Realism or Luddism?

In a letter to the editor, a former Peace Corps volunteer voices vehement vituperation at skeeter shooters:

SIR – You seem to support research into “devising laser-defence systems to shoot down mosquitoes and prevent the spread of malaria” (“Zap!”, June 6th). Lasers are not the solution to malaria. Indeed, I think many high-tech development solutions, like one laptop per child and Star Trek-style insect-blasting phasers, are a waste of time and money.

I worked for the volunteer Peace Corps in rural Zambia. The place where I lived had a well to provide clean water, but it sat idle because a simple five-cent plastic washer inside the pump was damaged and neither a replacement nor the tools to open the pump’s housing were available.

My own hut had a sizeable gap between the mud-brick wall and the thatched-grass roof, numerous holes in the thatching and between the wooden door and the wall. I can’t imagine what kind of laser system would have secured my hut against mosquitoes, much less who would have come to fix it when it failed. Were I still in Zambia I might have heard this story on the international news, except that the crank arm for charging my short-wave radio broke off and it never worked again. If there is an answer to malaria it is bednets and only bednets.

Zachary Wells Monterey, California