge given by God would lead
us to find these natural resources to use, to control... do away with some of the slave labour...
The incredible success of insecticides led to a wave of invention. Chemists vied with each other to design
new, more powerful products. This, in turn, transformed other sciences – in particular, the study of insects:
Entomologists had traditionally been figures of fun; eccentric scientists who spent their time classifying insects. But this was now important information for the chemical companies. They began to employ large numbers of entomologists. In the process, the focus of their science began to shift.
Professor Robert Metcalf, entomologist, University of California 1948–1968
We were fed these new chemicals so rapidly, many of us didn't have any time to do anything else
but test the new chemicals – there seemed to be chemicals being introduced into the pipeline [and]
an inexhaustible pressure to put something out at the other end; and, literally, we forgot about
good, basic entomology and became in a sense, I think, handmaidens of the world chemical
The entomologists began to discover what appeared to be serious side-effects. As they investigated the effectiveness of large-scale spraying programmes, they found that many other species of wildlife were being harmed.
Dr. Eugene Kenega, research entomologist, Dow Chemical Company 1940–1982
We found out soon that there were some side-effects, even as early as 1946 and '47, but the
benefits were so great – we eradicated malaria from the United States, let alone many other places
in the world – and... so, there wasn't the public pressure on...
We were killing off birds; in some cases, it was quite obvious that these species were disappearing,
starting in '47 or '48. And, by '53, even the birds that lived quite a few years were beginning to
disappear; and they weren't replacing themselves because the eggs weren't hatching.
These side-effects led to serious disagreements among the entomologists. At their annual conference in 1953, their president made an impassioned defence of the chemicals. His speech was entitled "The Greater Hazard – Insects or Insecticides". The choice, he said, was a simple one: either continue spraying or return to the bad old days of starvation and disease. Everything should be done to minimise the side-effects, but, ultimately, it was a war of survival. Insecticides had already saved a hundred-million human lives throughout the world.
At our scientific conferences and meetings, we were completely immersed in a haze of propaganda
about chemicals. There were lavish hospitality suites, banquets sponsored by the chemical
companies – and a great many entomologists were employed by these companies; and I'm sure
they were absolutely convinced that what they were doing was of fundamental and very valuable
importance to the world.
The chemical companies also portrayed the battle against the insects as a necessary war. Promotional films of the 1950s invoked Charles Darwin. They depicted it as part of the inevitable struggle for existence.
[Clip from such a film, "Goodbye Mrs. Ant!" (1959), sponsored by the Velsicol Chemical Corporation]
[Voiceover:] "Wherever man is, there the ant is also. They seem to come from nowhere and suddenly
are everywhere at once, crawling over the food. As the hordes invade, man often gives up his
pleasures in utter despair. It is the law of nature: the strong survive."
Dr. Thomas Jukes, research chemist, American Cyanamid Company 1945–1963
Now, in evolution, all species are essentially in competition with each other and the ones that are
most successful survive. And insects, as it's been said, will inherit the Earth, because they're so
successful. And insects carry diseases to human beings, such as malaria; and when we spray to
kill the insects, we're interfering with evolution – if evolution were to proceed, then we would be
overwhelmed by the factors that are against us.
James Moore, biographer of Charles Darwin
When people in the post-war period spoke of a "struggle" in nature, they were selecting one
aspect of Darwin's theories that suited their time. Now, for Darwin, nature was a bloody
battlefield; there were winners and losers, victors and vanquished. But this imagery took on
special significance in the Cold War years. In the American midwest, when I was growing up,
the household aerosols were called "insect bombs".
The point is that in these life-and-death struggles, scientists believed they were seizing the power
from evolution and redirecting it by controlling the environment. They took it on faith from the
biologists that this is how the world works – and then they chose to emphasise those aspects of
Darwin's theory which fitted in best with the industrial programmes they were embarked upon.
This was not a neutral reading of Darwin at all; this was an interested reading.
