4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
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We may be stewards of the Earth, and responsible for its care, but we aren't qualified for the job, for we just don't know enough about what we are supposed to be doing. There are plenty of arenas that would show this to be true, and Andrew Nikiforuk has latched on to an important one. He's a journalist who has written about ecological issues before, notably about plagues and scourges. His current book is _Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests_ (Greystone Books), and it is an eye-opener, not just about how much damage bark beetles are doing but on how much humans have laid the table for the bugs' banquet. The whole episode ought to instruct us on how to do things better, and there are lessons which Nikiforuk includes, if those who are in position to manage decisions about the forests are listening.
Climate change is happening; it is peculiar that there has been such a willingness to deny it for decades, but even skeptics are having to acknowledge that the globe is warming. The bark beetles described in Nikiforuk's book have always chomped on trees, but the warming in Alaska and Canada made it easier for them. The heat stressed the trees by making them too thirsty, and it enabled the beetles to mature in one year rather than two. These are not bugs that are big or fancy looking; they are nondescript brown characters and they are about as big as a grain of rice. They do their damage by their numbers, and they are currently playing the numbers game very well. Besides the warming, the beetles have profited by fire suppression. Trees on fire mean loss of logging income, or loss of a healthy green vista, so we deemed fires bad, when actually they have played a role in the long-term survival of forests. The fires would have made the forests less uniform (and one of the big lessons here is that artificially uniformed environments can be expected to have big crashes), and would, of course, have depleted the beetle population. Thirty billion trees, entire forests have been lost. It is not so simple, though, as a loss to the lumber industry or to people who appreciate a healthy mountain landscape. We do not know all the links affected by the forest die-off, but biologists can see that birds which don't use trees for nesting are thriving while woodpeckers are starving. Moose, which browse on trees, are in decline. Red squirrels don't have homes anymore. The snows melt faster in the spring because the shade is gone, and while the trees used to sop up water from the ground, they are no longer there to do so, and this changes the flows of streams and possibly hazards salmon. We are not close to understanding what all the repercussions of the lost forests will be.
_Empire of the Beetle_ has ten linked chapters, all clearly written and none of them tinged with any sort of hysteria. There is not a lot of optimism here, though Nikiforuk shows how artists have responded to the devastation. This may have a surprising link to beetle control. An avant-garde composer used a gadget made of a meat thermometer and a transducer from a singing greeting card to record beetles singing within the trees they infested. The beetles have a society, and besides lots of olfactory cues, they send out sounds by rubbing body parts together. The composer made a CD of beetle sounds, but even more interesting, when he teamed up with entomologists, they were able scramble the sounds and drive the beetles crazy, even to cannibalism. It might be a new, toxin-free way of controlling the pests, but even if it is successful, it has come too late to save vast acreages of forest which may never recover. It's a sad story, and it is only sad because instead of accepting the beetle as a natural forest manager, lumbermen and politicians and even conservationists thought of the beetle as the enemy of the forests. They should have looked to themselves.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
WILLIAM H FULLER
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EMPIRE OF THE BEETLE provides, in my view, a rather enticing panoramic view of the spread, impact and consequence of beetle infestation of North American conifer forests. Speaking as a general reader whose knowledge of entomology and forest ecology is that of an interested amateur, reading this book left me with a better understanding of the phenomenon of beetle infestation, which is neither new nor unprecedented.
I came away from Nikiforuk's exploration of the topic with an appreciation of the fact that beetle infestation is a natural occurrence that, as with naturally occurring fire, helps maintain the long term health of the forest (although we humans are so short lived that we view the natural thinning of forests as disasters), and that there is precious little we can do to deter the destruction of our conifers by these tiny critters. In fact, the author maintains that many of our efforts are more detrimental than beneficial to the very forests that we are trying to save.
Much of what Nikiforuk has to say is, I would think, fairly common knowledge: that the human urge to suppress forest fires has resulted in overgrown, uniform forests and that these are particularly susceptible to "correction" by some other natural agency--such as bark beetles, and that the climate change the earth is noticeably experiencing is enhancing the ability of beetles to reproduce and spread more rapidly than they otherwise would. To his credit, the author does not diverge from his topic into a debate as to whether or not human activity is behind the current global climate change; he merely acknowledges the fact that average temperatures are indeed increasing, a fact that empirical observation has already thoroughly verified.
Nikiforuk offers us no silver bullet to halt the spread of bark beetles through the conifer forests on the North American continent, for none has been found. He does intrigue the reader with quite a few unusual facts about these beetles, including, for example, their ability to communicate with one another, their "musical" emanations from within the trees they inhabit, and something of their impact on human culture and ornamentation. If one has never looked into the etymology of the American "ladybug," then he is in for a surprising treat as Nikiforuk reveals the Christian mythology behind that name.
Pretty much all that I have observed about this book so far has sounded rather positive, so why have I not given it a higher rating in Amazon's "star system"? The primary reason is that I am not fully convinced of the depth of the author's research into his topic. The book seems to be replete with anecdotal evidence and argumentation but is rather lacking in scientific rigor. Nikiforuk is identified in his book as a journalist, and he has understandably written as a journalist, relying to a great extent on interviews and secondary source material. On one hand, this approach has likely resulted in a more readable book that is understandable to the general reader; on the other, however, it has resulted in a book that is not supported by its writer's own scientific research. True, there is a fairly comprehensive listing of sources and "suggestions for further reading" in the back, but the lack of footnotes or in-text citations makes identifying the specific source of any particular statement pretty much impossible.
More to the point here, perhaps, is that I found the book somewhat lacking in direction and organization. The discussion appears to weave in and out of various forests, time frames, and beetle species. Several times I just wasn't sure where we (the author and the reader) were heading. I felt as though Nikiforuk wrote as examples occurred to him rather than having a clear plan for the structure of the book.
The topic is significant and timely, and the title is marvelous--five stars for both. The development of the topic, on the other hand, could have stood some improvement. There is one small, final quibble as well, and that is the author's use of slang and profanity in a few places in the text. There is most assuredly a place for slang, profanity and blasphemy in literature, but I can see no justification for their use in a book attempting to deal objectively with a natural phenomenon. Their appearance weakens the author's credibility.
Even with the weaknesses that I have noted, however, EMPIRE OF THE BEETLE is informative for the general reader. I have no qualms recommending it to anyone desiring a broader view and more comprehensive understanding of the changes occurring in the 21st century forests of the United States and Canada. As Nikiforuk, quoting C. S. Holling, notes on page 202, "Now is a time of great and extensive turbulence."