Book review: 'Nature Wars' takes a look at the war between man and nature

By Steve Larson

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 29 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

"NATURE WARS: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds," by Jim Sterba, Crown Publishers, $26, 368 pages (nf)

A new book by author Jim Sterba examines the conflicts between man and the environment.

In "Nature Wars," Sterba, an award-winning journalist, examines how modern society is fighting a new war against the wildlife and nature that surround us.

Sterba starts by examining the regrowth of America's forests. According to his research, "European settlers cleared hundreds of millions of acres of eastern forest to create family farms before abandoning that land in the nineteenth century as part of the Industrial Revolution. This set the stage for the regrowth of forests on a scale not seen in the Americas since the Mayan collapse 1,200 years ago."

Another area Sterba examines is the increase in the number of white-tailed deer in the eastern U.S. His research shows, "In 1492 at least 30 million white-tailed deer and a few million Native Americans lived in the eastern forests — the heart of the whitetail's historic range. By 1890, only 350,000 deer were left. Today in the same region, at least 30 million deer coexist with more than 200 million people."

This clash of people and deer results in a large number of car accidents. According to Sterba, "Motor vehicles hit three to four thousand deer per day. These crashes hospitalize 29,000 people and kill at least 200 a year — more annual deaths than from airplane, train and bus crashes combined."

But deer aren't the only wildlife species causing problems for our modern society. Sterba also examines the increase in the wild turkey population. His research shows, "Early settlers found wild turkeys everywhere. But by 1920, they had been reduced to an estimated 30 thousand birds in remnant flocks. Brought back, they now number about 9 million."

"Nature Wars" is filled with numerous stories of man versus nature. In it, Sterba shows how recent movements to protect wildlife have led to increases in populations that now fight for our space and our resources. It doesn’t include any foul language or other offensive material.

Sterba's book is an interesting look at how man's attempt to control nature has created even more problems to solve. It is thoroughly researched with 30 pages of footnotes and a bibliography.

Steve Larson is one of the founders of Information Alliance, a Utah-based data collection company. He currently serves as vice president of sales. Steve spends his free time writing and practicing photography. He also enjoys spending time outdoors.

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