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
Larson, in the war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology, argues that the prevalent use of militaristic language in scientific articles and other media to describe invasive species is counterproductive. Not only do militaristic language over-exaggerates the problem of invasive species, but also promotes drastic measures to eradicate the problem that are completely unnecessary and wasteful. More often than not, exotic species become integrated into the ecosystem that it is introduced into. Consequently, its complete eradication will only harm the indigenous species that have come to rely on it for various reasons. Instead viewing foreign species are invaders, Larson argues that we should see them rather as new visitors, and accept them under a symbiotic relationship.
Quote: “With Asian carp poised to invade Lake Michigan, wildlife managers are urgently trying to figure out how many of the voracious 1.5-meter-long fish have already slipped past electric fish barriers in a waterway near Chicago and they are scrambling to shore up defenses.” (Stokstad 2010)
Though there are definite faults to Larson’s argument, I agreed overall with the author’s argument. Such as the above passage from Science Magazine concerning the “onslaught” of Asian carp, there are too much anxiety and urgency in scientific literature to correct something that does not require such drastic methods. The usage of militaristic promotes an unnecessary false sense of urgency that will only become counterproductive. It is not only infeasible, but also potentially detrimental to the ecosystem, to eliminate invasive species that have integrated themselves into their introduced habitat. It is worth the risk and resources to put poison in the water just deter Asian carps from becoming introduced into Lake Michigan? Do we really need $2.5 million dollars just to eliminate Asian carp? Aren’t there other better venues the money could be used for? However, I must acknowledge that militaristic words are used throughout the vernacular. And that as a result, its use in scientific literature is only reflective of how we speak on a day-to-day basis. At the same time, just as Larson argues, though using militaristic language in scientific literature is nothing to be alarmed about, it is the frequency at which it is used to describe invasive species that we should be concerned with. Too much usage of militaristic language jades the reader against future crises that might be greater than a carp trying to get into a lake. Like the boy who cried wolf, what will we do then?
Larson, BMH. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Stokstad, E. (2010). Biologists Rush to Protect Great Lakes From Onslaught of Carp. Science. 327(932)
February 24, 2010
Larson’s article, “The War of the Roses: Demilitarizing Invasion Biology”, attempts to highlight the problematic aspects of framing invasion ecology with warlike metaphors. He argues that the strong, belligerent language often used when describing an invasive species has adverse effects for the cause as a hole. Larson describes how the militarized fashion in which we describe these species misrepresents the complex, multi-faceted issue of alien species as a two-sided battle, ending only in the destruction of one of the actors. He also argues that language familiar to human immigration debates and other current affairs may serve to bias people on the basis of their opinions about these clearly disjoint matters.
Larson’s argument seems undeniably accurate in its portrayal of the language used in invasive ecology texts. One of my classmates, for example, wrote in a blog post, “It is therefore surprising to find that the mute swans are an invasive species to the area and are on a warpath of destruction that is reaping havoc on the habitats of indigenous species.” (Primrose, 2010). While it should be noted that the author was attempting to juxtapose the serene appearance of the swan with its ecological effects, Larson’s point is nonetheless clear. Many texts use similar language to describe invasive species in the most dire and dramatic way possible.
While Larson does attempt to argue an interesting position, his defense is ultimately unsuccessful. The first major problem with Larson’s argument lies in that he provides no viable alternative. Strong, militaristic language is used to attract attention from the less scientific audience that reads about invasive ecology. He provides some alternative ideas on language to frame the subject in his conclusion, but it is immediately clear that these would not appeal to this audience in a remotely similar fashion. Another, and perhaps larger problem lies in the support of Larson’s argument. He attempts to validate broad sociological claims about the reception of invasive species with anecdotal and individual evidence. Sometimes dipping into the realm of hypothetical situations in which a reader is offended by certain language, Larson declines to provide any systematic approach to justifying his position.
Finally, it is ironic that while Larson argues about the manner in which militaristic language dilutes the scientific process, he himself ignores a fundamental concept of research. He fails to control for the varied intended audiences across several types of articles. It was illuminating to me, for example, that the above quote came from a classmate’s blog post. I began looking for quotes in sources to be cited in my literature review. I slowly realized that I had been looking in the wrong place. As I made my way towards progressively more casual writings, it was not until I looked at the most informal of sources before I found a satisfactory passage. Larson recognizes that militaristic language is used when describing the issues to a more informal audience, and decides to apply this to the scientific community at large. This seems to ignore the stratification of language across sources, a variable that clearly plays a critical role in how descriptive language is used.
Quote from the swan article found here:
February 24, 2010
By: David Lung
Larson criticizes the militaristic language that biologists use in order to inform the public. Doing so would ultimately describe invasive species wrongly, cause a backlash from the people because we were at fault to begin with for bringing in these invasive species and create a fear of these plants that might be counterproductive to conservation. He argues that waging war is not a good description for controlling invasive species because they are a part of our lives now and we were the ones that gave them the opportunity to live in foreign environments. Also, he states that it is impossible to completely get rid of these species from ecosystems they have already invaded and the methods to restore a particular ecosystem might cause further problems. Larson states that the rhetoric should be toned down considerably and we should work on preventing the spread of invasive species and accept that they are a part of the ecosystems they now inhabit based on our own actions
“Cyrtobagous Salviniae destroyed terminal and lateral buds on the parent plant which partially compensated for this loss by producing new buds of higher order rank, some of which were also attacked by adults and larvae.” (Forno and Semple 1987)
I saw this quote on a study of the salvinia weevil as a potential biocontrol agent of giant salvinia (salvinia molesta). Using terms like “destroyed” and “attacked” gave this sentence a militaristic tone. The authors could have stated that the salvinia weevil ate the terminal and lateral buds or simply that the insect controlled the giant salvinia by doing so. I somewhat disagree with Larson’s argument though. In my opinion it is obvious that we were the main agents that brought invasive species, but to allow these invasive species to live with us when they already do so much damage to the ecological services native organisms provide, it does not make sense to live peacefully with them. The damage these invasive species do is not overexaggerated for the most part. They are essentially parasites, outcompeting native species that have already reached an equilibrium with their ecosystem and also disrupting the overall balance of the ecosystems they now inhabit. The backlash he talks is somewhat probably because these invasive species such as the Sitka black-tailed deer that help people with a lower socioeconomic status. Overall, I do believe the militaristic tone is necessary and effective for preserving what is left of pristine ecosystems from invasive species, but also to restore invaded ecosystems to the best of our ability because we are at fault for disrupting those ecosystems and should be reminded in the urgency of the problem we’re responsible for.
Larson, B.M.H. 2005. “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Forno, I.W. and J.L. Semple. 1987. “Response to Salvinia Molesta to insect damage: changes in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content.” Oecologia. 73: 71-74.