Banning DDT: How Citizen Activists in Wisconsin Led the Way

By Bill Berry

Paperback: $18.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-644-3

274 pages, 22 b&w photos, 1 map, 6 x 9 Foreword by David Yarnold, National Audubon Society E-book Edition Available


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On a December day in 1968, DDT went on trial in Madison, Wisconsin. In Banning DDT: How Citizen Activists in Wisconsin Led the Way, Bill Berry details how the citizens, scientists, reporters, and traditional conservationists drew attention to the harmful effects of "the miracle pesticide" DDT, which was being used to control Dutch elm disease.

Berry tells of the hunters and fishers, bird-watchers, and garden-club ladies like Lorrie Otto, who dropped off twenty-eight dead robins at the Bayside village offices. He tells of university professors and scientists like Joseph Hickey, a professor and researcher in the Department of Wildlife Management at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who, years after the fact, wept about the suppression of some of his early DDT research. And he tells of activists like Senator Gaylord Nelson and members of the state's Citizens Natural Resources Association who rallied others to the cause.

The six-month-long DDT hearing was one of the first chapters in citizen activism in the modern environmental era. Banning DDT is a compelling story of how citizen activism, science, and law merged in Wisconsin's DDT battles to forge a new way to accomplish public policy. These citizen activists were motivated by the belief that we all deserve a voice on the health of the land and water that sustain us.

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Bill Berry grew up in Green Bay and earned undergraduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. After more than twenty years as a reporter, columnist, and editor for several daily newspapers, he redirected his energy to communicate about conservation and agriculture. This work has taken him across the United States to learn and teach about private lands conservation. A columnist for the Capital Times of Madison, he lives in Stevens Point with his wife and is the father of two daughters.

"Bill Berry manages to turn one of the state's most historicand perhaps longestenvironmental battles into what sometimes feels like a fast-paced thriller...David is going up against multiple Goliaths: the very powerful pesticide industry, a university where researchers relied upon millions of dollars from the pesticide companies to fund their research, and a state in which agriculture is zealously protected as a key part of the economy." -Ron Seely, Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters

"...the history of DDT cannot be told without referencing the people of the state.  Wisconsin's history of strong environmentalists such as Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson, EDF's decision to use Wisconsin as a test case, and the remarkable mobilization of volunteers all contributed to the success of citizen activists and serve as an example of how a grassroots movement can influence policy." -Elizabeth Wheat, Voyageur Magazine

2015 Midwest Independent Publishing Association Awards

Winner in the Nature Category