Larson (2005) expresses his belief that the much used militaristic language in invasion biology has no place in scholarly articles. He states that even though the metaphors may draw attention to the articles, they are overall ineffective. Larson argues that the use of this language draws the reader towards a man vs. enemy viewpoint which in turn causes an inaccurate perspective of the problems regarding invasive species. Larson believes that this “us vs. them” way of thinking is an oversimplification of the problem and that it is leading a complete public misunderstanding. One example of this kind of language is found in a blog posted by Brianca King (10-09-2010). In her paper, Brianca discusses termites and their detrimental effects on building and infrastructure. She states that “When the troops…dumped their crates…the termites began their attack.” (Brianca 2010) In actuality, the termites did not attack anything, only started eating their natural food, but this militaristic language draws the reader into the article and helps the reader understand that there is a threat.
I agree with Larson’s argument in that militaristic language can lead the reader to have an inaccurate and ineffective viewpoint regarding the fight to control aquatic invasion however I believe that it still must be used. In today’s society, there are very few ways to get public attention and one is to pose a serious threat and treat the problem as if humans were at war with these aquatic invaders. Even if the public, in general, has a faulty perspective on the issue because of the use of militaristic language, I believe that the transaction costs would be much too high and nothing in the field of invasion biology could ever be accomplished if the language were not used. Larson’s arguments may be true, but militaristic language must be kept in invasion biology articles.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500
King, Brianca. Termite Attack!. Aquatic Invasive Species Word Press. October 09, 2010. SW2. http://sites.duke.edu/writing20_12_f2010/2010/09/10/termite-attack/
Brendon Larson in his paper, “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology,” argues that although using militaristic language when addressing invasive aquatic species, “perhaps…has been successful, given the tremendous amount of attention this issue has received recently,” it may have negative effects in the long run (Larson 2005). Larson expresses that the language implies there are two clear opposing sides, when in reality, the reason invasive species have become such a prevalent problem is due to humans themselves (Larson 2005). Larson also argues that strong language blinds people to the real scientific facts, that in turn prevents society from being able to deduce their own opinions, potentially turning them off in the long run and establishing wider interest in solving the problem (Larson 2005).
I both agree and disagree with Larson. I agree in the sense that militaristic language shouldn’t be used to depict invasive species as the enemy, considering the reason many species are such a problem is due to human transport. However, I disagree in the sense that it should not be used at all. I believe that militaristic language can be extremely effective for invasion biology if it is used against those responsible for spreading the species, rather than the species themselves.
An article entitled, “Texas launches war on invasive aquatic species,” on a Texas news’ website provides the perfect example of ineffective militaristic language. The reporter clearly establishes an “us against them” relationship that is clearly inaccurate. Giant Salvinia has spread itself, but the humans played a role as well. The article goes on to claim that, “[Texas is] under siege by a plant,” and a man even laments that “…the Texas we know and love will be changed forever and not for the better”. The semi comical part about this article is the article also provides the reader with the fact that “the fern was illegally brought to Texas 12 years ago by either the aquarium or gardening trade”. It directly shows the reader the human’s role in aiding the enemy they are apparently waging the war against.
Militaristic language can be very effective in solving a problem because it gives people a sense that immediate action is necessary. It can greatly help draw attention to an issue like invasive species that doesn’t receive as much attention as it should, as long as the language is directed against the actual enemy.
Larson, BMH. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 3: 495-500.
Alberts, S. Texas Launches War on Invasive Aquatic Species. http://www.kvue.com/news/Texas-launches-war-on-invasive-aquatic-species-89731482.html. 1 April 2010. Viewed 11 October 2010.
In Brendon Larson’s paper “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology, Larson expresses his opinion on the diction used in recent journal articles on invasive species. Larson feels that the diction used is entirely too militaristic. The journal articles contains grasping metaphors that are intended to attract attention and cause people to want to take action immediately. Although this technique is effective, Larson feels that the use of militaristic metaphors is troublesome. This type of language causes the readers to misinterpret the invasive species problem and to oversimplify the problem. From this militaristic perspective, the language confuses the reader into thinking the problem that exists is a war-like situation involving the human population verses the invasive species with no other factors involved.
