“Modern man talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that if he ever won the battle he would find himself on the losing side.” - E.F. Schumacher, 1911-1977, statistician, economist, Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board.
“Invasion Biology” is what the next generation of scientists, researchers and critical thinkers often call the popular, accepted, but alarmingly unsubstantiated labels and underlying concepts of “native,” “non-native” and “invasive” species of plants and animals.
Oftentimes, the word invasive is used interchangeably with non-native, implying or stating outright that:
1) all or most non-native species are invasive, and;
2) all “invasions” are harmful and must be stopped, and:
3) no “native” species cause equal or greater environmental or economic harm;
4) no “non-native,” aka exotic, aka imported species provide benefit;
5) the weapons to stop “non-natives” are chainsaws, bulldozers, and millions of dollars of toxic chemicals. One notorious example of a toxic extermination program in California is so widespread many assume its scientific validity. Don’t. It goes like this:
We have to kill all these invasive, non-native eucalyptus trees in California because they’re crowding out the good, native trees, poisoning the soil, killing birds and sucking up all the water, further threatening natives.
And eucalyptus are also dangerously flammable — they explode in a fire — like they did back 1991, causing the Oakland, CA hills fire!
[You may as well add, Aiyeeeeee!!!!!]
NOW HEAR THIS: LITTLE OF THIS FEAR-MONGERING IS BASED ON SCIENTIFIC DATA, RESEARCH OR FACTS. So what’s going on here? What motivates this terror-inducing rhetoric? Thankfully, many new authors are weighing in on the critical, currently hot topic involving “native” and “invasive” species.
The label for this topic, and this ideology which labels plant and animal species “native” and “non-native,” belonging or “invasive” is an ideology called “Invasion Biology” (sometimes Invasion Ecology). It is responsible for a veritable War on Nature in which chainsaws, bulldozers, helicopters — and millions of gallons of toxic pesticides to kill animals and herbicides to kill plants. This chemical business already yields profits in the BILLIONS of dollars for chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Dupont, BASF, Bayer, Cargill. They have expanded their markets for poisons beyond farms and agricultural crops, into the new business of killing “invasive” species on wild lands.
The real threat is not wild plants and animals, but the ideology itself, having spread even into venerable environmental groups that should know better, including the Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, and Sierra Club — all groups which have adopted the language of war, using terms like “invasions” and “killing.”
Read one disturbing Sierra Club example, “When Aliens Attack.” Tragically, the PR campaigns of the chemical giants have done their damage, and A War on Nature is currently raging — and profiting the chemical companies who sell their poisons as weapons to kill wildlife.
Respected author and UC Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan covered the topic in 1994, over 20 years ago:
• “Against Nativism” by Michael Pollan, The New York Times Magazine, May 15, 1994: http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/against-nativism
EXCERPT: The current attack on alien species usually proceeds by citing a few notorious examples of imported plants that have indeed behaved badly on our shores, kudzu being the all-time favorite, closely followed by Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose and purple loosestrife. Branded as “huns,” “invaders” or “monsters,” these demon species are then used to tar the entire class of alien plants with guilt by association.
But just how representative are kudzu and its noxious cronies? In fact, the great majority of introduced species can’t even survive beyond the garden wall, much less thrive. And many of the species that have been successfully naturalized we now regard as unobjectionable, even welcome, figures in the landscape. It’s hard to imagine a New England roadside without its tawny day lilies and Queen Anne’s lace, yet both these species are aliens marked for elimination by some of the more zealous natural gardeners. Could it be these plants have actually improved the New England landscape, adding to its diversity and beauty? Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on their alien status?
READ FULL ESSAY: http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/against-nativism
EXCERPT: Last year, the federal government spent more than $2 billion to fight the alien invasion, up to half of which was budgeted for glyphosate [Monsanto Roundup™) and other poisons.
In the last few years, a slew of paradigm-challenging new books about so-called “invasive species” have been written.
The latest (April 2015) is, “The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation” by veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce. Published by Beacon Broadside, “The New Wild” questions “nativist” dogma in many rigorous, objective, analytical, and scientific ways, challenging our unconscious, accumulated assumptions which become society’s accepted, popular beliefs — even if they aren’t true or substantiated.
For example, perhaps you, like me, heard that eucalyptus trees in California, brought to the U.S. from Australia and Tasmania in the 1800s, were harmful, invasive, non-native species. They are often called “dangerous” for being “highly flammable,” and this justifies their eradication, like weeding a garden. If you hear these claims from numerous people and in the news media, for years, it’s natural to assume they must be true, or at least partly true.
