Fostering ignorance to maintain public support: New Zealand's 2002-2004 urban aerial pesticide spraying operation over Auckland.
Over the last six decades pesticide use has grown profoundly, leading to numerous health and environmental problems. Public acceptance of pesticide use has been central to its growth, and social scientists have traced this acceptance to safety perceptions surrounding pesticides. However, less has been said about the processes leading to those perceptions. To shed light on such processes I analyzed New Zealand's 2000-2004 eradication operation against the Painted Apple Moth, an invasive species from Australia, which involved repeatedly spraying densely-populated urban areas over a period of 29 months. To better understand how public acceptance was nurtured for this operation, I analyzed the government's million dollar communications campaign about the operation, which included press releases, fact sheets, and advertising. The analysis reveals government officials used numerous tactics to produce and maintain safety perceptions about the pesticide, including: (1) portraying the pesticide as harmless to humans; (2) appeals to ignorance; and (3) using rhetorical tactics to neutralize inconvenient knowledge.