Destruction of aliens is misguided

2010-11-05 00:00

THE shocking United Nations report that our planet is experiencing the worst extinction rate in 65 million years, follows the world-wide pesticide-poisoning of bees, compounded in South Africa by a dearth of bee forage after a eucalyptus-eradication campaign.

This was stopped because millions of rands of pollination-needing crops were at risk. Yet, at a time when one would expect a worldwide moratorium on all environmental destruction, invasion biologists continue to call for the destruction of insect-hosting vegetation. Although failed experiments can wipe out crops, South Africa boasts the world record for using foreign insects and diseases to kill alien plants. And chemicals once restricted to agriculture contaminate our wild lands as thousands of trees and plants are axed and poisoned to force our already injured Earth to host only species that are deemed indigenous. This despite dendrologist Dr Fried von Breitenbach’s warning that vast areas will become desert if our exotic trees are removed — a devastation that is currently threatening Kenya, where tree destruction in the Mau forest has dried up seven­ rivers.

In defiance of a UN warning that nature would collapse if tree destruction continued, our state, at a cost of R558 million, has started the most extensive alien-tree felling programme ever. Yet since aliens and natives are entwined, when we destroy alien plants, we destroy native biodiversity. And when exotics­ go, native trees replace them as firewood. Furthermore, as alien plants help wildlife survive, and a 1998 study showed that 99,9% of our small raptors breed in alien trees, the project threatens to empty our skies of birds while obliterating nature outside reserves.

The myth that introduced trees deaden ground and cost us butterflies, birds and water­, is the invasionist-rallying cry. Yet exotics­ host the normal mix of insects, avian life and understory and eucalypts tested as highly efficient water users in eighties studies­. Of course, if alien plants are not a threat to natives and use equivalent water, alien eradication would make no sense and profiteers no money.

Incredibly, invasion biology’s claims are unproved. Experts find what they look for to support the prevailing opinion, but with huge funding and potential profits, the set- up is susceptible to massive exploitation, including corruption of the information pool. With a mortally wounded planet, nature-destruction should be obscene, yet gleeful hack parties abound and gung-ho looters relieve landowners of aliens in exchange for their valuable wood. Now, with the Duzi River­’s banks being cleared, what further harm will befall our wildlife and the polluted river which needs oxygen and insects from partner plants, regardless of origin?

British Nobel prize-winning scientist James Lovelock says that our planet is a self-regulating organism which heals itself with the most suitable of existing species. Observed by American herbalist Timothy Scott, the healing effects of invasives on damaged land or polluted water explains invasions and why our putrid waterways are covered in water hyacinths, the ecovacuum cleaners that are currently being poisoned. Lovelock warns that only sufficient ecosystems (essential for regulating Earth’s climate and chemical composition) keep us from extinction’s terrifying brink. Yet we endanger these daily with chainsaws and poisons in a ceaseless global plunder that’s become as damaging to the Earth as rain-forest destruction.

When Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience­ was published in the United States, shock waves rippled through environmental consciousness.

“There is no valid reason for restricting species to their historic range. Invasion biology­ has been influenced by the herbicide and regulatory industries from the beginning. How can we tolerate this corruption of science by industry?” asks D. I. Theodoropolous.

Even biologists inside the movement have grown disillusioned — Mark Davis, De Witt Wallace, professor of biology at Minnesota­’s Macalester College, revealed that far from making a single native species extinct, the U.S.’s thousands of alien plants have enriched biodiversity.

Incredibly, while our institutions collapse and thousands starve, millions are squandered just so that native plants can evolve without normal competition. Yet, showing no concern for less profitable ecosystem components — the insects and wildlife left poisoned or homeless in their wake — invasionists seem determined to finish the suicide­ our species started.

The Earth has policed its own biota for billions­ of years so why should it now need controlling by the very species which messed it up to the point of global warming?

Such interference, will, in effect, end Earth’s evolution, sealing off gene pools while all life, artificially frozen into its proper place, stagnates and dies around us.

If we kill aliens, natives die. As the early Native-Americans warned: “After the last tree is cut down and the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has died and the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover that money cannot be eaten.”

• Gloria Keverne, author of international bestseller A Man Cannot Cry, writes in her personal capacity. She can be contacted at 033 343 1625 or e-mailed at glory@

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