The first serious public attack on the widespread use of pesticides came from Rachel Carson. She was a biologist who had worked for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In the late fifties, she began collecting evidence of the side-effects; in particular, studies which showed that DDT was becoming more concentrated as it worked its way into the bodies of larger animals. In 1962, she wrote a book called Silent Spring. It was an attack on the chemical companies.
Shirley Briggs, colleague of Rachel Carson in the [US] Fish and Wildlife Service
It started coming out in The New Yorker. She kept it rather quiet; she knew that the chemical
industry – or the part of it she was worrying about – would react; and, sure enough, [an] official
of the Velsicol chemical company wrote a very threatening letter to Houghton Mifflin – "You must
not print this book!" – and came out with the standard line, that they still use: "You see, if we stop
using all these pesticides, it would... simply ruin the whole economy of the country. And this is a
sinister plot by the far-left subversive forces" – as they called them – "to destroy the United States."
Silent Spring painted a dramatic picture of a poisoned America. It caused an immediate sensation. It coincided with revelations about thalidomide and the fallout of strontium-90 from nuclear testing.
Gordon Edwards, entomologist
... I got the book and I went home and read [it. A]nd I got about two-thirds of the way through
the book and I saw so many things I knew were not true that it bothered me. Then I set out to
make a lot of speeches to let people know what she [Carson] had said and what was really the
truth; and many other people were doing the same thing across the nation.
So, usually at some time during the talk, somebody would be interested in "What about the
effect on people?" And it was handy at that time to have a box of DDT like this one [he is holding
it in his hand] so I could just dump some out in my hand [he does so, then starts licking the hand] and
take some of it, to show that it's not harmful to people – never has been; no-one's ever been
killed by DDT... I've not even heard of them being made ill by it, even when they attempt suicide.
In 1963, the book was made the subject of an hour-long [CBS] TV special. Three of the programme's sponsors – food and chemical manufacturers – withdrew in protest. Carson used the programme to widen her attack on the chemical companies.
[Clips from (presumably) the TV special]
"Now, to these people, apparently, the balance of nature was something that
was... repealed as soon as man came on the scene. Well, you might just as well
assume that you could repeal the law of gravity.
"Man's attitude toward nature is, today, critically important... simply because
we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and to destroy nature.
"Well, unless we do bring these chemicals under better control, we're certainly
headed for disaster."
Dr. Robert White-Stevens, chemical industry spokesman
"Miss Carson maintains that the balance of nature is a major force in the survival
of man; whereas the modern chemist, the modern biologist, the modern scientist
believes that man is steadily controlling nature.
"If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to
the Dark Ages; and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit
The ironic thing was how Robert White-Stevens died: he died as the result of the sting of a wasp.
In 1963, Rachel Carson died [from the consequences of cancer]. Although her book had caused an outcry, it had no immediate effect on the use of pesticides. But another attack on the chemical industry was about to be launched, this time from the suburbs.
[Brief clip from start of 1950s colour film entitled] THE QUIET REVOLUTION
America's suburbs had grown enormously during the fifties, often on land made habitable for the first time
with the use of insecticides. But continued spraying – to treat diseases such as Dutch Elm – now brought the
side-effects of the chemicals into the gardens of the wealthy and articulate middle classes.
Lorri Otto, resident of Milwaukee suburb
We live in what's called the "Gold Coast" area – the wealthier people – and so we had money right
away to buy this stuff and the machinery and the men... And so they went around and squirted
first of all from the ground; but that didn't last very long. Soon, there was... a whole page in the
Sunday Milwaukee Journal on how, now, Shorewood and Fox Point and Bayside – where I live –
were really going to take care of their elm trees; and they had a photograph of a helicopter
spraying with DDT...
And not too long after that, the robins started going into convulsions. It started out... you would
see the robin and you'd think it'll be alright; and then, all of a sudden, this quivering would go on.
Dr. Thomas Jukes, research chemist, American Cyanamid Company 1945–1963
Those robins got in the way of the spray and they got drenched with DDT; and they fell to the
ground and there they were twitching and paralyzed. And that seemed like a terrible thing – and
it was for those robins – but there were millions of other robins that weren't being hurt at all.
