Friday, April 17, 2015

Mother Nature Is Trying To KILL You

Book Review : Mother Nature Is Trying To KILL You
Author : Dan Riskin
My Rating : 5 out of 5

The complete title of the book is “Mother Nature Is Trying To KILL You : A Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World”.

In my frank opinion, there is a huge mis-understanding about what Nature is. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable that our modern lifestyle has taken us quite far from raw nature. We want to “live naturally”, “eat naturally”. We want to go out and  “enjoy nature”. We want to “appreciate the beauty in nature” and “thank mother nature for the bounty” when we fill our shopping cart with organic produce. Now there is nothing wrong in being thankful for the food that we obtain from nature, but let’s not forget the fact. Nature did not produce any of this for our enjoyment. We took it, because if we don’t eat, we will die. But Nature is no benign power that looks after our interests, and provides for us.

Dan Riskin has tackled all such myths in this smart and witty book. It’s a mix of two styles. There is quite a bit of personal storytelling from a father’s viewpoint. But mainly it’s an excellent documentation of disturbing behaviour found in all parts of natural world, from a very scientific viewpoint. Interestingly, the mileposts he uses as guide, are religious in nature, namely The Seven Deadly Sins.

For example, in the chapter on Greed, he gives examples of animals who eat their own kind, in order to increase their own chances of survival, and specifically to increase the chances of their DNA’s survival. Lions kill babies of other lions, and even zebras kill off springs of other zebras. For a bear cub in Alaska, an adult male bear is where the real danger is. For some species, it begins in the womb. A baby sand tiger shark eats the other siblings’ eggs right in the uterus.

The not-so-good side of Nature is not an anomaly. Instead it’s everywhere. In the chapter on Lust, he gives example of how complex (and often times dark), reproduction is in many species. All the other sins are abundant too. There is stealing, there is gluttony, there is sloth and so on.

What’s the point of all this? To paint Nature as some kind of evil? Of course not. Nature is not evil. Nature is what it is. The point here is to understand and accept Nature for its totality. Certain things in Nature appeal to us, certain things disgusts us. What we have to realize is that “the natural way”, or “how nature does it”, is not a very good template to model our behavior on. The author has done an excellent job in introducing us to all faces of Nature. He doesn’t just give facts after facts, he weaves a story. It’s engaging, and very very easy to read through.

I have to add a disclaimer if it’s not already obvious. I had already formed similar opinions myself even before reading this book. I have watched countless Nature shows, done some eco-tourism, read other books on similar ideas. I am a “Nature lover”, but not just for taking photographs of flowers, although I love doing that. I am amazed by the complexities of life in nature, and astonished at what tactics evolution has produced into even the simplest of creatures. I have used similar arguments to point out to vegetarians that the almond seed (mistakenly labeled as “nut”) they enjoy is not much different than the egg they think is wrong to eat. Neither was produced for your consumption. Both are “future babies”, and their only purpose is to increase the population of their respective species, not ours. Anyway, that’s a separate and long debate.

I highly recommend this book. Note that this is a scientific tour. Not philosophical. Reading this may make you wonder, why a benevolent God has produced such vicious, and cruel Natural World. Those questions do not belong here. That’s what Spirituality and Religion is for. This book is a fantastic way to educate yourself about the reality of the world we are a small part of. To open your eyes to the true Nature. Read it.

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