Last August, two men in rural Georgia announced that they had killed Bigfoot. The claim drew instant, feverish attention, leading to more than 1,000 news stories worldwide—despite the fact that nearly everyone knew it was a hoax. Though Bigfoot may not exist, there’s no denying Bigfoot mania.
With Bigfoot, Joshua Blu Buhs traces the wild and wooly story of America’s favorite homegrown monster. He begins with nineteenth-century accounts of wildmen roaming the forests of America, treks to the Himalayas to reckon with the Abominable Snowman, then takes us to northern California in 1958, when reports of a hairy hominid loping through remote woodlands marked Bigfoot’s emergence as a modern marvel. Buhs delves deeply into the trove of lore and misinformation that has sprung up around Bigfoot in the ensuing half century. We meet charlatans, pseudo-scientists, and dedicated hunters of the beast—and with Buhs as our guide, the focus is always less on evaluating their claims than on understanding why Bigfoot has inspired all this drama and devotion in the first place. What does our fascination with this monster say about our modern relationship to wilderness, individuality, class, consumerism, and the media?
Writing with a scientist’s skepticism but an enthusiast’s deep engagement, Buhs invests the story of Bigfoot with the detail and power of a novel, offering the definitive take on this elusive beast.
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, 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.