We would be awakened by this "sh-sh-sh-sh-sh" of the [?'copter] over the house; and, one day,
I was so angry that... I raced up into the attic and opened the dormer windows – in my little pink
nightie – and I climbed up on top of the roof and I just stood there and shook my fist at them!
What happened next was... that there was a spraying of DDT in Long Island and Mrs Yannacone
didn't like it.
Carol Yannacone [with] Victor Yannacone
[Carol Yannacone:] The first time I noticed it, I [was driving] past here on my way home from work
and there were dead fish for about ten feet out from the side. This is noticeable as you drive by.
[Victor Yannacone:] The mass of fish killed in this lake – and, as we later found out, other lakes –
were all ignored, largely because the suburban population that was seeing this had nothing to
compare it against, having come from the concrete canyons of Manhattan and Brooklyn and
Queens – where I came from – and not knowing what the natural state was supposed to be.
The scientific community, which should've been observing all of this, was too busy making new
products or living in their ivory towers: "Let us take charge. We will bring you better things for
better living, through chemistry."
Victor Yannacone was a lawyer. Together with two local biologists, he founded the Environmental Defense Fund.
Its aim was to legally challenge the use of DDT and other pesticides.
Their argument was that the chemicals were spreading in uncontrollable ways, becoming more poisonous as they did so. One of the strongest pieces of evidence was the disappearance of the peregrine falcon. DDT was being found in their bodies and their eggs were failing to hatch. Two ornithologists set out to count the falcon population.
Daniel Berger, ornithologist, University of Wisconsin  1965–1968
We were simply going to follow a route from northern Alabama all the way up to the state of
Maine. And we started in... I believe it was early April – and birds should be on location at that
time. And we simply worked our way northward; and we followed a very torturous route and we
checked something like a hundred and thirty sites or something like that in the course of the next
three months, driving a little over fourteen thousand miles.
We found zero. Not one peregrine falcon.
In 1968, the Environmental Defense Fund discovered an obscure law in the midwestern state of Wisconsin. It
allowed anyone a legal hearing if they believed they could prove water pollution in the state.
Using this as a pretext, the Fund engineered a hearing; and, in November 1968, a small group of them travelled to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, in the heartland of America's agriculture. The hearing was held in the vast
State Legislature. It quickly became a trial of DDT.
The star was Victor Yannacone. His main aim was to get the public's attention [and] explain why tiny amounts of a chemical could have such large effects.
We had to explain that a part per million was significant. We did this by calling a very prominent
scientist from the pro-DDT camp and we asked him a very simple series of questions. "Doctor, do
you have any idea what the purpose of the hormones that flow in your blood is?" – "Ye[s." –
"T]hey're responsible for your secondary sex characteristics: the hair on your head, the hair on
your chest, the tone of your voice – right? Do you have any idea what the level of testosterone in
your bloodstream is necessary to give you that lovely shock of white hair, all that hair on the chest
and the grandchildren that you're so proud of?" And he finally admitted that it was five parts per
million. I said: "Well, do you have any idea what would happen if the level of testosterone in your
blood should drop to as low as three and a half parts per million?" He averred he didn't know
and I said: "Well, you know that that hair of yours would change, the hair on your chest would
disappear, the hair on the rest of your body would change, [falsetto:] your voice would go up to a
little squeak [back to normal voice] – and you sure as hell wouldn't have any grandchildren!"
The public got the point. One part per million could be very significant.
The Madison hearing soon became headline news, with both sides claiming that everything America stood for was at stake.
At the height of the battle over DDT, I wrote a poem and sent it to Time magazine. It was a parody
[of] "America, the Beautiful" and I'll sing it for you:
"Oh, beautiful for bug-filled skies / For weevils in our grain / For apple scab and
stable flies / Please bring these back again / Malaria, malaria, red blood cells
harbour thee / Where Rocky Mountain fever thrives / Where babies have TB /
Where parasites take human lives / Why, that's the land for me!
"Malaria, malaria, my spleen will welcome thee / Restore the sickness grandpa
knew / By banning DDT!"