In my own blog post, I used the militaristic style and oversimplified an invasive species problem. While explaining the ongoing termite problem in New Orleans, I said, ”If more action is not conducted, the termites will eventually eat away at the building until it collapses causing the city of New Orleans to flood.” I created a man verses environment problem with this statement by saying that only human control could stop this problem from occurring, which could cause radical ideas and plans to be made, which could in effect cause even more problems. Based on the opinion of my own error, I personally agree with Larson’s opinion that militaristic language does not convey the entire picture of the invasive species problem. This linguistic style does oversimplify the problem and presents opportunities for immediate and impractical ideas to be formed and conducted. Larson goes on to say that instead of a militaristic analogy, a health analogy would be much more effective. I agree with Larson’s opinion that the health metaphor is more effective and allows the reader to gain a better understanding of the problem. With a health analogy, not only is the danger of the invasive species presented, but it is also expressed in a way that the human population is not the only cause of the problem and that the environment also has a large role in the situation.
BMH Larson’s “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasive biology” is a paper addressing how invasive species are portrayed to society. Those who research the species understand the effects that the species have on an ecosystem. However, to explain these scientific aspects to the general public would be inefficient because it would not capture their attention and interest. Therefore, Larson explains that militaristic metaphors are used to get the reader’s attention. He continues that these methods, although effective, are not in the long-term going to be useful. An example of this is seen on the National Geographic series “Strange Days on the Planet Earth- Invaders.” The Narrator, Edward Norton, says the invasive species are an “Alien species…think of them as the first wave of an assault that could drive the greatest extinction since the end of the dinosaurs” (Norton 2005). This metaphor is extremely effective, and gets the point across. Larson acknowledge this, but as mentioned he understands that this is a hyperbole and in the long run may be an inadequate description. Larson’s paper actually reminds of an anti-war paper. If most papers are thought as pro-war propaganda then Larson’s work is like a pacifist trying to provide an alternative point of view.
Although I understand Larson’s point of view on the metaphors and understand the negative effects they may potentially have, I believe that their use must be continued. Larson explains alternative metaphors that can potentially be used, but none have the same impact. The idea of describing the invasive species as a disease would probably be just as effective, but as Larson suggests it would still become militaristic. For example, the “Fight against Cancer” is still militaristic. It is unfortunate, but in today’s media the best way to make people care about something, there needs to be conflict where a side can be taken. By providing a side, viewers and readers and create an emotional tie with a side and leads to involvement. Until a more efficient metaphor or strategy can be found to get the public involved can be found, I support the continued use of the militaristic metaphors.
National Geographic’s Strange Days on Planet Earth. Dir. Mark Shelley (Ii). Perf. Edward Norton. National Geographic Video, 2005. DVD.
Larson, BMH 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasive biology, Frontiers in Ecology and the environment 3: 495-500.
Brendon MH Larson argues that biologists utilizing militaristic and combative rhetoric to emphasize their arguments are actually hindering their ability to coherently get across the true effects of a particular invasive species. Larson believes that this type of attacking and berating writing style contributes to the development of an inaccurate interpretation of the effects of foreign species on a particular ecosystem. He also believes that this militaristic language undermines the validity of the scientific data presented can potentially lead to a social dilemma. One of Larson’s main points is that while combative rhetoric may spark the attention of a large audience at first, this sporadic drama will soon subside and in long term the issue of foreign invasion is forgotten without the passing of any remedial methods.
In my own literature review I was a “victim” of using militaristic rhetoric however, I disagree with Larson’s main argument. “This creature has proven that it has the potential to unravel the very fibers of the food web established in its habitat and thus poses as a severe threat to indigenous species of the lakes.” (Cafaro 2010) This quote was taken from my literature review and is in reference to the invasion of the spiny water flea into the Great Lakes. In my paper, I believe that utilizing diction that further stresses the negative effects of a particular invasive species will help to drive the message home. By using words that strike out to the audience, the message being portrayed will be left resonating in their minds and hopefully inspire further action to be taken. I agree with Larson in that people should not simply throw out combative terms merely for the sake of attracting attention, however I do believe that if used properly, militaristic diction can indeed draw a more substantial amount of focus to the issues being presented.