Machine Design

November 21, 2013 Letters

Too many engineers, not enough DDT

One reader believes we have more engineers than we need and that most engineering has already been done. Another feels DDT was maligned by Rachel Carson and that prudent use could have saved millions of lives over the past four decades. And a back-page reader, impressed with our audience’s ability to solve tough puzzles, suggest one of his own. Good luck with it.

Too many engineers?

Unfortunately we have a worldwide glut of engineers. My guess is that we are graduating many times the number we really need. The U. S. Congress, by making Americans compete against large communist countries like China and India, where engineering education enjoys substantial government subsidy, have made it such that no American in their right mind would spend the time, energy, and money to become an engineer. In short, the world does not need American engineers.

Based upon my observation of the trends in the duties assigned to engineers, I conclude we only need 10% of the current number of engineers. Most engineers I know now spend most of their time doing work previously done by secretaries, accountants, managers, lawyers, and technicians.

The question I have is, have we reached a point where we have created all the engineering work we need to satisfy and sustain society, and can we now make do with a very small number of engineers to maintain this status? Or, does society need a significant project that would consume large-scale engineering resources?

Joe Iaquintio


Bring back DDT

The recent editorial (”The Upside of Pesticides,” July 10) only mentions part of Rachel Carson’s legacy. She did change the course of debate on environmental issues, so that actions are now driven on the basis of emotion rather than facts. Her claims about cancer rates and eggshell thicknesses and the effects of overusing DDT sounded “true-ish,” but when examined by objective reviewers, none could be corroborated. At best, her claims were based on unverified research by biased activists. At worst they were, like her storyline, pure fiction.

I don’t question Rachel Carson’s intent in writing Silent Spring. However, by inciting fears of DDT which led to its ban, Rachel’s legacy includes the deaths of millions of third-world children from malaria spread by mosquitoes. Prior to 1972, mosquitoes and malaria were kept in check by DDT. Since the DDT ban, however, there have been upwards of 1 million malaria-related deaths per year which could have been prevented by using DDT.

In recent years, many of these countries are beginning to reintroduce DDT for mosquito control. Those that have are seeing dramatic reductions in malaria-related deaths. For those of you concerned about the harmful effects of DDT on people in these countries, consider the 2006 action by the World Health Organization recommending that DDT be used inside homes and buildings for mosquito control.

No one is suggesting DDT or any other insecticide be overused or that DDT is the only available preventative measure, but why ban something proven to be inexpensive, safe (as pesticides go), and extraordinarily effective?

Leland Teschler is right. There is an “upside” to pesticides.

Allen Heindel

Beware of government help

Any one who believes federal agencies should have more authority is not in tune with the times (“Myth: The Power Grid is a Pushover,” July 18), The federal government does not manage things well, whether it is a program, project, regulations, or even the government. What makes you think they would do a better job with the Power Grid? Let private enterprise do their job.

Walter W. Gammell

A suggested challenge

How about the following challenge for your back page: 252 Democrats can make 16 decisions in a year. 280 Republicans can make 18 decisions in a year. If Democrats and Republicans work together, how many decisions can they make over a four-year period?

Gary Cox

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