Dr. Hugh Iltis, ecologist, University of Wisconsin 1968
...Yannacone looked at me long and hard and [said]: "I think he'll do." And then he looked at me
and [said]: "Can you, between now and tomorrow, put together a lecture of about forty slides of
all the different pictures of the Wisconsin ecosystem so it'll be not only beautiful but emotionally
rich and will affect the people who listen to it?" [I said]: "I'll try...!"
Next day, I came here [the State Legislature] and gave this talk with beautiful slides of the prairies
and the woods of Wisconsin ... It was, I'm sure, the first time anybody has ever shown wild flowers
in the chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature.
In the late sixties, ecology was a modest scientific backwater. Ecologists spent their time studying the mutual dependence and balance of all the inhabitants of a particular area. But for Yannacone, ecology was a powerful weapon with which to attack the defenders of DDT – especially the entomologists. It gave him a scientific basis [from which] to challenge the idea of evolution they used to justify the large spraying programmes.
The entomologists, who should've known better – and now, thirty years later, admit they
should've known better – simply saw the death and the extinction of what we now know to be
beneficial insects as the operation of the fundamental laws of survival and evolution. What they
didn't realise was [that] the kind of evolution they were looking toward was the evolution of
monsters arising from garbage dumps; of chemically-deformed animals and plants. What they
thought would come out of this was a simplified world ecosystem, with "good" plants [and] "bad"
plants – weeds; "good" insects, "bad" insects; "good" animals – the ones we eat – [and] "bad"
animals, the ones that take up space...
There was a problem, though. If human begins were inextricably interwoven with other parts of nature, as ecology said, where were the effects of DDT on humans? In thirty years, no worker in the DDT factories had
been poisoned. The defenders made great play of this at the hearing.
But then, in early 1969, the Environmental Defense Fund received some unexpected news.
A Swedish chemist by the name of Goran Lofroth wrote a letter saying they [had] found, in almost
all women in Sweden, DDT in  mothers' milk. Well, we went to my house [and] we finally said "Hey,
let's call up Sweden!" – and we did; we got him [Lofroth] out of bed – [it] must've been four o'clock in
the morning [there]. He spoke pretty good English: "What do you want?" [We] said: "We want you
in Madison!" He said he would come.
Thursday came and went; Friday, at ten o'clock, people went out to the airport – it was all
hush-hush[. T]he testimony was droning on and on and on: the-pesticide-this and the-chickens-that
and the-eggs-this and so forth and so on – my God, one just... hours... I mean, we have... after all,
we have fourteen of these volumes [he has picked one up], two-thousand eight-hundred pages of
testimony; the stenographers went bananas.
Anyway, at eleven thirty, somebody "hi-ho"ed me – a little sign [he is gesticulating with his little
finger] – and we went outside the hall; and, sure enough, there was Goran Lofroth with his little
In the mean[time], of course, we  called The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington
Post; all these reporters were waiting in the wing[s] ... and then, for the next three hours, Goran
Lofroth laid it on the line that if babies  drink milk [from] cows that grazed on land that was
sprayed with DDT, their fat is going to contain DDT; and not only this, but fat, of course, is in the
brain – most [of the] brain is fat – [so] it would be loaded with DDT. By Sunday: front page of the 
New York Times.
And the opposition was just livid with rage, but we won that one.
When I heard of the ban, I really felt bad about it, because I felt it was a victory against science.
And I felt that scientists and industry had a place in this country and [were] certainly being
undermined by the statements about pesticides in general; it's gotten worse since then, of course.
After banning DDT, the others were easy. Somebody said maybe because DDT was so easy to
spell that people immediately thought about it.
Where once chemicals were seen as good, now they were banned. In the early 1970s, press and television became fascinated by any reports of the side-effects of pesticides and herbicides – and, above all, by the effects on human beings.
News report, Arizona 1972
[Woman:] "The first analysis was phoned to me yesterday to say they have found the residues of
2,4-D [2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid]. So, I guess I'm the first documented case to say it is residual
in the human body after you've been exposed to it."
