omewhere out there is a ship carrying, in one of its thousands of
steel containers, a natural disaster.
The ship could be an old rust
bucket. Or a brand new, high-tech
cargo vessel. It might be steaming
toward our shores right now. Or it might
not have even been built yet. But literally or
figuratively, it is on the horizon.
Just what is this deadly cargo? Not high
explosives or a dirty bomb, but an exotic
forest pest or pathogen. It could be an innocent looking brown bug. Or a yellow one. Or
black with yellow spots. Probably a beetle.
Unless it’s a fungus. Or a tiny sapsucking
bug. Or a virus. Whatever it is, it might very
well wreak death and destruction on the
already ravaged forests of North America,
further diminishing our ecological heritage.
This doom-laden scenario is not a sweat-soaked nightmare from which we can wake
up and go about our day, but a reality we
must face. It has happened before. Too many
times. It will happen again.
In 1904, the Bronx Zoo’s chief forester,
Herman K. Merkel, noticed something disturbing: the American chestnut trees at the
zoo were dying, their trunks marred by open
wounds. He didn’t know it at the time, but he
was looking at a disaster in the making.
The killer was a fungus that had hitchhiked to the U.S. on imported Japanese
chestnut trees. The disease it caused became
known as chestnut blight. Asian chestnuts
had evolved a resistance to the blight; the
Are a Threat
to Our Forests
by Joe Rankin
A Customs and Border Patrol officer directs a truck carrying an
offloaded shipping container to an inspection area at a port.