The Fire Ant WarsNature, Science, and Public Policy in Twentieth-Century America

The Fire Ant WarsNature, Science, and Public Policy in Twentieth-Century America

Joshua Blu Buhs

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226079813

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Sometime in the first half of the twentieth century, a coterie of fire ants came ashore from South American ships docked in Mobile, Alabama. Fanning out across the region, the fire ants invaded the South, damaging crops, harassing game animals, and hindering harvesting methods. Responding to a collective call from southerners to eliminate these invasive pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a campaign that not only failed to eradicate the fire ants but left a wake of dead wildlife, sickened cattle, and public protest. With political intrigue, environmental tragedy, and such figures as Rachel Carson and E. O. Wilson, this book presents a perceptive tale of changing social attitudes and scientific practices. Tracing the political and scientific eradication campaigns, this study uses the saga as a means to consider twentieth-century American concepts of nature and environmental stewardship. In telling the story, the book explores how human concepts of nature evolve and how these ideas affect the natural and social worlds.