The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

By John Kricher | Go to book overview

2
Of What Purpose Are
Mosquitoes?

Only once have I been accused of being a baby killer. To be absolutely accurate, I was accused of being an accomplice. The actual murderer was an anonymous mosquito. Oh, and the murder had not yet occurred, but surely would unless this particular small New England town dowsed itself with insecticide. Spraying would hopefully annihilate the summer hordes of mosquitoes, a few of which could possibly be carriers of the virus of eastern equine encephalitis, a tiny chunk of renegade nucleic acid that unfortunately can sometimes kill not only babies but other people as well.

As a scientist and academician with some experience studying wetland ecology, I was asked to comment at a town meeting on the effect that spraying for mosquitoes might have on the local ecology. It is important to note here that the virus in question had not yet been shown to be present in that summer's mosquito population, the factor that led to my qualified recommendation against wholesale spraying. This advice was anything but satisfactory to some of the local citizens, many of whom seemed agitated and one of whom rose among the tumultuous crowd and stridently asked if I wanted to kill her baby. I guess I was perceived by the majority as a foolish intellectual, remote from the concerns of everyday people, an elitist defender of potentially lethal vermin. This is a difficult and uncomfortable position in which to find oneself.

-8-

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The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Why It Matters 1
  • 2: Of What Purpose Are Mosquitoes? 8
  • 3: Creating Paradigms 20
  • 4: Ecology B.C. (“before Charles”) 40
  • 5: Ecology A.D. (“after Darwin”) 53
  • 6: The Twentieth Century Ecology Comes of Age 67
  • 7: A Visit to Bodie Ecological Space and Time 84
  • 8: Ecology and Evolution Process and Paradigm 97
  • 9: Be Glad to Be an Earthling 113
  • 10: Life Plays the Lottery 128
  • 11: Why Global Climate is like New England Weather 140
  • 12: Taking It from the Top–or the Bottom 155
  • 13: For the Love of Biodiversity (And Stable Ecosystems?) 170
  • 14: Facing Marley's Ghost 186
  • Epilogue 203
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Notes 209
  • Index 229
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