Thursday, January 08, 2009

Private preferences, Invasive species & Public values

Invasive species issues tend to split broadly along the fault lines of public value versus private preferences. As a generality, stakeholders favoring environmental protection are bolstered by public environmental values, and gardeners are supported by private preference. As with myth many things in the invasive species conversation, the delineation is not neat or precise. Many gardeners, perhaps most, would favor environmental preservation and conservation as their public value of choice. The majority of both interest groups operate with both public values and private preferences oscillating at a high frequency as each individual makes choice from moment to moment. The arrival of the emerald ash borer in Maryland, indeed into North America is an example of a public values failure. Neither the market nor the public sector was able to provide protection for forests, urban or natural.

Complicating the two dynamic lenses of invasive species issues decision-platforms are concepts described in Eco-pragmatism (Farber 1999). Radical uncertainty, and moving frontiers of knowledge contribute to a landscape of fuzzy goals. The mount of information about risk which is unknown is paired with the daily change in scientific understanding which may reverse long held assumptions. The entirety of the complications produces an unsettled feeling in the layman who spend nearly no time at all thinking about invasive species, but may, if he or she is a gardener, be thinking about color, form and texture, as well as patterns, in the form of species and cultivars for use in the garden.

Individual desires when compounded with fragmented ever-changing knowledge coexist with value statements which under close inspection seemingly are at odds. A desire for a Hosta collection comprised of species from Asia is wrapped in the value of adding to diversity, as well as the value of personal expression. The concept of host plants for native insects does not come onto the decision box when choosing the next collectible cultivar. In fact the Hosta’s abilty to withstand insect pressure is seen as a positive trait. The level of landscape literacy (Landscape literacy & the grammar of gardening. Monday, December 01, 2008) ) needed to engage on the conversation of sustainability and environmental preservation quickly rises to a conversation of experts talking to each other with the gardener, whose grammar is different, not speaking to the naturalist. Each side then lines up behind the walls of philosophic castles, value versus market, and demands the surrender of the other.

This is part of the wicked inconvenience of invasive species; contradictory, conflicting coequal values, systems conspire to muddle definitions and understandings (Invasive Species; Wicked Inconvenience: part two. Sunday, February 18, 2007).

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