In This Review

War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring
War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring
By Edmund Russell
Cambridge University Press, 2001, 315 pp

An interesting and highly unusual comparison of the parallel -- but sometimes intersecting -- chemical wars waged against humans and bugs. This study is American-centered, although it includes references to work by other governments; much of the book is taken up with such tales as the military's love affair with DDT, which played an important role in beating back one of the soldier's oldest enemies, the louse. Such a menace is not trivial, as an earlier-generation infantry soldier would have noted. But its defeat came with considerable environmental costs that, the author notes, were understood at the time. For students of both war and ecology, this is a remarkable and fascinating study that draws heavily on primary sources; it is particularly timely as awareness grows of what war does to the environment, as well as to people.