Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Invasive Species are missing from our "green" conversation

Invasive species seem to fly, walk, scurry, swim, and just plain move just below the public’s market awareness level. There are many claims around such as “environmentally safe’, "recyclable", "degradable" or "ozone friendly", but none that claim an invasive free mantle. To be green mean to recycle or to use recycled material, to be aware of your carbon foot print, but nothing about your personal invasive species support pathway. There is an ocean-sized market of products and services which are "environmentally friendly", "environmentally safe", "environmentally preferable", or "eco-safe". Nothing about “invasive species free”.

It goes without saying that being green means doing something for the climate. The idea of doing something with or about invasive species does not show up in the advertising or business relation pieces. Somehow the green marketing movement, and therefore the rush to fund green infrastructure has over looked the significant effects of invasive species on things dear to our consumer-hearts or our public value sensibilities. Jeffrey S. Dukes & Harold A. Mooney write that “(p)lant invaders can also alter the microclimate of invaded areas. For instance, dense stands of Ammophila arenaria sharply reduce temperatures and available light at the underlying surface of the Pacific coast's dunes relative to stands of the native grass Leymus mollis (Barbour et al. 1985). Spartina alterniflora may similarly reduce light levels under the plant canopy of marshes, which could depress estuarine algal production (Callaway & Josselyn 1992). Soil temperature, soil moisture, and light conditions under the plant canopy affect the germination and establishment success of plants (Evans & Young 1970, Evans & Young 1972), and the suitability of habitat for animals.”[1]

The green economy is set to produce jobs but these jobs seem to be in energy production and advertising about energy production. The United Nations predicts that renewable energy could create 20 million jobs by 2030. Efforts to create green jobs are in the fields of alternative energy, green building, electric cars, and other clean technologies as a means of economic and workforce development. Businesses are eager to advertise their stake in this green movement which does not include invasive species, the great non issue of the moment. The little factoid that invasive species may negatively impact each and every one of the ecosystem services we take for granted has not made it into the consciousness of politics and policy.

Cisco is working on a green project called the Planetary Skin which will focus on rainforests and the role they play in slowing and speeding up climate change. "Rainforest Skin" will create a comprehensive sensor network and observe the resulting data -- which will track deforestation and the carbon content of rainforests -- with the goal of presenting it online in a clear and usable way. No mention of the impact of invasive species here on the lungs of the world, though the program is of great interest and need – not a condemnation of this worthwhile project but an observation supporting the absence of invasive species issues from the green conversation.

Being green can mean greater cost savings, yielding increased energy and other operational efficiencies for businesses, but invasive species control and management is not part of the package. We continue to think in terms of “free” external costs while paying the 130 billion plus a year to control eradicate or stop invasive species. “An analysis from the Center for Public Integrity shows the number of climate change lobbyists increased 300 percent since 2003.” The number of advocates on capitol Hill focusing on invasive species is unspecified, because we are a insignificance not worth reporting.

Invasive species, the largest symptom of something going wrong, is quietly being ignored. Until we support a national effort to advocate, educate, and yes, lobby, green marketing, green spending will not include invasive species.

[1] Disruption of ecosystem processes in western North America by invasive species ; Jeffrey S. Dukes & Harold A. Mooney, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5020 USA: Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts 02125 USA; e-mail:

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