Nativist beliefs and ideology are so pervasive and accepted they are perceived as true by many people without further (and often zero) proof. The beliefs about eucalyptus trees are reinforced by fear of “alien” trees catching fire, being labeled “dangerous,” “highly flammable,” and — you gotta hand it to the public relations wiz who came up with it — “gasoline trees.” You hear these labels repeatedly and they become the truth — even without any substantiation, without any scientific studies to support the drastic claim that any tree species could be so dangerous even while no one is citing numerous eucalyptus tree fires to provide even empirical substantiation.
What you may NOT have heard is this: Poisoning wild plants and animals is today a billion dollar industry. Like all such giant U.S. industries, it has massive public relations, advertising and lobbying forces to influence politicians, governmental agencies, public perception — and public policy. READ MORE.
Monsanto alone sold over $1 billion of glyphosate (in Roundup™) to the U.S. government in 2014. Millions of gallons of this poison, now the world’s most popular herbicide, Monsanto’s Roundup™, and others like Dow Chemical’s Garlon™, are applied to crops, field, tree stumps (including eucalyptus stumps) to poison them and prevent re-sprouting back into trees.
In March, 2015, The World Health Organization classified glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup™ — a “probably carcinogenic to humans.” - READ Reuters REPORT
The current 2015 “non-native tree” eradication campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area of California would kill hundreds of thousands of healthy acacia, Monterey Pine and eucalyptus trees in what would be the largest SF Bay Area forest clearcut in over 100 years. LEARN MORE.
• READ SF Bay Area clearcut plan for 450,000 healthy trees, driven by Invasion Biology’s unsubstantiated assumptions — and plant eradication methods which routinely include Monsanto glyphosate (Roundup™) and Dow herbicides: SF Bay Clearcut
If unchallenged by science and common sense, millions of trees offering numerous environmental benefits — including oxygen production, shading/cooling the Earth, sequestering carbon, providing animal habitat — will be cut down in our era of anthropogenic climate change.
The author does a great job providing examples of both good and bad invasive plants and animals. He also dares to tackle the “science” behind some of the popular quotes which get tossed around with minimal scrutiny and perhaps most telling of all…gives the reader a glance into the absolute atrocities perpetuated on nature in the name of wiping out invasives. All in all, a very well written book that is both accessible and informative. - AmazonJavaJunki, 3.16.15
I particularly appreciated his discussions of what really defines a “native species,” especially when placed in opposition to those seen as alien or invasive. Why are tomatoes or potatoes “native plants” in the US when we know the history of their importing? What about birds that fly in and establish, on their own, colonies on islands where they had not existed for eons? How many generations does it take for them to become “native?” – H. Laack, 4.8.15
The key question: ARE these accusations, with staggering ecological ramifications true? Are they science or fact-based?
READ FASCINATING Q&A with veteran environmental journalist author, Fred Pearce: http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2015/04/embracing-invasive-species-a-qa-with-fred-pearce.html
EXCERPT (emphasis added with bolded text):
Author Fred Pearce: Invasive species are often said to be the second most important threat to nature, after habitat destruction. And for a long time I accepted that claim. As a journalist, I have written plenty of stories about various “alien threats,” from zebra mussels and kudzu to water hyacinth and snakeheads. But I also like to question environmental assumptions. And when I delved into the world of invasive species, I found that—unlike, for instance, the warnings of climate change—there was little evidence to back up the fears. I saw little evidence that there was anything intrinsically bad about invader species. Their downside is often hopelessly hyped; and their potential benefits, such as increasing local biodiversity, are almost never researched.
Environmentalists often condemn migrant species out of hand in the same way that some people condemn migrant humans—and using much the same toxic language. This is lazy thinking. And wrong. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed to me that invasive species might be just the boost that ecosystems messed up by humans often needed. They are often the go-getters, the can-do species that revitalize and reboot nature. They are pretty much the only way nature will cope with climate change, for instance. So demonizing and exterminating them wherever they appear seems like a bad idea.
It turned out I was not alone. I found plenty of “new ecologists” who take the same view…
• “NATIVES vs. EXOTICS: THE MYTH OF THE MENACE: Non-Native Species as Allies of Diversity” Essay by David Theodoropoulus (under pen name, J.L. Hudson)
READ FULL ESSAY: http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/NativesVsExotics.htm
EXCERPT: “There is an idea, popular in some circles, that ‘non-native’ species are somehow harmful, that ‘aggressive exotics’ can invade ecosystems and destroy ‘native species’. It surprises me to see the public and biologists alike uncritically accept this absurd notion.
