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

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (Nov. 13 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307341968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307341969
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #312,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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

About the Author

JIM STERBA has been a foreign correspondent and national affairs reporter for more than four decades for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He is the author of Frankie’s Place: A Love Story, about summers in Maine with his wife, the author Frances FitzGerald.

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Customer Reviews

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I am over 80 yrs. and live in a semi urban area as defined in the book. I found it a most interesting read and it has influenced the way I perceive the change that has happened to the surrounding flora and fauna in which I live. Well worth reading Bruce McPhee
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic look at the challenges of managing neighborhoods in an animal-filled world. The book is mainly focused on the Eastern USA, where forests (or suburban semi-forests) have slowly reclaimed most of the landscape, and the animals are seeking advantage through urban living. Sterba keeps in touch with local developments in areas facing rising populations of deer, beavers, geese, turkeys, bears, coyotes, feral cats, or whatever. What to do, for example, about suburban beavers causing floods that soften railroad beds, or tribes of feral cats that systematically over-consume the songbirds. The local debates are replicated across the region, with predictable clashes of expediency and moral fervor. The popular urge to just leave nature alone collides with the realities that every creature tries to maximize its population, that all are seeking to shape the landscape to their own advantage, and that no population can keep growing forever.

In one area, I think Sterba gets sucked into the partisanship. In covering debates over the feral cat challenge, he finds that cat loving activists such as Ally Cat Allies can get so vindictively self-righteous that he basically dismisses their demands for a "trap, neuter, and release" solution. I'm sure that some of those activists get nasty, and it's probably true that their approach can't make a serious dent in the problem. But if they can make some contribution, I'd say they're part of the solution.

Overall, Sterba gives a wide-angle, centuries-spanning look at the evolution of America's beastly relations. He's connecting with local leaders, looking for solutions that are smart and balanced rather than ideologically pure.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A well written perspective on human encroachment onto the wildlife habitat and the problems that are associated with this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa09cb864) out of 5 stars 70 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa08c63fc) out of 5 stars A fascinating read and history lesson! Dec 14 2012
By Vann - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa08c6450) out of 5 stars Interesting information, but limited. Feb. 22 2013
By Bill C - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0b0a84c) out of 5 stars The Book I'd Been Waiting For March 5 2013
By D. Miller - Published on Amazon.com
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. After the famous airplane crash into the Hudson Canadian Geese interest groups backed off and allowed for the authorities to greatly reduce goose numbers). Public officials have received death threats when they advocate humane reduction of populations. My conclusion - Unless we're willing to bring wolves and cougars into our neighborhoods, something has got to be done to balance the ecology of the suburban forest we live in. (Note - I read the Kindle Edition which is correctly formatted, and, of course, overpriced like all new editions these days)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9883eb8) out of 5 stars An excellent book to stimulate your musings on nature and you March 27 2013
By Dave Kuhlman - Published on Amazon.com
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.

But, there is more in this book than just humorous stories about humans attempting to deal
with a few species of nuisance animals. Several chapters in this book will encourage you
to think about you relationship to nature, to the landscape, and to the plants and animals
in it. Even the chapter about bird seed and about the increased feeding of wild birds in
the last 50 years is a provocation to think about how we've changed, what our (new) place
is in relation to nature, and so on.

I'd even like to read more about the subjects that Sterba discusses, in particular the
discussion and thoughts about our pets, our feelings towards them, and the way we treat
them. These attitudes have changed over time, especially in the last 50 years or so, and,
of course they vary across cultures. Just this last week, I talked with someone from far
away who told me that in his culture pets are usually not allowed indoors because, after
they've touched you, you are no longer considered clean for prayer. That's a simple
statement about what I'm sure is a much more complex relationship that this person has
with animals, but it's enough to give some hint about what variety there is across

One particular cross cultural topic is Sterba's claim that there are different attitudes
towards and about how we should manage natural recreation areas in Europe and the U.S.
Sterba suggests that in Europe they manage a wider range of landscape types and manage
them more intensely, where as in the U.S. we tend to manage only areas that are "wild and
scenic", leaving the rest for development and commercial use. I just spend several days
in Yosemite National Park in California where arguments over the next management plan
involve years of contention, many court cases, and huge amounts of paper. So, Sterba's
discussion here was especially poignant. And, our management style for the wilderness in
the U.S. is more of a "leave it alone" and a "leave it natural" style compared to the more
care taking and even gardening style in some European countries. Here in the U.S. where
capitalism seems to be a religion, we need "endangered species" acts and "wild and scenic
rivers" acts before we can have the leverage to protect something. Yet surely we know how
valuable these areas are to our well-being.

And, there is more to this book than merely interesting or entertaining reading. These
topics matter for our future. For example, more and more, we encourage our children to
"get an education" so they can "get a good job", which usually means work in a city or
urban area and working in an office sealed against the outside, often with windows that do
not open and with central heating and air conditioning. These same people feel the need
to "recreate" in nature on an infrequent weekend or perhaps a two week camping trip in the
summer. In fact, the same children that we encourage to get the education that will
enable them to find that style of employment, we also take camping, trying to teach them
to appreciate nature, in part because they are likely to see so little of it during their

After reading this book you can expect to have acquired a more nuanced understanding about
what is and is not wild, about different grades and shades of the wildness and the
natural, and about what we mean when we talk about the wild and the domestic aspects of
our world. And, after reading this book, you are likely to have an inclination, perhaps
even a compulsion to put the words "nature" and "wild" and phrases such as "the natural
world" and "wild animals" inside quasi-quotes. I know that I do.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa08c6888) out of 5 stars NEW EYES ON HOW WE LIVE Nov. 15 2012
By Hilary - Published on Amazon.com
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