John Fowles' article, Weeds, Bugs, Americans (Dec. 21), is the most thought provoking that I have read concerning conservation. His intensely personal approach to the problem brought about a reevaluation of my opinion on the subject. The feeling of reverence for nature must grow in America before any real, constructive action can take place.
BERT WATTIGNEY JR.
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
What a beautiful article to end 1970. John Fowles states huge truths so simply one can hope everyone will understand—and follow through.
I agreed with much of John Fowles' article, but I also disagreed in part. For instance, he deplored the fact that Americans use the term "bug" to describe all the diminutive, crawling, creeping, hopping creatures of the insect world instead of calling them by specific names. Yet later in the article he castigates those amateur naturalists who bother to learn the scientific names of the components of our natural scene instead of just sitting back and enjoying them en masse.
It would seem that anyone who has the slightest interest in the flora and fauna of our natural world would have enough curiosity to learn their proper names and a little about how they fit into the environment.
John Fowles' deliberately provocative and generally excellent article is marred by one glaring omission. Nowhere does he mention the mosquito. Yet this critter (I use the word collectively) is a major determinant of the differences between American and British attitudes toward bugs.
The mosquito is virtually unknown in England. I was born and raised there and was interested in nature from early childhood, but I was 14 before I learned that there were mosquitoes in "England's green and pleasant land." I learned from being severely bitten around the ankles—just once.
No American born before he era of DDT could possibly have reached the age of 4, let alone 14, without being acutely and uncomfortably aware of the mosquito. It was the mosquito more than any other insect that drove the Americans to screen their buildings and to adopt DDT with such avidity.
Mr. Fowles is right in deploring the attitude of a majority of Americans that all bugs are bad. But before he condemns it he should understand its origins. Crop-destroying pests arc bad enough, but their incidence is relatively local. The mosquito is ubiquitous and has fostered a continentwide loathing for bugs. Unfortunate? Yes. But understandable? Very!
New York City
John Fowles demonstrates original reflections on man's role vis-a-vis his natural surroundings but erroneous and highly prejudicial reflections about Jews. In the first place Jews are no more or no less gifted than any other group. Their socioeconomic position may enable them to send their children to college in higher numbers than some other groups and the lack of acceptance in some occupations may have forced them to dominate in others, but these are clearly environmental and not hereditary factors. Secondly, as surely Mr. Fowles knows, the Jews are not a race. I have visited Moroccan, Slavic, Japanese and black synagogues, and Israel is a totality of Jews of virtually every race known to modern man.
As for the Jews' "blindness toward nature," this is pure nonsense. European Jews were as sensitive to nature as any group of Europeans (and that was very sensitive), while American Jews are also as sensitive to nature as most Americans (which is not very sensitive at all).