Since prehistory, humans have sought to control nature, especially plants and insects. Still, people have also introduced—intentionally and unintentionally—some of the most notorious “pests” of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
This exhibit examines the war against nature as it played out in Georgia’s fields, forests, and front yards. Due to an often compulsive urge to eradicate insects and plants viewed as unfavorable, entomologists, chemists, agriculturalists, government officials, and everyday Georgians have contended with the unanticipated ecological and public health consequences. When chemicals failed to live up to their lofty promises, “quarantine” supplanted outright “eradication” both as the preferred approach and ultimate goal. The battle against the gypsy moth is one of the country’s earliest eradication campaigns, but the stories of the boll weevil and fire ant are probably more familiar to southerners as is kudzu—the most recent ”invader.” The backstory behind the wars waged against these pests shed light on several complex stories. The use of science to battle nature, the consequences of that struggle, and the growing acceptance of different approaches to control and coexistence are all illuminated in this exhibit.