Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Invasive Species; Wickedly Inconvenient Still

I once again draw your attention to the wicked inconvenience that surrounds discussions about invasive species. The complex nature of wicked problems, like invasive species, creates difficulties for the interest group’s definition. Therefore, a stakeholder group will use their own particular end goal to produce their own branded definition. If you are interested in restoring an eco-system to a certain place and time, then your definition of an invasive species will include a certain amount of implied negatives and will call for the eradication and removal in an effort to restore a previous system balance.

Hence comes “biologist Nancy Rybicki has been studying nonnative plant species in the Potomac River for 30 years.”[Baltimore Sun Tom Pelton Sun Reporter
July 30, 2007]. She claims that some invasive species have helped restore balance within the Potomac river, and that we should be cautious about our absolutes when trying to determine potential courses of action. She is paraphrasing another defining characteristic of a wicked problem, which is that “Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem"[ From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia], and that “Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly.”

Invasive species can be defined as a wicked problem according to four features, which are “according to Conklin:

The problem is not understood until after formulation of a solution.
Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
Constraints and resources to solve the problem change over time.
The problem is never solved.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

:” Despite its monstrous appearance, hydrilla has been growing in harmony with other plants and providing food for birds, said Rybicki, a hydrologist and biologist.” [Baltimore Sun Tom Pelton Sun Reporter ;July 30, 2007]. “"We should still be cautious about exotic species ... but it's more complex than to just say exotics are all damaging to the environment," Rybicki said. "We have not seen the exotics displace the native species here on the Potomac River, which is what was feared."

The collision between differing end goals is the wicked inconvenience of invasive species. The rush to one size fits all may leads to complex long term change which is mostly unintended. Add to this, global climate change, and simple definitions and reactions quickly become inadequate. Invasive species are symptomatic of a larger problem, which is ultimately the same problem humanity has been struggling with since it first became aware of itself. What is our place in the world, and how will we continue to survive within the world tomorrow?

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