Six-time bestselling author Mary Roach has achieved another forensic-intriguing delight with her new book “Fuzz.” It reflects so much of our planet’s predicament at this juncture in the 21st Century that her latest writing highlights a profound question: is Earth for humans only? As the overall world population reaches 7 billion, the struggle for human existence is alongside nature.
This reporter says “alongside” and not “within nature” because so much of human civilization lives apart from the natural world. With cities and suburbs continuing to expand, a clash is occurring unprecedentedly as humans encroach in greater numbers on animal habitats worldwide.
It isn’t just about humans wanting more conveniences and amenities, it’s about dwindling resources. At least this is what Roach’s book helps me to understand. And, the resources are basic ones, such as water.
With recurring issues like drought in places like the Pacific Southwest where I am from, water is crucial.
To say that humans always come first in water consumption is perhaps a major factor of policy for some agencies when managing water resources. Regulatory commissions and other governmental entities often can be very shortsighted when foreseeing the larger picture.
As Peter Drekmeier of The Tuolumne River Trust noted. “Balancing our water needs with those of the environment is not rocket science.” In his years of work advocating for the River as well as the many waterways of the State of California in relationship to the rest of the nation and the world, Drekmeier tries to be hopeful.
His work as policy director at TRT is daunting when facing entities like the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The SFPUC provides fresh water to more than 2 million people via the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir of which the Tuolumne River among other water sources feeds into.
Yet human consumption levels continue to increase. And It doesn’t help according to Drekmeier, when powerful entities like the SFPUC among others are a bit biased in favor of humans over the rest of the environment. As he told the San Francisco Examiner this past February, the increased demand for water has made an impact upon the spawning season of native salmon. It is one that he described as dire and that the drop in the number of salmon is “pretty pathetic.”
Be it caterpillars in Italy, elephants in India or bears from Canada to California, animals are seen by human eyes as culprits. This clash between humanity and nature isn’t new. Only, now in the 21st Century it’s more critical.
Roach’s new book for me inadvertently spotlights this reality. In fact, all of her books thus far have pointed to facts and figures that push the reader to view things from unique angles.
Like any dedicated investigating journalist, she uncovers and examines presumptions and long-held perspectives. For example, few people know that it wasn’t simply a drug overdose or depression that caused Elvis Presley’s death in 1977. If you want to know more check out her book, “Gulp – Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.”
Born and raised on the East Coast, Roach graduated from Connecticut’s Wesleyan University with a degree in psychology. She never intended to uncover as much forensic evidence and knowledge, placing her in a highly respected particular-niche career.
As she told The Verge back in 2013, “it turned out that science stories were always, consistently, the most interesting stories I was assigned to cover. I didn’t plan it like this, and I don’t have a formal background in science, or any education in science journalism.”
Her choice to go with the most interesting has been her best instinct. And, in following that instinct Roach has been featured in the most prominent magazines and newspapers; from National Geographic to Discover Magazine and the New York Times.
Perhaps it might also be that Roach entered into non-fiction writing at an interesting time.
Over the past 20 years, technology and forensic science have emerged at unimaginable leaps, breaking new ground. While this has allowed for greater access and precision of investigative work, it has also raised and improved the standards.
Forensic science shines at its best in all of her books, going way beyond the sensationalism of any CSI TV show. Whether it’s deliberately intended or not Roach’s new book illuminates the conditions humans must face in relationship to the natural world.
How humans deal with animals with the help of forensic science and technology in the coming
years will no doubt impact the future. “Fuzz” places it all in plain view.