The battle against DDT had been won, ultimately, by evidence of its presence in humans. Now the Environmental Defense Fund placed advertisements in the national papers implying that DDT caused cancer. Donations flooded in, but the decision split the leadership.
The Environmental Defense Fund and Carol and I parted company over the issue of whether the shift
should be from the questions that we were sure of – that DDT was bad for the environment – to the
speculation that DDT might cause cancer. I don't believe in going to court on speculation. I go to
court on relatively solid evidence.
DDT is not good for mammalian systems. It damages the nervous system; it damages the liver
enzyme systems; it causes some problems. It is not a strong carcinogen; it is not – except in very
large doses – associated with serious human health hazard[s]. Its real problem is that it [has] the
capacity, had it continued to be used at the rate it was being used, to literally destroy almost the
entire world['s] natural ecological system upon which we really depend; and [that] would have meant
the ultimate collapse of the human species as [an] animal species.
The DDT hearing was a watershed; not just for the battle against chemical pollution, but for the science of
ecology. Ecologists became influential figures, giving scientific advice in the battles against other pesticides.
But, in the process, their science was transformed. It became the guiding force of the environmental movement.
Langdon Winner, historian of science
Beginning with the unintended consequences of DDT, the science of ecology had emerged as a
useful tool in science; and many people began to see it as something that could be drawn upon
for moral enlightenment as well – the notion of everything being connected to everything else.
I remember the first time I ever heard the word "environmentalist" on the air was on an Arthur
Godfrey show; and he was trying to explain what it was – and it was hard for him to explain what
the [?era] was, so... It was really a new era.
[Period film (colour, 1970s?) featuring a Native American character canoeing from the wild to a littered industrial harbour
and then visiting a littered highway]
[Voiceover:] "Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once
this country. And some people don't.
"People start pollution – people can stop it."
[From a ?newsreel]
[Voiceover:] "Two days ago, a man whose controversial predictions of a forthcoming global
catastrophe have made him an international figure arrived at London's Heathrow Airport. He
is Paul Ehrlich, Professor of Biology at Stanford University in California and the chief spokesman
for the so-called "ecological movement".
[Interviewer (off-camera):] "Dr Ehrlich, just how realistic is your projected theory of the
[Ehrlich:] "Well, I think that it's getting more realistic all the time; the signs are getting worse, but
I still have considerable hope because although governments are very slow, people all over the
world are awakening very rapidly to what the real danger is."
In much the same way as the science of entomology had been changed in the 1950s, now ecology was transformed by the social and political pressures of the early seventies. Ecologists became the moral and spiritual
guardians of a new view of the human relationship to nature.
And they, too, cited Darwin's laws to prove that their view was correct.
Dr. Hugh Iltis, ecologist
Nature has a set of laws that all organism[s] have to obey, by necessity, because that's the way
they evolve; and this applies to human beings very much so.
[..?..] you need to introduce into our lives nature [sic], it is a need that is enormously deep. Look
around you, wherever you go, into homes. There are not only living flowers, there are not only
aquaria and pets – look at the wall[s]; what do we see? Sunflowers by van Gogh or irises by van
Gogh; or pictures, photographs of landscapes. You don't see [in a] frame in a house a picture of a
crankshaft from a Ford... or a tin can, squashed; [but] in modern art – which is a sick art because
it reflects the confusion in the human mind – [then] yes, indeed.
James Moore, biographer of Charles Darwin
Darwin's so big that he can support any number of generalisations about the world. I mean, given
Darwin's image as a scientific saint, people inevitably try to get him on the side of their view of
nature. Now, Darwin was complex ... In The Origin of Species, for example, the metaphors tumble
over one another in the most unscientific way. Sure, nature's seen as being at war; but nature is
also likened to a web of complex relations. And here, then, was another aspect of Darwin for
people to seize on for their own purposes. Darwin gave them a basis for urging us not to take
control of nature but to cooperate with it, to stay within its balance. Again, Darwin serves up
In the public imagination, scientific theories are something fixed; and if they're good theories and
accepted by creditable people, well, then they're absolute and that's that. What people don't
understand is that scientific theories never have a single meaning. They become a cultural
property; they are useable, serviceable for different interested parties.
