Putting their careers and livelihoods on the line, the eight government scientists chronicled in Science Under Siege stood up against corporate greed and political corruption – and paid the price. When natural science, driven by a thirst for truth, collides with political science, driven by a hunger for wealth and power, the struggle is for our air, our water, and our land.
"Those assuming that environmental battles are being waged only in picket lines in front of nuclear power plants and toxic landfills will be shocked by Wilkinson's disturbing chronicle of the real environmental trenches – the offices of the federal agencies created to protect the very landscapes that they instead are, according to him, sabotaging. In riveting detail, Wilkinson (Track of the Coyote, etc.) tells eight stories of "combat biologists" daring to question the environmental protocols of their superiors in agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. According to Wilkinson, officials in these agencies ask agency staffers to rewrite reports to make them more development-friendly – even if it means lying about statistics and methodology – and then to transfer or fire workers who refuse to sacrifice sound science to corporate dollars. David Ross, for example, the herpetologist who warned that development was killing spotted frogs in Utah, was transferred to study brine shrimp. "There may be five hundred species of wildlife found along the San Pedro," sums up Harold Vangilder, Sierra Vista mayor pro tem, in addressing the concerns raised by combat biologist Ben Lomeli that the river will soon dry up. "My response is, so what? What benefit do these animals have for humans?" Although several of the narratives initially seem unrelated, Wilkinson shows that as the clear-cutting of America's forestland goes, so goes the habitat of the fish and the grizzlies – and of humans as well."
- Publishers Weekly
"Rachel Carson was working as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when, in 1962, she published Silent Spring, a reasoned indictment of the chemical industry and the poisoning of the environment. "Her ground-breaking treatise and literary triumph came at a high personal cost," veteran environmental journalist Todd Wilkinson writes. The chemical companies immediately sought to discredit Carson's science and to have her removed from government service, and they made her life difficult for years to come. Much the same has happened to other whistle blowers, men and women in government service who have called attention to the sometimes illegal, often unethical actions of federal agencies that have, for instance, granted special favors to mining, ranching, and logging companies instead of protecting the public lands under their charge. Wilkinson offers several case studies, closing with recommended strategies for whistle blowers to avoid official reprisal."
- Gregory McNamee