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Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds Hardcover – November 13, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sterba tells the story of, as he puts it, how we turned a wildlife comeback miracle into a mess. The eastern third of the U.S. hosts the majority of Americans and is also the home of a burgeoning population of animals that have adjusted to life near and among humans. This sharing of the landscape has been fueled by three factors: the vast regrowth of forests as farms were abandoned during the Industrial Revolution, the return of decimated and now protected wildlife to the land, and the exurban sprawl created when people moved out of the cities and deeper into the countryside. Dividing his text into three portions, Sterba examines how the clash between suburbanite and animal came about. The first part covers the history of deforestation, farming, reforestation, and the post-WWII movement into the suburbs. The resurgence of wildlife after near-extermination during the settling and taming of the East fills the second portion. Perhaps the most thought-provoking section discusses how Americans have become removed from the realities of wild animals and of working the land, equating nature with bird-feeding and food with the supermarket. This is an excellent introduction to a “problem” that is often one of human perception. --Nancy Bent

Review

"The facts about wildlife resurgence that Sterba present in his mind-bending dispatch from the new world of "people-wildlife conflicts" are startling and staggering." - Chicago Tribune

"Smart and provocative...Nature Wars is a counterintuitive take on a social problem, and the tone is knowing and smart, not sarcastic or snide." - Chicago Tribune

"This is an excellent introduction to a “problem” that is often one of human perception." - Booklist, starred review

"Jim Sterba employs humor and an eye for the absurd to document the sometimes bizarre conflicts that arise as a consequence of America's transformed relationship with nature...  An eye-opening take on how romantic sentimentalism about nature can have destructive consequences." - Kirkus, starred review

"Sterba provocatively and persuasively argues that just at the moment when humankind has distanced itself irrevocably from nature, its behavior patterns have put people in conflict with a natural world that they don’t know how to deal with...A valuable counternarrative to the mainstream view of nature-human interaction." - Publisher's Weekly

“In this elegant and compelling tour of America’s mutating connections with its land and wildlife, Jim Sterba uses wit and insight to reveal new and unintended consequences of human sprawl and the ways in which they have shaped today’s relationships with Nature.”  -John H Adams , Founding Director , Natural Resources Defense Council

 “It's a jungle out there - and we're living in it. Jim Sterba's Nature Wars is a smart, stylish and altogether provocative account of how we are confounded by that which we claim to hold so dear - Mother Nature and all her creatures moving in right next door.” --Tom Brokaw

Jim Sterba describes a cockeyed country whose denizens spend billions to imitate "nature" in their own small domains, little realizing that their excess creates an environment to which other species are fatefully drawn in increasing, sometimes alarming numbers; that they themselves are the creatures who throw this shared habitat out of whack.  An unusual feat of deep and sustained reporting, Nature Wars is full of surprises and marked, from first page to last, by uncommon sense, graceful writing and precious wit.” – Joseph Lelyveld, author of Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India
 
 “Quite unintentionally and with little awareness by its inhabitants, over the past century the Eastern United States has become one of the most heavily forested and densely populated regions in world history.  Nature Wars explores this marvelous story of environmental recovery and the opportunities and challenges that it brings to its residents and the entire globe in fascinating detail and with great insight by Jim Sterba.  This is a great book and a story with lessons for us all.” – David Foster, Ecologist and Director of the Harvard Forest, Harvard University

 “If there is one lesson to be learned from Jim Sterba’s book, it is: Be careful what you wish for. Having decimated our planet’s natural state, we are blithely over-compensating, over –correcting and overturning the balance of nature yet again. Nature, as seen by most of us through a double glazed picture window revealing a manicured lawn….but what’s that moose being chased by a coyote being chased by a black bear, doing there?  Read Nature Wars and weep. Or at least, stop and think.” – Morley Safer

"In this book, Jim Sterba has given us a fascinating, powerful, and important lesson in why we should be careful when we mess with Mother Nature.” – Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump

“At last someone’s grappling with the elephant in the room – or rather the deer, the coyote, the beaver, the bear, all these damn animals crowding into our living space. Sterba’s book may strike some as observational comedy but he’s deadly serious. Every word rings true. Nature is vengeful. All I can say is, he better not take a walk in his backyard without a shotgun.” – John Darnton, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Almost a Family

 “A wonderful, thought-provoking, important book that will overturn everything you thought you knew about wildlife in America. Jim Sterba confronts the shibboleths that make man-versus-beast conflicts so vexing, divisive, and fascinatingly complex." – David Baron, author of The Beast in the Garden

“It’s a truly original piece of work, often – I would say – inspired, told in a pitch-perfect voice, just north of sarcastic and south of appalled. At any event, a terrific read on a subject that is all around us yet largely unobserved.” Ward Just, author of Rodin’s Debutante

"Anything Jim Sterba writes is worth reading--and his latest, Nature Wars, is terrific. Sterba casts a reporter's sharp eye on a little noticed war unfolding under our noses, in our own backyards. We've messed with nature for way too long, and nature is getting even." --Joseph L. Galloway, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young and We Are Soldiers Still

 “Jim Sterba has done a brilliant job explain how it happens that drivers more often than ever run into deer, wild turkeys fly into speeding car windshields and gorge on newly-planted seed corn, and why golf courses are filled with people chasing geese down the fairways with 5 irons in hand.  This informative and beautifully written book gives us the effect of civilization (often well-meaning) on the natural habitat, both flora and fauna.  I loved the book and learned a great deal from it.” – Peter Duchin, musician and author of Ghost of Chance

