Militaristic Metaphors: The Battle Cry of Invasive Species
By Emily Chang
In his paper, Larson discusses the impact of employing militaristic language to describe invasive species. He talks about how words such as “battle” and “strategy” appear in scientific writing with regard to invasive species, and he asserts that belligerent metaphors should be used cautiously – if, at all – with invasion biology. Then, Larson identifies two major faults in using such rhetoric. The first is that people should not picture themselves as waging a war with invasive species when human activity often has contributed to the spreading and cementing of foreign organisms in their victim environments. In addition, people cannot triumph over invasive species in this supposed “war” because the circumstances surrounding the invasions are generally too complex for a clear-cut solution. Also, Larson states that militaristic metaphors can lose their potency from overuse and can cause anti-xenophobic outcries from people.
I found the following quote from a primary source for my literature review on Eurasian watermilfoil that is considering a weevil species as a means of biocontrol:
“A variety of chemical and physical methods are being used to control M. spicatum infestations….These methods can provide short-term reductions in the extent of aquatic weeds, but neither eradicate them nor provide long-term control.” (Sheldon and Creed 1995)
This quote includes the word “eradicate,” which gives it a militaristic mood. Prior to reading the Larson article, I had not realized that eradication was a militaristic term, for I had seen it in several articles that I had read for my literature review. I believe that I have probably read it in other students’ blog posts or in previous readings about invasive species as well. Because I was so used to seeing this word used with invasive species, I had become accustomed to this militaristic style of depicting species invasions. Therefore, I must agree with Larson on his point about overusing belligerent words and phrases. The excessive use of militaristic metaphors in invasion biology diminishes the effect of such language; the more people see such words used in this manner, the less affective this rhetoric will be. I believe that scientists should employ alternative words and phrasings in their writing to discuss invasive species – particularly those that are more scientific and precise and less descriptive. Perhaps this can ensure that people note the importance of invasion biology on various environments, organisms, and aspects of human life.
Creed, Robert P., Jr. and Sallie P. Sheldon. 1995. Use of a Native Insect as a Biological Control for an Introduced Weed. Ecological Applications 5: 1122-1132.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.