February 25, 2010
In his article, Brendon Larson discusses the use of “militaristic” rhetoric to describe the issue of invasive species. Larson argues that the use of metaphor misleads the public, and even scientists, into a false perception of the invasive species issue and how to effectively deal with it.
For example, a recent article in Time – entitled “Asian Carp in the Great Lakes? This Means War!” – proves Larson’s point. In addition to the title, language such as “infiltrating a new home,” or “eradicate them after the fact” (Walsh, 2010) compares the idea of invasive species to an enemy that must be defeated in war. I agree with Larson that this kind of rhetoric leads us to think that a “brute force” approach is the only way to deal with the invasive species problem – which is problematic because this kind of approach is usually the least cost-effective and successful. However, I think that there is some use to this kind of rhetoric. The metaphor is necessary for the public to understand the issue of invasive species. Especially in a popular magazine such as Time, overly scientific language would not be of any use to the general reader.
Larson, 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Walsh, 2010. “Asian Carp in the Great Lakes? This Means War!”. Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1962108,00.html
February 24, 2010
In his paper “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology,” Larson asserts that, by using militaristic language when discussing the problem of invasive species, we limit our perspective on these creature to one that advocates aggression and urgency and overlooks that some situations may benefit from caution and sympathy. Larson also asserts that, if invasion biologists are too quick to call this sort of negative attention to a foreign species that does not turn out to be a large threat, organizations that may otherwise be supportive of the goals of these biologists may stop taking them seriously.
Larsen is certainly correct in his assertion that militaristic is quite prevalent in invasion biology. In the Science magazine article “Biologists Rush to Protect Great Lakes from Onslaught of Carp” (2010), militaristic language is used in the very first sentence. Erik Stokstad states, “With Asian carp poised to invade Lake Michigan, wildlife managers…are scrambling to shore up defenses.” Though the dangers of Asian carp invasion are serious and may have far-reaching effects, whether there is need to compare invasion prevention methods to preparing for war is debatable.
Though Larsen makes a good point that militaristic language is overly prevalent in invasion biology literature, I do not believe that militaristic language should be completely absent when presenting information about such species. Especially in press releases, such as the article from which the quote above is from, militaristic language may be useful in helping the average American–who most likely does not particularly care about the environment–realize the magnitude of the issue. However, I do agree that metaphoric militaristic language is not appropriate in more formal literature. As long as militaristic is kept in its place, it may accelerate efforts to keep invasive species in their respective places, as well.
Larson, Brendon MH. 2005. “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 495-500.
Stokstad, Erik. “Biologists Rush to Protect Great lakes from Onslaught of Carp.” Science. 19 February 2010.
February 24, 2010
The main argument of Larson’s papers is that the current metaphors used when describing invasive species are actually hindering conservation goals. The militaristic pattern of thinking utilized by many authors is inaccurate and ultimately portrays invasive species in a light that causes confusion and misunderstanding amongst the majority of the population, as well as environmentalists. Some of the examples proposed by Larson of how militaristic analogies harm conservation include that the idea of waging war against a species requires us pitting ourselves against the species and favoring biological solutions as well as that these analogies create false ideals that we can complete eliminate invasive species as triumph over their “evil.” Larson proposes the adoption of alternative metaphors and analogies that actually consider the relationship between people and the environment. One example given is describing invasive species as a “disease” that is harming our quality of life.
An example of the military language Larson is arguing against comes from a NASA article that discusses the proliferation of the water hyacinth throughout Africa. When discussing the invasive nature and attributes of the plant, the article stated that, “water hyacinth…is amongst the world’s most noxious invaders…Water hyacinth can also sap oxygen from the water until it creates a ‘dead zone’ where plants and animals can no longer survive. Typically, only aggressive measures can control the fast-growing plant” (Przyborski and Remer 2009).
