Friday, September 03, 2010
Invasive species are not going away no matter how much we ignore them
Invasive species are in one sense a giant symptom of the speed of change of climatic conditions. Invasive species, moreover, are a reflection of the change in mankind's relationship with nature; once nature was asymmetrically arrayed against the efforts of men; now the work of men is overwhelmingly arrayed against the random diversity of the natural world. Invasive species issues are dangerously close to being an accepted state of the human process, an externalization of our social dynamics. Humanity is a decision or two away from saying it is not necessary to weed the garden we call Earth; that the few species left should be of no concern and allowed to move freely with trade and people across the globe without concern to their possible negative impact to indigenous species at a local level. As we homogenize our resources through the "McLeveling" of business choices, so we are homogenizing the landscapes of the world. Moreover, invasive species problems are hard to quantify before hand in economic terms, as we more or less severely underestimate the value of infinity. We have yet to successfully quantify the opportunity costs of invasive species. Society's needs are moving us towards rapid hybridization of new bio-solutions to resource demands faster than invasive risk assessments can be constructed and performed. Already we hear that bio-fuels may spring forth to save us, from genetically modified algae and microbes. What is the risk? How do we measure this risk against the human condition? In some sense we are conversing with Dr. Malthus, of whom many of us have conveniently forgotten, when we speak of invasive species; for we are speaking of natural resource access and the resiliency of the planet's ecosystems. It took ten thousand years to figure out how to feed 3 billion people; 75 years to work out the food production for another 3 billion. What then is our plan for the next 3 billion citizens of the world coming in 30 years? Invasive species will be nibbling away at our resources and harvests. Invasive species will respond in unexpected ways to our actions or lack thereof.