Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weeds: Defining Inconvenience, Wickedly

Invasive species definition confusion; a wicked inconvenience for sure. Weeds, posted at: cleverly describes a fundamental challenge found when working with the issues of invasive species: Every party, no matter how remotely involved, has a slightly problematic version of what seems should be a simple definition. But, because each group has a preconceived solution, the opportunities for misdirected conversation towards a working consensus, is obscured.

I actually subscribe to the wrong organism (species) in the wrong place at the wrong time idea, which is paraphrased in the posting as :” I always thought that a weed was simply a plant growing were it was unwanted.” So far we seem to be on terra firma. So comes the obligatory legalese obfuscation, which allows us to meander over to surface definition conundrums. “Non-native invasive species displace or compete with crops and native plants, usurp water otherwise used by desirable plants, and reproduce profusely in the absence of their natural predators.” This abstraction from a county code allows for the following hammer blow: “Non-native invasive species displace or compete with crops. Aren’t crops non-native species?”

This is an acceptable semantic sleight of hand, because the writer has seemingly found a paradox, and while at it, introduces a question of time horizon choice., the famous dead white male north western protestant European tripped over the new world date. All of this is possible under a solution (nothing needs be done) implied by: “Since ecosystems constantly change and new species move, invade, and displace, who picked the freeze point in time where a plant is considered non-native?

It seems to me far better, for those holding the nothing needs be done solution, to start with that premise, and debate the nothing before dead occidental stakeholders. To this mix of differing solutions, should be added the party which holds that certain species can cause greater ecological, aesthetic or economic harm and should be prevented from introduction or, at least, controlled as far as resources permit. This third position’s offering allows that some adaptive new comers, whatever the date, have a economic impact far exceeding the damage, at least in a short event horizon. In other words, we need to eat, dress and build homes, so those species stay, controlled, not spreading without human intervention and plan.

Unfortunately, this is not how we find ourselves engaged. The “there is no problem” group will nod at the surface word game, and the “American species for America” group will point with stunned fingers at the perceived nattering nay bobs of negativism, and the opportunity for finding consensus will continue to be still-born. Too bad.

1 comment:

Gene Kinsey said...

Thank you for the credit/reference to my light-hearted Sunday essay on Weeds.

Your discussion identifies a key problem, the economic impact of some invading species.

The local officials in my county do a poor job of communicating why some species, plants people have lived with for their entire lives, must now be controlled. As a result the discussion often ends up exactley as you descibed it.