The Fire Ant Wars
Nature, Science, and Public Policy in Twentieth-Century America
With political intrigue, environmental tragedy, and such figures as Rachel Carson and E. O. Wilson, The Fire Ant Wars is a grippingly perceptive tale of changing social attitudes and scientific practices. Tracing the political and scientific eradication campaigns, Joshua Buhs's bracing study uses the saga as a means to consider twentieth-century American concepts of nature and environmental stewardship. In telling the story, Buhs explores how human concepts of nature evolve and how these ideas affect the natural and social worlds.
Spotlighting a particular issue to discuss larger questions of science, public perceptions, and public policy—from pre-environmental awareness to the activist years of the early environmental movement—The Fire Ant Wars will appeal to historians of science, environmentalists, and biologists alike.
1. From South America to the American South, 1900-1950
2. Grins a Prohibitive Fracture, 1945-1957
3. Fire Ants, from Savage to Invincible, 1957-1972
4. The Fire Ant Wars, 1958-1983
5. The Practice of Nature, 1978-2000
"Buhs had access to a vast amount of unpublished archival material in private and public collections, so that his book must be considered the definitive historical account of the 'fire ant wars'. . . . What really sets this book apart is the historical detail Buhs provides of interactions among federal bureaucracies, universities, individual scientists, and the American public. . . . All of us who work on fire ants should read this book and take its lessons to heart, as should anyone interested in the interaction between science and public policy"
bureaucratic maneuvering, ruthless ecological management and the changing historical context that brought such management into question. . . .An excellent example of sophisticated environmental history, a book broad in its reach and full of nuance in its interpretations. In particular it serves as a focused yet inclusive case study for a number of topics—the history of pesticide use and risk, the evolution of federal environmental policy, the role of science and scientists in environmental advocacy."
the USA. In doing so, Buhs offers a variety of ‘books’ within this one work: it is a natural history of fire ants, a case study of USA environmental policy and politics, an environmental history of the American South (with both regional and transnational aspects), a glimpse into the history of USA entomology, and a blend of agricultural history and the history of science and technology, all
based on impressive multi-archival research. . . . Author and publisher should be applauded for including such a wealth of useful figures, photographs, and illustrations. . . . A fine work of scholarship that I will enjoy using on classes in environmental and agricultural history. Others could find it useful for courses on environmental policy, history of science, and entomology, and the book will assuredly be warmly received by audiences within the general public."
historians. The author uses the case of the fire ant in the United States to explore the broader theme of the intersection of nature, science, policy, and regional culture. . . . At almost every turn, he achieves his ambitious goals. . . . The tale told here is fresh, in large measure because Buhs is an engaging storyteller and an elegant writer. And the characters—Rachel Carson and E. O. Wilson, among others —are well known, charismatic, and treated originally. The Fire Ant Wars merits a broad audience that should sweep across disciplinary boundaries."
"Joshua Blu Buhs’s book is a major contribution to our understanding of the science and public policy that combined after World War II in making war on fire ants....The Fire Ant Wars is an excellent book that combines thorough research, careful writing, and a convincing argument."