Monday, July 4, 2011

Dispatches From The Field: It's a Wild, Wild Life

The Wild Life of Our Bodies
A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will.

We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life—parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators—to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.

The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.

Check out the website Belly Button Diversity to see what Dunn's research team is up to these days.

Joe says:

"In Rob Dunn's latest book, The Wild Life Of Our Bodies, he tackles the critters that have shaped who we are as humans. The predators, parasites and partners that have affected humanity from its inception. This is very readable, well-researched science. If you lived near me, you'd have already heard many of the fascinating things I have learned by reading this book. Rob Dunn admits that some of the theories in this book are on the edges of science. But it is often from the edges of accepted science that the greatest strides in our knowledge have come. In the book, Dunn discusses many topics, from certain traits shared by nearly all of humanity (finding wide open vistas pleasing, being innately afraid of snakes) to new theories regarding why modern, advanced societies are plagued by certain new diseases. 

I must admit that when I first saw the title and subject, I immediately thought of the 1970's television show, "That's Incredible." The episode that either John Davidson or Fran Tarkenton submitted their body to the microscope and showed Americans how many creatures live on our skin, in our hair, etc. The Wild Life Of Our Bodies goes much deeper than a television show could, but in a similar light-hearted, free of too much scientific jargon manner. And just when the story begins to get a little dire, Dunn provides us with a fascinating chapter of hopeful possible outcomes. In this book, it is made clear that humans have not escaped their animal pasts. That creatures have always, and continue to influence our lives. How many of our decisions we have made over and over the world wide were made almost because we had to, it's how we're wired. But that we have developed large, reasonable brains. And it is the power of our reason over our urges that offers us hope.

Pick this book up and take a fascinating trip into biology. You won't regret it, but it will definitely change the way you look at the way you react to and live in the world around you."

1 comment:

Rob Dunn said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts about the book. Best, Rob Dunn (and his microbes)