TWENTY YEARS LATER
The story of DDT continues.
The head of a large property company has called a press conference to announce that he has stopped construction in one of his skyscrapers.
[From TV footage of media and other people milling around on an unfinished floor of a skyscraper]
[Reporter with microphone:] What's happening here this morning?
[Spokesperson (the company head? (J. Snyder?))]
Well, the peregrine falcons have been nesting in this building for five years and, every
year, the Peregrine Society comes and retrieves the eggs; the eggs will not hatch here
due to DDT contamination [making them] too weak for the bird to sit on.
Each year, they bring back a small baby for the bird so that they feel they've completed
Media representative, J. H. Snyder Company
Basically, the people are here because it's not just a story about the eggs being laid and
gathered; it's a story about how this particular developer, the J. H. Snyder Company,
has literally [sic] suspended construction in this area during the mating season of these
particular birds... and  it's an excellent idea of how developers and businesspeople can
participate in environmental concerns.
Daniel Berger, ornithologist
You saw the number of TV cameras and the media people who were up here today watching the
manipulation going on. This, in effect, is really a myth being born – or being fostered, at any rate.
The myth in this case is that the peregrine falcon is sacred. Granted, it's a precious species – we
were about to lose it, perhaps, a number of years ago; now we have peregrines back in good
numbers [and] there've been dramatic recoveries...
I think it's just an unrealistic attitude about how sensitive parts of nature are.
At the start of the DDT litigation in 1966, science had become the way that  human beings could
avoid responsibility: "Science will take care of us!". After the DDT wars, we knew that science was
not necessarily going to be the answer – but mankind in the twentieth century still wanted to avoid
responsibility for [its] own individual[s'] actions. Now it's nature that's going to permit us to shift
the responsibility from human beings to some force that we don't have to take responsibility for.
Joan Fairfax, The Ojai Foundation
What we're talking about is a very profound internal shift of attitude and of values. This is the
gift of ecology to human beings – and really to all species – today. And that gift can give rise to
not utopia but ecotopia, which is this profound sense of place; the sense of coming home at last.
THE EAST COAST
Langdon Winner, historian of science
The kinds of ideas about ecology and environment that we see today I don't believe are any more
scientific or rational than previous notions of nature. In both cases, people that talk about them
are saying "Look, this is scientific; I'm not making this up. These are not my hopes and dreams;
this is what science tells us." But, in both cases, I think what you can see happening is particular
kinds of social ideals being read back to us as if they were lessons derived from science itself. In
the case of contemporary ecology, it seems to me that what we're actually getting is a kind of
utopia of a perfectly constructed, complex universe of natural things; and from that universe
one tries to derive various kinds of laws that can help us live better as human beings.
I think it is a moral lesson. There is a possibility for a kind of utopia. We've dreamed about it and
that possibility exists in our future.
The scientific and technological notions of the 1950s – the ideas of endless possibilities for [the]
exploitation of nature – are now seen as ill-conceived and ill-guided. I'm haunted by the possibility
that the ideas of ecology that we now embrace today may, in thirty or forty years, seem similarly
ill-conceived – and they're no more scientific than, let's say, other notions of nature that we have
looked to in the past.
At least, when science was our guide, we felt that we were actively doing something; we were in
control. Now there are too many people that say "There's nothing I can do – nature will take care
of it; I just will continue, fat, dumb and happy, the way I am."
We must go back to the simple lesson of history: Every human being, concerned enough, dedicated
enough and willing to make the sacrifice, can change the world around them.
In 1860, Charles Darwin wrote to a friend in America about whether it is possible to seek divine providence in nature. "I feel most deeply", he said, "that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Yet each man hope and believe what he can."
[Interviewer (Adam Curtis), off-camera:] Do you think we'll ever know what's best?
[Heddon:] We will, one day, but it won't be here, on Earth, in our lifetime. We'll know... When we
get to heaven, we'll know what's best.