New Scientist: Nativism and “Message Enhancement”

An article in the latest New Scientist, a well-reputed science magazine suggests that misguided nativism is doing more harm than good, in particular by misusing resources. Titled “Living with Aliens” in the print edition, and “Immigrant species aren’t all bad” on line, the article discusses the extreme stance taken by Nativists.

Professor Mark Davis points out that (a) most immigrant species are harmless; (b) with global trade and travel, a globalised biosphere is inevitable; and (c) unless a species is clearly identified as harmful, investing huge amounts to eradicate it is wasting resources urgently needed elsewhere.

Excerpt (emphasis added):

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“Philosophers, social scientists and some invasion biologists have challenged the choice of language used to describe non-native species and have argued that conclusions about them sometimes rest more on prejudice than science. Others have criticised the preference for native species as scientifically unsound, arguing that invasive species do not represent a separate category, evolutionarily, biogeographically or ecologically. Others have pointed out flaws in the claim that non-native species are the second-greatest extinction threat after habitat destruction. In fact, with the exception of insular environments such as islands and lakes, there are very few examples of extinctions being caused by non-native species.

“Despite this more nuanced approach, many of my invasion biologist colleagues are reluctant to discard the nativism paradigm. Some have told me that “message enhancement” is a necessary strategy when dealing with the public and policy-makers, in order to get their attention.”

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Message enhancement? a.k.a…. Exaggeration?


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3 Responses to New Scientist: Nativism and “Message Enhancement”

  1. Nature Lover says:

    Nothing new here, but a message that seems to be getting louder, so one hopes that decision-makers will hear it, although it will surely fall on the nativists’ deaf ear.

    In 1996 Stephen Jay Gould wrote a critique of nativism from the standpoint of the basic principles of evolution about which he was a renowned expert. His message was that the nativists’ assumption of the inherent superiority of native plants is not consistent with evolution. If one arbitrarily selects one time period to replicate–as the nativists choose pre-European ecology–the plants that exist at that time are in various stages of adaptation and natural selection. One cannot assume they are all perfectly evolved and represent a equilibrium state of nature….which of course does not exist in nature.

    More recently, David Theodoropoulos published a comprehensive critique of invasion biology, Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience. And indeed it is.

    It is not a coincidence that the Sierra Club was recently challenged to adopt an anti-immigration policy. There was an overlap between those who led that crusade and those who advocate for the native plant agenda. This article observes the connection between xenophobia and nativism. I believe that is an accurate observation.

    Webmaster: please don’t post this comment if you think it is inflammatory. Thanks for your wise editing.

    Webmaster’s note: Thanks for the compliment. We welcome opinions. I usually edit only for typos or to remove names. And to delete spam. And once in a while, to add emphasis for the sake of readers who want to know what the main point is.

  2. The garden Coach says:

    “Nativism” and “nativist” is a poor term and for people in the habitat restoration movement. It is clear folks here are alarmist by putting up such a devisive and black and white website. Trying to discredit folks who are hoping to help the declining plantation by attempting to get money to actually do something proactive for “forest” mangement is truly sad. Biodiversity is a great thing.
    The ivy is growing folks with the lack of management of this crashing system is compounded daily; the blame will be in your do nothing, “not in my backyard” hands.
    I hope you rethink such positions and quit polarizing people with your terminology.
    Thanks,
    The Garden Coach

  3. savesutro says:

    It’s only the Nativists who consider it a declining plantation. Everyone else would look at a flourishing green 100-year-old forest, and see a treasure. Eucalyptus can live for 400-500 years; this is a young forest. The ivy grows on the tree-trunks, but we haven’t seen any trees smothered by ivy because it doesn’t get into the canopy.

    It’s people whose backyard is the forest who know that much of what has been spread around is misinformation (like the “crashing plantation”).

    The Nativists are we believe idealists, and we should be on the same side. Unfortunately, at some point the Nativist ideology becomes incompatible with natural landscapes and ends up with things like the pitiful attempts at Twin Peaks. It becomes destructive of all things non-native.

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