June 18th, 2024

War on grasshoppers: ‘Just gas ’em,’ said MP

By Submitted Article on April 22, 2020.

Andrew Chernevych


In 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly suggested that “the U.S. military should bomb hurricanes in order to disrupt them.”

Well, apparently, some Canadian politicians also have a history of considering wildly “outside the box” solutions to natural disasters. The Lethbridge Herald reported in 1920 that O. R. Gould, a then newly elected MP from Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, had proposed use of a poisonous gas, similar to chlorine gas used in the First World War, to exterminate grasshoppers in Western Canada.

The article reported that Mr. Gould “would have used it in the same form as in mortal combat, taking advantage of a favourable wind to drench the grounds with the heavy fumes.” Mr. Gould also noted that such application would kill millions of gophers, another designated pest that farmers had been trying to control for years. He believed that prairie chickens would “withstand the gas” which, in his view, would mitigate what today we call “environmental impact.”

Mr. Gould received many letters and telegrams that informed the legislator of “the gravity of the situation.” One of the letters pointed to the recent scientific experiments demonstrating that that the grasshopper can survive in a “freezing apparatus” for at least three successive nights. This fact suggested a degree of resilience that even Mr. Gould’s poisonous gas assault might not be able to overcome.

Mr. Gould was a freshly elected Member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, in his 40s at the time, representing the United Farmers (later the Progressive Party). He was a farmer himself, but not a war veteran. His suggestion certainly captured public attention and made the news in various newspapers across the country at the time.

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