When I re-joined the club in 1991, birds of prey were a rare sight in Sussex. Now the odds of a collision with a Buzzard during a ridge run are getting quite significant. In the last few years the Red Kites have started to repopulate the Downs. These are magnificent birds with gloriously vibrant plumage and wing spans of almost six foot. They exploit every conceivable source of lift and are a source of joy and inspiration to a glider pilot.
It is hard to conceive the devastation that malaria wrought on the population in times gone by. It made certain areas of coastal Essex uninhabitable. The odds of dying of it if you visited Rome were quite strong. It's introduction to the Americas by the early European explorers was one of the principal imported diseases that wiped out the Red Indians. The Miracle came with the invention of DDT in the 1940’s. You could instantly control the mosquitoes that could have decimated the European and American troops who fought the Pacific War.
Following the War, huge plants were set up to produce thousands tons of this miracle pesticide. Spray it on your cotton or corn crops and you could double your yields. The Piper Aircraft company obligingly developed the Pawnee which could dump 800 pounds of the DDT at a go. Some of the more lunatic elements of the gliding movement departed to become crop sprayers. In Montreal in the sixties, I knew a PhD student whose vacation job was to direct converted Marauder Bombers that sprayed hundreds of square miles of Canadian Forest.
He admitted that, although they put down cards to verify the pesticide coverage, if there were no birds singing, they had done their job well. Other people were beginning to doubt the wisdom of killing the the birds that ate the bugs that they were trying to destroy. The turning point came with the publication of the Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. She was a researcher who had studied the environmental effects of pesticides and also their linking to cancerous tumours. The book was published as she was dying of breast cancer. It became an immediate bestseller but was vehemently opposed by the chemical companies and even the Department of Agriculture. It was this book that spearheaded the movement that eventually led to the formation of the EPA - Environmental Protection Agency, which Trump is now seeking to destroy.