EXCERPT: “there is absolutely no biological validity to the concepts of ‘native’ and ‘exotic’ species, nor is there evidence that man’s introduction of species into new habitats has any negative impact on global biological diversity. On the contrary, the aid we have given species in their movement around the world has served to increase both global and local diversity. It is one of the few human activities which is beneficial to the non-human creation. It cannot be distinguished from the movement of species by wind or ocean currents, or the aid other species give to their fellows, such as the distribution of seeds by migrating birds.
– David Theodoropoulus (under pen name, J.L. Hudson)
ANOTHER NEW BOOK CHALLENGING Invasion Biology DOGMA, “Where Do Camels Belong?,” by plant biologist Ken Thompson.
So often, discussions of the whole issue of natives and non-natives (plants, animals, insects and the rest) are run through with the repetition of bold assertions, unproven by science, that it’s a relief to find a book in which the whole issue is viewed more calmly, in a broad context, considered over time, and backed by solid science. It’s just what we need: more unbiased science and less thoughtless hysteria – and that is what this book provides. And it’s all presented in a lively, and very readable. Ken Thompson discusses how we define “native” and how we stretch our objective definitions to take account of subjective impulses; he reveals how little we actually know about so many non-native species and how very few ever cause problems; he examines whether the most hated invasive species really are as destructive as we’re told and points out that some have positive impacts; he discusses how natives and non-natives can happily co-exist in the same habitat; he applies science to the myths surrounding invasive species. One of the striking features of the response to the presence of non-native plants, in North America in particular, is the frequency with which they’re simply removed – just in case – rather than studied. As Dr Thompson points out, the proportion of non-natives that arrive in natural habitats and end up causing problems is minute. And when non-natives are studied over the long term, we sometimes find that their initial dominance is followed by a sharp decline followed by a stable balance.I won’t steal the author’s thunder by summarizing his invaluable discussion of how we define the word “native”, except to say that picking any date as a cut-off point after which an arriving species is declared an alien is clearly arbitrary and ignores the fact that ecosystems have always evolved over time and continue to do so. And suggesting that only new arrivals in natural habitats that are unassisted by man can be classified as “native” ignores the obvious fact that nowhere on the planet is unaffected by man’s influence, so nowhere is genuinely “natural” anyway.- Graham Rice, Transatlantic Gardener READ FULL REVIEW
Some of the best popular science books are the ones that change your way of looking at something. They might show you, for instance, that time travel is real, not just science fiction, or that quantum theory is not just for Nobel Prize winners – or, in this case, that our whole attitude to invasive species is down to emotional knee-jerk response, not to real science.
Ken Thompson’s fascinating and highly readable book takes us on a tour of the way that ecologists have made invasive species public enemies without any good basis. He shows how it is very difficult to say whether a species is native or alien, and whether this matters. Often, it seems to come down to whether we like the species or not. He shows how many of the invaders we panic about actually improve species diversity, how it’s a perfectly natural thing for species to move from place to place, and how bad science means that ecologists confuse correlation and causality – a classic scientific error.
While turning the view of invasive species on its head, Thompson also keeps us reading with well-crafted and often drily humorous turns of phrase. Describing the brown tree snake (one of the few genuine baddies in these circumstances) and its invasion of the island of Guam, he comments ‘Small, highly gregarious, white eyes [a local bird] roost together on a branch, shoulder to shoulder, and can be taken one at a time without the others taking flight, in a kind of ornithological kebab.’
This is an important and thought provoking book that deserves widespread exposure. At risk of hyperbole, I’d say it is to ecology what Darwin’s Origin of Species was to evolution. Not because it’s as important as Origin, but because like that book, it shows us a piece of biological theory that is entirely obvious and logical once you see it, yet it’s one that most of the people working in the field simply haven’t acknowledged or noticed. Highly recommended…
- Brian Clegg, Good Reads.com READ FULL REVIEW
• READ NY Times article, “Invasive Species Aren’t Always Unwanted“
A growing number of scientists argue that so-called non-native species aren’t categorically bad, may increase not decrease biodiversity, and offer benefits. CLICK HERE
“Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience” by David Theodoropoulus is perhaps the book that started it all, questioning the unsubstantiated, tragic assumptions of “native” and “non-native” and “invasivemesss” that has escalated into our current war on plants, armed with herbicides, chainsaws, and bulldozers.
Theodoropoulos is a conservation biologist who has worked in the fields of ethnobotany and germplasm conservation for 30 years. He has written on scientific ethics, worked with indigenous communities, and currently manages a biological preserve and a public-access seedbank in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.