"If you love animals and trees and other wonders of the natural world, this book will astonish you. Sterba's great gifts are reportorial energy, out-of-the-box thinking, and an easy, relaxed prose style that makes Nature Wars a pleasure to read, even as its counterintuitive discoveries explode on every page." --Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

“Most Americans now live not in cities but in regrown forests, among at least as many deer as when Columbus landed. Jim Sterba tells us how this came to be and why it isn’t all good. In graceful, clear-eyed prose, he explains why we need to relearn how to cut, cull and kill, to restore a more healthy balance to our environment.” – Paul Steiger, Editor-in-Chief, ProPublica

"Although few of us realize it, America is at a turning point where we must rethink our most fundamental ideas about nature, animals, and how we live. Fortunately we have a wise and witty guide in Jim Sterba, whose Nature Wars is my favorite kind of read -- a book that affectionately recasts much of what we thought we knew about our nation's past and our relationship to the American wild, while at the same time revealing how intimately we ourselves are a part of nature, but in the most surprising and unexpected ways. In Sterba's hands, your everyday notions about the creatures around you -- whether pests, pets, or magnificent beasts -- will turn into entirely new ways of seeing the world."  -Trevor Corson, author of The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Story of Sushi
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307341968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307341969
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Vann on December 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jim Sterba's new book Nature Wars is a must read for anyone that truly understands the interface between man and nature. Sterba does an incredible job educating the reader about the history of how man has gone from over-consumption of our precious natural resources to the brink of extinction; to the dawn of the conservation movement; to the petty bickering of suburbia gone wild. The book is extremely well written by a seasoned journalist that knows his topic. I devoured the book over the course of two evenings and found it very hard to put down. As a history buff, I found the early chapters about colonial settlement and the impact on our forests and wildlife to be quite thorough and eye opening. As an outdoorsman and hunter, I found the second half to be a sad commentary on how "out of touch" many suburbanites can be. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about a growing concern and to all that consider themselves conservationists. In my humble opinion, Sterba hit a home run.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill C on February 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found the information interesting. He concentrated on trees, deer, turkeys, Canada geese, and the like, all in the eastern United States. It would have been nice to see more species discussed (perhaps in not as much detail), like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, o'possums, and others. Also, only a limited discussion of the mid-West, plains, or Rockies, and essentially nothing about the Pacific coast or Alaska and Hawaii. I am sure that the author annoyed both the animal rights groups and the animal control groups, with perhaps more annoyance to the former. It would be interesting to read a brief rebuttal from each group to see where they think he misrepresented.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Miller on March 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a 68 year old I've witnessed a fairly dramatic increase in suburban and urban wildlife in my hometown of Berkeley, California and on my fairly regular trips to the Hudson River Valley and elsewhere. I've also noticed that if I bring up the subject that perhaps there are more deer, for example, in my neighborhood than can be supported and maybe a few should be eliminated, I get violent arguments that are more or less "you can't kill Bambi". I've been waiting for a book to address this and here it is. The author's basic premise is that suburbanites and some urbanites actually live in a living forest that should be managed intelligently. He claims, and backs it up with convincing evidence, that many wild animals prefer living in the suburbs. Deer much prefer the newly planted vegetables, roses etc. of the suburbs to the mossy floor of an old growth forest. Beaver are excited to have nicely cut and stacked wood to use for their damns. Birds are excited to have feeders full of fresh seeds readily available. Coyotes, Raccoons and Bears learn where all the garbage dumps are. But he points out that few people have any actual connection with the land and how many creatures it can support. They commute, watch t.v., buy food at the store and observe birds feeding and the occasional raccoon, deer or whatever pass by from their living room easy chairs. Hollywood movies have anthropomorphized animals into four legged humans who deserve the same or nearly equal rights as people. Many suburbanites refuse to hear any arguments to thin out beaver, deer, wild turkey or feral cat populations no matter how overpopulated a given area might be with these creatures. Special interest groups have sprouted up supporting different creatures. These groups will not back off (with one exception.Read more ›
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Hilary on November 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I read this in three sittings... rare for me.And I did it because it was so much fun and because I was learning so much. Critters and trees are not my thing, but history and social policy are. Sterba's book looks at American social and economic history with new eyes. It is fascinating, different and important. And the critters... oh boy! There are a BUNCH of 'em. And they smell our lunch. Chris Crowley
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dave Kuhlman on March 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Humans have transformed the landscape. They have made much of the land around them more
suitable to some selected (few?) "wild" creatures. Now, as those animals (such as
turkeys, deer, beavers, geese, and more) move into these modified surroundings, humans
will need to learn how to live with the animals that have learned how to live near them.

The story of how the landscape has changed is a story of phases and of who has modified
nature for what purposes. Some of these phases we can only speculate about: (1) before
native Americans; (2) the dominance of Native Americans; (3) the arrival of Europeans; (4)
the spread of modern humans and the build up of farms and farming; (5) the reduction of
farming and the spread of more and more housing with its semi-wild margins around it.

This is also a story of modifying the landscape for whom and for what purposes. The
modifications that Sterba talks about most were predominantly done by humans for the
purposes of building housing, in particular single family dwellings that spread out from
suburbia and into forest, reclaimed farm land, etc. During that process, habitat is
converted into a form that is suitable for a variety of species. The ones Sterba talks
about are white tailed deer, beavers, Canadian geese, and turkeys. But, we should realize
that while these changes *created* habitat suitable for some animals, it also destroyed
habitat that is needed by others. So, it's important to remember that while, as Sterba
says, a few species have increased, many more have declined as human habitation and land
use encroaches open and destroys the habitat that was formerly used by those species.
Read more ›
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