While I completely support Larson’s attempt to analyze literature about invasive species in order to increase the efficacy of how writing encourages conservation efforts, I do not agree with his conclusions. First of all, I feel that Larson makes statements without clarifying their meaning or supporting them with details. He merely states that militaristic metaphors contain inaccuracies, which confuse the public but gives no explanation of this trend. I personally do not feel confused when reading invasive species articles with militaristic tones. Additionally, I agree with Larson that militaristic metaphors create two opposing sides (the species and humanity), but this is true of any argument; there are always two sides. This fact is not limited to language discussing invasive species. One of the most confusing parts of Larson’s argument is when he states that removing invasive species tends to benefit the upper-middle classes rather than poor people. I do not understand this conclusion at all, and I feel that it makes his argument confusing and unclear. My final opposition to Larson’s article is that he centers many of his arguments on comparing the environment to social and political situations. He compares invasive species issues to events like the September 11th terrorist attacks, and I just do not feel like these two fields are on the same level at all.
Przyborski, Paul and Remer, Lorraine. Water Hyacinth Re-invades Lake Victoria. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=7426. Viewed 25 January 2010.
February 24, 2010
In his paper entitled “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology:, Brendon MH Larson argues that militaristic language used in invasive species articles to invoke a response in the reader can actually have negative effects. He claims that these metaphors contribute to public misunderstanding of invasive species, and that they support militaristic ways of thinking that make it hard to create a sustainable relationship between humans and the natural world. According to Larson, the problem with militaristic language relies on two fundamental facts about war. 1) A war requires opposing sides. 2) Wars are fought with the belief that good will triumph over evil. These assumptions are leading the public to have a misconstrued view of invasive species. They can also have a boomerang effect, where the readers have the opposite reaction to the language than is intended.
“Currently, the Australian government is preparing to spend between five and seven million dollars over the next 15 years to combat the cane toads…The economic loss resulting from the disturbance and destruction caused by invasive species is huge.” (Butler 2005). This quote is from author Tina Butler, a writer for an online newspaper, who comments about the importance of the elimination of cane toads from Australian ecosystems.
Although Larson raises a few valid points, I have to disagree with his argument. Militaristic language has inspired people to act and take up the “fight” in whatever they believe in for centuries. It’s psychological that more vivid and intense language will influence people’s opinions and possibly lead them to acting on them. I don’t think that the use of militaristic language is problematic nor is it ineffective. These metaphors do not incite riots or violence, but rather they convey the importance of the eradication and removal of invasive species and how large of an effect they have on the general public. Militaristic language is absolutely necessary to gain support from readers and to convince the general public that something must be done.
Butler, Tina. “Overstaying Their Welcome: Cane Toads In Australia.” Mongabay. http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0417b-tina_butler.html. Viewed February 23, 2010.
February 23, 2010
Larson discusses the many downsides to using militaristic metaphors when writing about invasive species. HE states that although militaristic language used can be effective in drawing attention to invasive species, it can also carry unwanted connotations. There are two main problems with using militaristic language the first is that it implies that there are two different sides and that we humans are not part of the problem but a lot of the time we are. War metaphors also lead to the assumption that invasive species can be completely defeated and this is not usually the case. These metaphors could interfere with conservation efforts. Also, after time these metaphors can lose their efficacy if they are used too often and for less problematic situations. According the Larson, by using militaristic metaphors biologists create an artificial feeling of war. Larson advocates using alternative language when writing about invasive species. He suggests that maybe a medical or disease metaphor could be more effective when talking about invasive species.
I found a lot of examples of the type of language Larson was talking about in new articles. When describing an ecologist looking for watermill foil the writer uses “an unusual reconnaissance mission” (Foderaro 2007). He is also described as being “on the front lines of the fight against invasive species” (Foderaro 2007). The writer also uses the phrase “the Adirondacks is girding for war” (Foderaro 2007). I can definitely see what Larson is talking about. I think that metaphors are definitely effective at grabbing attention, however I agree with his argument that they are overused. I do not necessarily agree that they are ineffective, but I think they can overshadow the issues and become problematic.
Foderaro LW. 2007 Battling a Nasty Green Invader From the Deep. New York Times.