This current imprint is April 2003, but we are hopeful it will be reprinted and made more widely available now that many other scientists and environmentals are joining Theodoropoulus in challenging the assumptions, assertions — and lack of science behind — Invasion Biology.
REVIEW: “Another Kind of Genocide,” by Toby Hemenway: http://tobyhemenway.com/201-another-kind-of-genocide
…the author describes the native-plant campaigns of Hitler’s followers, though he is very careful not to call exotics-haters Nazis. He believes invasion biology is rooted in the same fears and prejudices that power Nazism and other racist, genocidal ideologies. A desire for genetic purity and preservation of the homeland, dissatisfaction with current status, an easily identified enemy, and a simplistic answer—extermination—are elements that these ideologies share. And he does call invasion biology an ideology, demonstrating that it cannot justifiably be called a science. In no scientific discipline can data be suppressed or used selectively to support a preconception as is done in invasion biology. Pseudoscience is known for refusing to acknowledge conflicting data, not testing assumptions, exaggeration of limited truths, and circular arguments. (“If it’s not native it’s bad, and the reason it’s bad is because it’s non-native.”) Invasion biology fits this pattern.
… a profound, devastating critique. Well-written and lucid, professionals will appreciate the thoroughness of the citations (I searched in vain for a statement of fact not supported by citation); and the style, while technical, will still be readable by the non-specialist. Sure to be the most controversial book in ecology in a decade. Clear and compelling, this book completely changed my world-view about invasive species. – Luna Verde, Amazon.com reviewer
“Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration” by Tao Orion, a permaculturist with a degree in agroecology from UC Santa Cruz, is yet another new book (July, 2015) offering a sorely needed, radically different perspective on the war on invasive species. [Bolded type in reviews below is added for emphasis by TreeSpirit Project.]
REVIEWS [Bolded type in excerpts below is added for emphasis]:
“This book brings much-needed balance to the overheated debate about so-called invasive species. Tao Orion’s meticulously researched yet engaging work shows that the true culprits are nearly always human-caused disturbance and development, and that species shifts are a symptom, not a cause, of this habitat destruction. “Beyond the War on Invasive Species” is an important book that offers a path away from unsuccessful restoration efforts―based on poor science and policy―and toward new, ecologically sound programs for building and preserving biodiversity.” - Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture and The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience
“…where the arsenal is stocked with bulldozers, chainsaws, and herbicides put to the task of their immediate eradication. In Hawaii, mangrove trees (Avicennia spp.) are sprayed with glyphosate [Monsanto's Roundup™ - Ed.] and left to decompose on the sandy shorelines where they grow, and in Washington, helicopters apply the herbicide Imazapyr to smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) growing in estuaries. The “war on invasive species” is in full swing, but given the scope of such potentially dangerous and ecologically degrading eradication practices, it is necessary to question the very nature of the battle.” - excerpt from the publisher’s description
“A gathering body of evidence against the scale of chemical interventions in both agriculture and wild nature is fueling a battle of geopolitical proportions. In the process of asking the questions about how best to restore nature, Orion exposes a deep ethical corruption at the heart of both ecological science and the environmental movement.” – David Holmgren, from the Foreword
READ INTERVIEW with author Tao Orion by the Organic Consumers Association: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/interview-tao-orion-author-beyond-war-invasive-species
• READ “The Invasive Ideology – Biologists and conservationists are too eager to demonize non-native species” by Matthew K. Chew and Scott P. Carroll – Sept. 7, 2011: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/31143/title/Opinion–The-Invasive-Ideology
• Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould’s critique of “native” plants concept: “An Evolutionary Perspective on Strengths, Fallacies, and Confusions in the Concept of Native Plants.”
EXCERPT: …this notion [of "native plants"] encompasses a remarkable mixture of sound biology, invalid ideas, false extensions, ethical implications, and political usages both intended and unanticipated.
Our minds create beliefs from an accumulation of ideas, as well they should. We don’t create, or discard, a belief from hearing one contradictory fact. But this means if we accept several related ideas as true, especially after hearing them repeated over time — but the ideas are actually NOT true — we may create a belief that isn’t true, yet impervious to any one truth challenging it. This is how racist beliefs and prejudices are formed, and are so fervently defended, and so difficult to challenge.
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
– Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
If you repeat a lie long enough it becomes real. Then the lie no longer exists and what you’re left with is your version of the truth.
