In Atlanta, David Lewis from AM 1690’s Conversations with David Lewis interviewed Billy on Imaginations. Listen here.
LIVE TODAY - interview with Billy and host Mary-Charlotte of Santa Fe Radio Cafe (KSFR, Santa Fe Public Radio). Listen above!
The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men: Inspiration, Vision, and Purpose in the Quest to End Malaria
by Bill Shore
PublicAffairs, 311 pp., $25.95
The US eradicated malaria in 1951. Until then, this parasitic disease, transmitted largely by infected mosquitoes, had been endemic across much of the country. In the Tennessee River Valley, for example, malaria affected almost a third of the population in 1933. By the time the US National Malaria Eradication Program was launched on July 1, 1947, malaria had become concentrated in thirteen southeastern states. The program was led by the newly created federal Communicable Disease Center (now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC) based in Atlanta.
Justin M. Andrews, the CDC’s director at the time, was also Georgia’s chief malariologist. The CDC had itself evolved from the Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, which had been created to defeat malaria in the United States during World War II. Perhaps surprisingly to a modern audience that thinks of it as a disease of poor countries, the histories of American health and malaria are tightly bound. As the historian Margaret Humphreys has revealed, malaria “shaped southern and western [American] history in particular through its impact on labor patterns, mortality rates, and settlement choices.”1
It is easy to forget today how dangerous malaria continues to be. Ninety-nine countries (40 percent of the world’s population, or about three billion people) live under the threat of malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 225 million cases worldwide in 2008, with 781,000 deaths. These figures are almost certainly underestimates. Most deaths—85 percent—are in children under five years of age.
For a disease that exacts such an enormous toll of human death and misery, it remains shocking that so little has been done by affected countries and large international donors to control malaria. This long epoch of neglect is gradually coming to an end. As Bill Shore explains in his survey of “baffling and surprising” strategies to eradicate the world’s most devastating parasite, “a small number of heroic idealists” are beginning to reverse decades of failure. They have recognized that traditional approaches to malaria control “always fall short.” Instead, defeating malaria requires “moral vision and imagination,” “a deeply intrinsic drive to achieve what others have dismissed as unachievable,” “a willingness to take risks,” and “irrational self-confidence.”
But Shore also shows an aspect of the organizations concerned with malaria that is less heroic, less moral, and certainly not at all idealistic. He exposes how a spirited culture of creativity, confidence, and competition in malaria research too often expresses itself as hyperbole, hubris, and personal enmity. There are frequent examples of scientists who confidently ridicule the work of fellow scientists: “Rival researchers are polite but mostly dismissive of one another,” Shore notes. As he concludes…
Over the weekend I picked up one of the slim “Great Ideas” volumes published by Penguin Books. It was a collection of Michel De Montaigne’s writings from the mid-1500’s. One chapter begins: “Fortis imagination generat casum”: a powerful imagination generates the event.
It was wonderful to find a 500 year old antecedent to the themes I’ve tried to write about in THE IMAGINATIONS OF UNREASONABLE MEN, especially from one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance.
The deeper I dig into the extraordinary growth of Share Our Strength these past 18 months, and the more I study areas of transformative change, as in the field of global health, the more it affirms that most of the failures that hold individuals and organizations back from the advances they seek, are not failures of money or manpower, but failures of imagination.
Imagination – to not only feed children but to end childhood hunger, to not only treat malaria but to develop a vaccine to eradicate it, - can actually be cultivated in very specific ways that include:
Montaigne makes clear that what we’ve known for hundreds of years but sometimes forget: the power of imagination makes it possible to envision and create a world which does not yet exist but is within our grasp to achieve.
Last week, Billy was interviewed on Jefferson Public Radio’s (Southern Oregon University’s local NPR affiliate) Jefferson Exchange program. Listen here to a lively and engaging conversation about Imaginations!
Savannah Guthrie interviewed Billy on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown Dec 23!
“The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men: Inspiration, Vision and Purpose in the Quest to End Malaria,” by Bill Shore. This is a fascinating insider’s account of the extraordinary global campaign now under way to eradicate malaria, by one of America’s top social entrepreneurs. It is at once inspiring and challenging, in that it shows how philanthrocapitalism can make a difference but also how far there is to go, and how many lessons remain to be learnt. In discussing the belated realisation by the Gates Foundation that “disease-specific wars can succeed only if they also strengthen the overall health system in poor countries,” for example, Mr Shore reminds us all that “those fighting diseases as intractable as polio or malaria – or taking on any other task of that size – have to ask whether even their most ambitious efforts lack vision and imagination.”
This morning Billy was interviewed in Seattle on KUOW’s “Weekday” with Steve Scher. Listen to the interview here.
KCAL9, a local TV news show in Los Angeles, also interview Billy today, and you can watch the video here. Exciting momentum is growing for the book! Please consider sharing your comments and a review on Amazon.com by visiting the book’s page here.
This morning, Billy was interviewed on KPCC’s Air Talk with Larry Mantle in Los Angeles, during another stop on his west coast book took. You can listen using the audio player above.