Friday, February 27, 2009

Invasive Species: A Reflection of Values

The work of regional invasive species centers such as IPANE (Invasive Plant Atlas of New England) is a new and exciting if as of yet terribly under-funded resource for those who seek answers to landscape sustainability questions. A recent article by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu on February 23rd, 2009, “UConn efforts help curb spread of invasive plants in state” lays out some of the work that is being done to address the impacts of invasive species. As reported in the article, through the efforts of Les Mehrhoff “(A)n official list has been compiled of 96 non-native plants considered invasive or potentially invasive in Connecticut, 81 of which are now banned by law from being sold, purchased, transplanted, or cultivated in the state.” These include Japanese barberry, Asiatic bittersweet, purple loosestrife, and other, less showy plants, such as garlic mustard and mile-a-minute vine, newly recognized as invasive.”

Without surprise, this invasive species issue has not been received well in all quarters as noted further in the interview. “The work is sometimes controversial. Not everyone agrees on all the species that are invasive, Mehrhoff says. In addition to ecological considerations, there are economic issues at stake. “Some are big money plants for the nursery industry or the aquatic trade,” he says. “Some aquatic species are sold in every pet store.”” I have previously written about the conflicted meeting of wills at the nexus of Euonymus alatus on my Invasive Notes web log: Thursday, October 12, 2006, “Invasive traditions; burning bush”.

The collision of stakeholders end goals, one which is to protect natural areas, and the other which is to enhance human landscapes, is a reflection of the tension between the two categories of ecosystem services (Sunday, February 15, 2009, “Sustainability's Ecosystem Service Matrix”): the natural system services of regulation and provision and the “artifice-ial” or cultural serves of providing and informing. In a recent exchange of ideas, John Waugh wrote to me that we need to consider eliminating “…the false dichotomy of human and ecosystem health (and) change the values of the system to favor biosecurity (sustainability) and incorporate ecosystem health.” Is insight reflects the problem which currently gives no quarter pitting ornamental gardeners against naturalists in a battle with no end.

Because arguments about plant choices are conducted at a surface level called politics, we seldom address the root underpinnings of the value system supporting our work, goals, expectations, and decisions. Cultural imperatives of the past assume endless, infinite resources upon which we will work our will as humans. We see the land as a blank canvas making choices as if natural areas’ unimproved state has little market value (Thursday, January 01, 2009,
“Invasive Species and Gardening as Art”). We are driven to make nature better, and in fact we historically and culturally define nature through our artifice of the garden. Nature is the great beyond, the fearful other that needs be tamed. And through our human actions and constructs nature takes shape (Saturday, January 03, 2009, “A Garden or a Jar in Tennessee”)

Our cause at this place in time is to find a partnership with nature. We must set aside our notions of living part and outside of the natural world and forge a new set of values which uphold our place within the natural world, as part of nature. We must value the finite nature of our resources and adapt through human ingenuity and skill making our lifes’ work one of creation not destruction. We must become the gardeners of the planet, stewards of the earth, care-takers of the world.
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