- Irfan Master
WATCH mind-opening presentation dissecting the pseudo-science of so-called “native species,” and challenging popular misconceptions by conservation biologist David Theodoropoulus @ the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, Eugene, OR, March 5th, 2011:
MORE AUTHORITIES challenge Invasion Biology, building a new concensus: we shouldn’t continue waging war on nature:
• “Don’t Judge Species On Their Origins, ” by Mark Davis, w. 18 other ecologists, Nature Magazine Vol. 474, 6.9.11, READ HERE
EXCERPT: “Over the past few decades, ‘non-native’ species have been vilified for driving beloved ‘native’ species to extinction and generally polluting ‘natural’ environments. Intentionally or not, such characterizations have helped to create a pervasive bias against alien species that has been embraced by the public, conservationists, land managers and policy-makers, as well as by many scientists, throughout the world.”
• “Ecologists: Time to End Invasive-Species Persecution” by Bradon Keim, Wired Magazine, 6.8.11: CLICK HERE
EXCERPT: “People like to have an enemy, and vilifying non-native species makes the world very simple,” said ecologist Mark Davis of Macalester College. “The public got sold this nativist paradigm: Native species are the good ones, and non-native species are bad. It’s a 20th century concept, like wilderness, that doesn’t make sense in the 21st century.”
• “Time to Stop Worrying about Invasive Species?”, podcast by Karen Hopkins, Scientific American, 6.8.11: CLICK HERE
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And you shouldn’t judge a species by its place of origin. So say ecologists in a commentary in the journal Nature. [Mark Davis et al, Don’t judge species on their origins] They argue that conservationists should assess organisms based on their impact on the local environment, rather than simply whether they’re native.
When you hear the phrase “non-native species” you no doubt conjure up an image of an invasive animal or plant that’s pushing out the native species and wreaking havoc on the local ecology—like zebra mussels in the Great Lakes or cane toads in Australia. But Mark Davis of Macalester College in Minnesota and his colleagues see things differently. They say that being indigenous doesn’t grant a species special rights to inhabit an ecosystem. Or mean that its presence is good for the environment. The insect currently thought to kill more trees than any other in America is the native mountain pine beetle. And many invaders actually boost biodiversity, not decimate it.
As climate change and urbanization continue to reshape the ecological landscape, more species will leave their homelands—making the distinction between resident and alien a moot point. So, ask not where a species comes from. But whether it belongs.
— Karen Hopkin
• “Alien Species: Not All Bad, and Not Even All Alien,” Huffington Post, August 17, 2015, by Ken Thompson, plant biologist, author of six books on gardening and popular science: CLICK HERE
• “Ending The Toxic, Costly and Unnecessary War On Invasive Plants” by Danielle Prohom Olson, GATHER, Sept. 28, 2015: https://gathervictoria.com/2015/09/28/ending-the-toxic-costly-and-unnecessary-war-on-invasive-plants-who-does-the-war-serve
• Boyce Thorne Miller, science and policy advisor at The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), also the author of “The Living Ocean,” speaks about the dangers and futility of pesticides and other methods now commonly used to kill so-called “invasive species.” and questions the definition of “native.”
2nd VIDEO: “Rethinking Invasive Species” at 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Portand State University, Portland, OR. April 11-12, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY82U4R5sME&feature=youtu.be
• “Is Eucalyptus [an] ecologically hazardous tree species?,” by Tesfaye Teshome, PhD, Wondo Genet College of Forestry, Debub University, Awassa, Ethiopia, AFRICA. Even in Africa, similar claims of eucalypt invasion are made without substantiation — and debunked by scientific research: CLICK HERE
EXCERPT: Water consumption of eucalyptus — Most people think that eucalyptus consumes a lot of water more than any other tree species and agricultural crop. This misconception is untrue. There are quite a number of research results which revealed that eucalyptus is efficient water user. For instance, Davidson (1989) reported that on a “leakproof hectare” at Nekemet (with annual rainfall of 2158mm), E. saligna and E. grandis could produce 46.6 m3/ha/yr without drawing on water reserves (rainfall only) compared to 16.4, 16, 12.4 m3/ha/yr biomass production for the coniferous, acacia and broadleaf species, respectively. These figures reveal that for the same amount of water consumed eucalyptus produce higher amount of biomass which is economically profitable and acceptable.“
CUT THROUGH ALL THE KUDZU MYTHS in American’s Southeast — it is, in fact, a beneficial, imported plant, like the eucalyptus tree, brought to the U.S. to “green” the South and fortify depleted soils — but then got a reputation for being a destructive “invasive” species, despite a lack of science to back the catchy cataclysmic claims that make headlines and promote a war on nature. LEARN WHY:
The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South, by Bill Finch, Smithsonian Magazine, Sept. 2015
People see kudzu growing over everything along roadways exposed to open sunlight in the Southeastern U.S. and assume, mistakenly, it’s devouring entire forests that are shaded.