War against otherness

2014-07-10 00:00

IN answer to the “Nature-nationalisation” rebuttal by professors Van Wilgen and Richardson.

To start with, the 1998 study showing that 99,9% of small raptors in Gauteng nest in alien trees was done by Tarboton, Kemp and Allan.

As for the view that the “very recent transport of humans to new lands” is responsible for alien-plant invasions: such invasions were first reported to be covering large parts of the Earth in 1826, and since small-scale farms were giving way to large-scale agriculture at the time, they occurred commensurate with nature destruction and not with commercial air travel, which only started over a century later, after World War 2.

As for invasionists belittling all aliens as bad: 19 world biologists jointly urged scientists to stop fuelling a bias that is now practically universal in the public mind. The same elements that are hysterically hyped as huge threats within alien creatures, are dismissed within native creatures. As ecologist Ken Thompson pointed out, if bracken was not native to the UK, it would be classed as a national emergency.

As for bio-control operations, many unforeseen disasters have resulted. For instance, European carp, released by the Australian government into the River Murray to control plants, did enormous damage to the river’s entire ecosystem. In another case, mosquito fish introduced to control mosquitoes, instead severely reduced the native fish, which were themselves mosquito predators. The cane toad that was introduced to eat the beetles attacking sugar cane, ended up, like most bio-control agents, becoming even worse pests themselves.

Only “a small subset” of human-introduced and “demonstrably harmful” aliens are eradicated, the professors say. Firstly, how do they differentiate between human-moved aliens and those that drift naturally across borders, especially large wildlife which, even when young, would require Noah’s-ark type operations for humans to transport?

Incredibly, species of eland, kudu, waterbuck and even rhino are among the game on South Africa’s alien hit list.

With the Kenya black rhino being an endangered species, how are invasionists any better than rhino poachers or lion poisoners? In what validated way are the listed animals deserving of death?

Recently, I was invited to meet two invasion-biology supporters. These botanists assured me that (contrary to original invasion-biology claims) they’d observed that alien vegetation hosted abundant native creatures and furthermore, that the Earth did indeed try to heal itself using plant invasions, which was undone if nature used alien plants. (In other words, nature itself was acting unnaturally.) However, to increase species purity they favoured continued alien destruction, although this invariably destroyed endangered creatures, essential microcosms and habitat, causing salination, soil erosion and, according to late dendrogist Dr Fried von Breytenbach, would turn large parts of South Africa into desert.

This showed progress from the basic ignorance on which invasion biology based its initial campaigns (when tree-replacement was at least a hope). However, what else will they find they’ve been wrong about when it’s too late to repair the damage? Although invasionists know that plant invasions only occur on disturbed ground, they continually disturb ground to remove aliens, themselves causing what they complain about. If God is in his creation, he is being told: “No room at the inn”.

For the slightest inconvenience caused to native species or commercial interests, alien creatures worldwide are being destroyed in operations devoid of compassion or reverence for life.

In England, mass executions of squirrels, badgers, otters, fox, ferrets and deer have begun. In the U.S. and France, Canada Geese are to be killed, while, among other doomed creatures in the U.S. and Australia, wild horses — now called alien or feral — are being shot from helicopters lest they damage native montane plants with their hooves. A madness has descended.

Whatever the professors’ claims, invasion biology primarily serves the interests of corporations whose chemicals are dangerous to both the environment and us. Playing God over nature, while the Earth is battling to survive the massive species and habitat loss they themselves helped to inflict, shows, at the very least, a dangerous inability to see the bigger picture.

Invasionists have given species purity priority over planet survival, yet there can be no purity or anything else if there is no planet. Filled with indoctrinated hubris and undoubtedly feeling as righteous as Rwandan Hutus once did, they have become the enemy they feared would devastate our biodiversity. There will only be hope for our planet if enough people start recognising the lack of logic and the cruelty integral to this unproved ideology. Its perilous war against otherness in nature is unsustainable both ecologically and economically. If allowed to continue, existence itself will be at stake.

• Gloria Keverne is an environmental activist.

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