i don't like the concept of 'invasive species' i don't know how to make it functional without running into ethical issues i can't sign off on

· · Web · 3 · 0 · 9

like on the one level i obviously understand that some plants were introduced into ecosystems in which their behaviors are so aggressive that they destroy the biodiversity of an area........ but at the same time creatures are escaping the conditions that created them and radically changing other ecosystems, creating new pressures which force the life of those ecosystems to transform too.

how do i draw a line here?

thank you "BasedOmniMan" for giving me such a palpable example of why i'm suspicious of this terminology!

i was sent some things that might further my criticisms and suspicions.

like an academic back and forth published in journals about invasion biology:

and a book by Tao Orion called 'Beyond the War on Invasive Species" that i'm gonna try to pick up

@exiliaex I think it's like controlled wildfires, sometimes controlled death is necessary in order to support all types of life and it has nothing to do with the ethics of the plant.

You could refer to it as ecological decolonization because things like mustard seeds that are wrecking US biodiversity came from Spanish colonizers, likely from an environment where they were part of a diverse ecosystem and just aren't meant for this one If the word hadn't been overused by tech people "disruptive species" might be a better term?

@exiliaex ugh. yeah. i remember feeling this a lot too, particularly early on learning more about ecological restoration, checking out my local gardening groups, listening to how people talk about invasive asian plants (myself being asian - and i've heard similar feelings from otheres). it was more subtle than this example you posted... but... it's a thing i felt really sensitized to and uneasy about... yeah, ignorant and racist people are gonna be that way, and appropriate science concepts to propagate their fucked up views on other human beings. and you don't have to listen to them... I doubt this jackass in your twitter replies is an ecologist, but i agree with you, it's definitely worth paying attention to how we think about this stuff because we truly cannot have right relations with ecology without the same care towards other people.


Some good, lesser-known material along the same lines if you haven't come across it:

Kollibri terre Sonnenblume is a fascinating individual who has written a short book on the subject (and currently writing a longer one). Also writes about related topics on his blog. He interviewed Tao Orion about their book, as well as Dr. Matt Chew who is a leading academic critic of invasion biology, on his podcast (links to blog and podcast on front page of his website):


i think one thing that is important to consider is the historical/social context in which some invasive plants get introduced.

for example, some plants like Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) which were brought by europeans to the americas from east asia, as part of an exotic plant trade -- this in itself was treating a piece of an ecosystem as an extractable commodity; a piece of larger dynamics of colonialism/imperialism.

similar with kudzu; introduced partly for the same reason, but also, promoted by the u.s. government in the south as a kind of quick fix for land that had been fucked over by cotton monoculture cropping -- so, an instance of the capitalist/colonizer creating the problem in the first place, and mass death/displacement/trafficking/enslavement of african and american indigenous peoples to do it -- and then attempting to solve it, by bringing in this new plant, but *still* not working in a reciprocal way that actually honors the ecology of where it is.

or: white mulberry (Morus alba) being brought from asia to the americas by european colonists, in a failed attempt to start a silkworm industry.

there are many other examples of species migrating without the same ecologically unbalanced impacts (i remember the book "the next great migration" by sonia shah talks a bit about this, IIRC)
and also, examples of people, particularly diasporic / displaced peoples, migrating and bringing their food plants with them (there's some evidence that this was how american lotus, Nelumbo lutea, spread to regions it hadn't been before -- because forcibly displaced Indigenous people brought it with them.)

so it's not that ecological migration and transformation in itself is "bad" -- but, there's very particular contexts in which these things happen, and oftentimes, with plants that become invasive, the context mirrors human patterns of forced displacement, extraction, and neglect of our role with the ecosystem.

and, as you already said, there's the importance of biodiversity. plenty of introduced species don't become invasive.

i do think about this stuff a lot and i think there is some room for figuring out what exactly will be the role of these species, and how people will deal.

like, for example, people have become really eager to exterminate the spotted lanternfly on principle. i think this is not exactly seeing the whole picture. there's been some evidence i think that they are not as harmful as some info had previously suggested, and they may help to provide a control for their preferred host plant, the tree of heaven? (idk if you've tried to deal with that one in an ecosystem or garden context - but it's pretty hard to do any other way, besides, i've heard, herbicide.)

or like, there's a Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't video where he shows the ecology of a parking lot. he points out that a lot of the early species that are getting a foothold between the cracks are invasive, but he muses that over time, their biotic matter will build the soil, and maybe some resilient native species will take hold.

i don't think that restoring things to a perfect state of the past is exactly the goal. i think, as you're getting at, there's always some state of change. but also, it's about the larger relation to the ecosystem and to each other.

I like to only use "invasive" to describe the dynamic you described first, and use "exotic" for species that are not invasive but also not native. So many of the food plants I grow are exotic, but if they escape my garden they won't be invasive, they probably won't survive.

Cats are invasive, dingos are not, and can now basically be described as native (naturalised).

Invasive species often massively reduce diversity (as you mentioned) where they take hold, they come to dominate.

The "Muslims in france" example you quoted is very useful here: its not an invasion! Its incorrect to describe it as such, and the people that are doing so are being racist assholes. There are other situations where invasion is accurate, because there is domination. The ethical nature of the saxon takeover of the british isles depends on if it involved domination by power or just people moving and living in a different place.

Of course people dominate with a deliberate will, while plants do not, they just grow.

I think basically there are different dynamics, and we should use different words for those dynamics; some are invasive, some are not.

I have many many more thoughts as this is a concept I think about a lot, but will save it for now.

@exiliaex i think it's actually useful for describing the incidents where humans directly caused the introduction of a species to a foreign environment when it otherwise wouldn't have happened and there were ensuing ecological disasters (rabbits in australia), but the term probably gets overused a little bit

@b33rbashjawnson @exiliaex yeah, it's very much from this context of "thing that's only here because human activity moves it here". (Which still relies on the idea that human activity isn't "natural")

@exiliaex idk cuz i don’t like how the new zealand isopods brought here by cargo ship bilge have killed off a lot of clams and crabs but also I don’t believe in some kind of pure natural state for society to preserve or restore

Sign in to participate in the conversation

A small congregation of exiles.