A compelling book about our futile, ongoing war against insects and other pests has earned Simon Fraser University biologist Mark Winston the university's 1998 Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy.
The annual $5,000 prize, established in 1993 by professor emeritus Ted Sterling and his wife Nora, honors and encourages work by a member of the SFU community that publicly challenges conventional wisdom on issues of broad social concern.
In his 1997 book, "Nature Wars: People vs. Pests," Winston does just that. He presents a persuasive indictment of our excessive and dangerous chemical battle to rid ourselves of the animals and plants that we consider pests. But more than that, he questions our fundamental values about the natural world, and the human compulsion to dominate and destroy, rather than accommodate and manage.
Winston notes how, 30 years after Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring," alerted us to the devastation wrought by DDT, chemical pesticides are still as pervasive as ever, deployed at a rate of four pounds a year for every man, woman and child in North America.
In Nature Wars, which is aimed at the general public and pest management professionals, Winston uses case studies - such as the 1992 gypsy moth spray program in Vancouver and the codling moth controversy in the Okanagan - to illustrate the complex political, economic, biological and social factors behind pest control decisions.
In the process, Winston reveals a consistent pattern of misinformation and mistakes - on both sides of the debate - and calls for a more enlightened approach to pests, one based on management rather than eradication.
He also proposes a new pest management ethic that favors biologically
based alternatives - such as pheromones, insect-killing bacteria, and
bioengineering - with chemical pesticides used only as a last resort. "Chemicals
have a place in pest control, but the level we use is far out o
Contact: Marianne Meadahl
Simon Fraser University