3 Billion and Counting, Produced/written/directed by D. Rutledge Taylor, Los Angeles, California: Frogbite Productions, 102 minutes (produced in 2010).
Most people will complain indignantly of government corruption and foreign atrocities and end by shaking their heads in discouragement. Not so with D. Rutledge Taylor. Known to his patients as “Dr. Rutledge,” this California physician learned that malaria claims the lives of one million people every year in poor countries because governments prevent them from using the only known antidote, and he took a different tack. Hoping to right the wrong, he hired a video production crew and traveled around the world to chronicle the devastation of a decades-old bureaucratic ban on the insecticide DDT.
Dr. Rutledge specializes in preventive medicine and was researching ways to ward off West Nile Virus in 2004, the year cases surged in California. He discovered that malaria, another infectious disease transmitted by insects, is far more prevalent in today’s world than any other communicable illness. In search for a solution, he asked some colleagues, and what he found horrified him.
“DDT is a preventive measure. It just turns malaria on and off like a switch,” said Dr. Art Robinson, biochemist and president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. “The number of children slaughtered by the ban of DDT is greater than any other genocide in world history.” Robinson challenged Dr. Rutledge to go find out for himself, inspiring what became a five-year project including a journey through Africa, India, and Indonesia to witness the carnage firsthand, and several trips to Washington, D.C., to answer the question, “Why did they ban that chemical?”
A compelling and controversial documentary, 3 Billion and Counting is named for the number of malaria victims worldwide throughout history. It exposes genocide in poor countries committed by bureaucrats in wealthy nations who kill with the “stroke of a pen.”
But even more compelling than the numbers of dead are the faces of individual children in hospitals of sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia suffering intensely as the disease escalates from uncontrollable shaking, extreme muscle pain, and high fever to anemia, cerebral meningitis, or renal failure. Those who survive are often left with chronic pain and fatigue and sometimes permanent brain damage.
Dr. Rutledge juxtaposes interviews of mothers and hospital workers weeping over these dying children with those of smug bureaucrats and environmentalists lamenting fabricated dead birds. With detailed research he exposes as counterfeit the many myths surrounding DDT as a supposed carcinogen, infertility agent, and ecological threat. Finally, he reaches the inevitable conclusion that policies stifling DDT are rooted in the lies of blind-faith environmentalists who fund a concerted, racist population control movement that believes the world would be a much better place with fewer people in it.
In the first 40 minutes of the DVD, Dr. Rutledge’s crew takes viewers on a 40-day trek through malaria-ravaged countries in Africa and Indonesia. Public health officials everywhere repeat the same story: Malaria is a more serious problem even than HIV. Thirty-five percent of all women in Sumba Island, Indonesia, have lost a child to malaria. Francois Maartens of the Medical Research Council in Durban, South Africa, likens the destructive effects of the disease to “loading Boeing 747 airbuses full of kids every day and crashing them.” In Nairobi, the UNICEF coordinator of the Roll Back Malaria Network (RBM), John Chimumba, says, “Every 10 seconds you get a child dying of malaria.”
Launched in 1998, RBM distributes insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) as one of its main malaria-prevention strategies. Dr. Rutledge exposes government-authorized racketeering as bureaucrats sell taxpayer-funded ITNs to impoverished, high-risk Africans, justifying their plunder with the excuse that people won’t use them unless they have to pay for them. The video paradoxically cuts to a poverty-stricken village where children play within inches of raw sewage draining through the alley at the entrance to their family’s hut, reminding viewers that the world’s poorest people can’t afford basic necessities let alone a bed net. Regardless, Tim Freeman, a UNICEF Malaria Project officer in Mozambique admits, “People who use nets alone will always get malaria.”
Interviewing public health officials in these countries, Dr. Rutledge discovered that most of them want DDT but can’t use it because of political pressures. Dr. Abdul Hamid Mussa, health provincial director in Mozambique, told him, “Because we have [government] funding we are not using DDT.” Mussa’s colleague Elizabeth Streat warned, “It’s difficult to talk about DDT here. It’s quite a sensitive issue.”
Yet officials in Swaziland reject foreign aid so that they can use DDT, effecting a decline in malaria cases in children under five from 65 percent to about five percent within 10 years. “No one can come and tell me that we don’t want DDT, because I’m not asking for that money from any donors,” said Simon Kunene, Swaziland’s malaria program manager.
India also benefits from DDT; malaria is practically eradicated from that country. The Indian government operates the world’s only major DDT production facility, Hindustani Chemical Ltd. In 50 years of production, workers have had no negative health effects. During Dr. Rutledge’s visit Rajendra Mohan, former chairman of Hindustani Chemical, told him, “The problem with DDT is persistence of perception.”
Indeed, for more than 50 years the perception has persisted that DDT is a threat to all living things. Environmentalist and author Rachel Carson cemented that attitude in public opinion with her 1962 best-seller Silent Spring, a book described by contemporaries in the scientific community as emotional, deceitful, and alarmist.
On his return to the United States, Dr. Rutledge uncovers the damage done by Silent Spring and the EPA’s subsequent DDT ban in a series of candid interviews with key players of the time, including former EPA Special Deputy Assistant Richard Fairbanks, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, and former Navy Surgeon General Harold Koenig. They and others explain that despite meticulous and comprehensive EPA hearings held in 1971 and 1972 that completely exonerated DDT as safe and effective, agency Administrator William Ruckelshaus single-handedly banned this lifesaving chemical, calling it an environmental risk and human carcinogen.
Dr. Rutledge also attempted interviews with the EPA, the Pesticide Action Network, the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, other activist groups, and Ruckelshaus himself. Their doors were slammed in his face. Viewers see Dr. Rutledge’s frustration mounting on repeated trips to Washington, D.C., for scheduled interviews cancelled at the last minute.
But when he and his crew uncover the original EPA hearing transcripts — 9,312 pages sealed in 49 boxes and buried in the National Archives — they cut the original string bindings and expose testimony ignored for most of the past four decades. Malaria is virtually preventable, and it is brutal government-sanctioned population control rather than environmental concern that keeps the only known preventive blacklisted. The evidence Dr. Rutledge reveals indicts high-level political leaders and prominent scientists with premeditated genocide against the “black, brown and yellow babies” of the world. He interviews numerous doctors, scientists, authors, and activists who confirm these findings.
Dr. Rutledge stakes his life on his research by drinking three grams of DDT during the video, more than 100,000 times the amount people encountered daily in the 1960s when Carson cried wolf. He ends his fascinating exposé snacking on the white powder and asking, “With vector-borne disease on the rise, should we bring back DDT?” Millions of mothers who have lost children to malaria would say it is past time.
Dr. Rutledge plans to release 3 Billion and Counting to theaters and for sale to the public in the coming months. In the meantime, he invites visitors to the website, 3billionandcounting.com, to join his mailing list and stay informed.
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