Emily Monosson: Natural Defense

Cover: Natural Defense

Cover: Natural Defense


Emily Monosson
Island Press, June 20, 2017, $30
ISBN-10: 1610917189; ISBN-13: 978-1610917186
Epub ISBN: 781610917209

Monosson reports:

I had just given a talk on how overuse of pesticides and antibiotics (basically our addiction to industrial-age chemicals) is causing the rapid evolution of bacteria, bugs and weeds. It contained a lot of gloom and doom. An audience member asked the obvious: “So what can we do to reduce our reliance on pesticides and antibiotics?”

Emily Monosson

Emily Monosson

As a toxicologist familiar with the problem, I didn’t have any experience with a solution. My somewhat flip answer was “Use less,” which made me want to skulk away. I needed a better response.

This book is my attempt to answer that question. It was a great opportunity to explore some hopeful and cool science. A nice change from toxicology. It is about innovative strategies like fecal transplants and phage therapy in humans and about pheromones and bacteria on the farm. It is also about technologies that are better informed by ecology; and how our understanding of ecology is better informed by technology.

Since I am fascinated by advances in computer technology, there are a couple of chapters that explore next generation diagnostics and prevention — a big part of the solution. This book is also about the commonalities in how we approach “health” whether human or agricultural.

I don’t have an agent, but I’ve enjoyed working with Island Press on other books, so this proposal was relatively short. It was a natural follow-up to Unnatural Selection, my 2014 book on rapid evolution.

With the current political climate I am glad I wrote this more hopeful book, because it is really a celebration of science. There wasn’t much funding for travel, so I used Skype or phone interviews and primary literature. While I did visit local scientists and farmers, I wish I had had the confidence to justify the cost of doing more onsite, in-person interviews.

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