Review: ’Nature Wars’ by Jim Sterba

The cover of Jim Sterba's new book, Nature WarsCrown Publishers, 368 pages, $26.

Whether it’s deer in the backyard or raccoons in the chimney, nature is making a comeback—in suburbia. In his new book, Nature Wars, reporter Jim Sterba explores how, ironically, many Americans are living closer to nature than ever before—and how ill-equipped we are to deal with it. After centuries of uncontrolled hunting and clear-cutting devastated ecosystems, the environmental movement inspired people to try to restore some kind of natural balance. While conservationists have unquestionably made incredible strides, Sterba argues that, close to home, we’ve overcompensated, paving the way for wild creatures to live in our lushly landscaped environs—with plenty of food and protection—but not in harmony. Beavers flood septic systems, deer devour plants, and black bears forage in our trash bins. At the same time, some suburbanites shy away from management strategies such as hunting and trapping—activities that, along with enacting ordinances to ban feeding wildlife and requiring that trash be stored in more secure bins, can help municipalities overcome this growing problem, Sterba argues. "Groups have to come together to find ways to manage the natural space where they live for the good of the ecosystem as a whole and not simply one overabundant or problematic species within it."