Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Finalist


Empire of the Beetle


Andrew Nikiforuk
Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests

Published by Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation




Andrew Nikiforuk


Jury Citation

More than two decades ago, a small bark beetle began a journey that has killed over 30 billion pine and spruce trees. It is not only nature that is playing a cruel trick. Andrew Nikiforuk brilliantly describes the multiple and cascading failures that have devastated North American forests. Bad logging practices, unsustainable fire prevention strategies that paid no attention to long-term consequences, science that was not up to scratch, and poor public policy all combined in a perfect storm to unmoor the bark beetle from its natural constraints. Nikiforuk, with exemplary simplicity and elegance, tells a cautionary tale that every Canadian should read.

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About the Book

In the late 1980s, insects no larger than kernels of rice began to unsettle iconic forests and communities across western North America destroying more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees. Misguided science, out-of-control logging, bad public policy, and a hundred years of fire suppression released the world's oldest forest manager — the pine beetle — from all natural constraints. Nikiforuk, drawing on the accounts of scientists, foresters, and rural residents, tallies the human and ecological costs, the role climate change and human arrogance have played, and how despite billions of public dollars spent, we are unable to control this unprecedented pine beetle plague.

About the Author

Andrew Nikiforuk is journalist who has won multiple National Magazine Awards. His work has appeared in Saturday Night, Maclean’s, and Canadian Business, amongst other publications. He is the author of six books, including Pandemonium, Saboteurs, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction, and Tar Sands. Nikiforuk lives in Calgary, Alberta.


Samara Canada sat down with Andrew Nikiforuk for a Q&A about his experience writing Empire of the Beetle. Read the interview here.



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