Larson (2005) brings up the common use of militaristic rhetoric in invasive species literature by establishing the argument that these metaphors can be problematic in the long run despite attracting the attention of the general public. The author first notes that metaphor as a device relates two subjects, but is never a perfect comparison. Larson (2005) then continues to explain how comparing invasive species problems with war battles leaves too much room open for misconceptions about the problem at hand. A war deals with clear opposing sides fighting each other, but the problem at hand is not a pure black and white battle of humans versus invasive species. The roots of the dilemma are so intertwined on both sides that war is a misleading comparison. There is not even a clear enemy since some species can be helpful or detrimental depending on the environment. Larson (2005) also mentions how militaristic language in invasive species literature could carry a “xenophobic resonance.” People could develop the assumption that all foreign species have a negative impact on the environment, all due to the rhetoric used in describing the actual invasive species.
The 2002 Washington Post article, “Spawn of Snakehead?” uses militaristic rhetoric when explaining the history of a similar invader.
“California has spent millions in its war against the pike, a nonnative fish that was smuggled into Lake Davis in the 1990s and that threatens to wipe out a $1 billion trout industry. Five years ago, state game officials drained most of the lake and dumped in several tons of poison in an effort to kill the fish. The pike returned within a year, and the state ended up paying nearly $10 million in damages to a nearby town whose water supply was contaminated.”
I agree with Larson (2005) that militaristic metaphors are “problematic” and “ineffective” when writing about invasive species because only one side of the war described is to blame. These foreign species could barely be described as “invaders” because they did not transfer habitats on their own; we moved them there in some way. By establishing a battle against invasive species, many people gain the misconception that the solution is just killing off the existing population. California used this approach of taking out the pike through brute force, but was met by the “boomerang effect” of unintended consequences just like the language used in the article. Preventing transportation of the species in the first place could yield much better result, but the military metaphor does not suggest this approach. I also agree with Larson (2005) that unlike in war, there will be no “victory” over the invasive species, but merely an eventual coexistence between native and foreign species.
Huslin, Anita and Ruane, Michael. 2002. Spawn of Snakehead? Suspicious Baby Fish Heighten Fears Among Md. Officials, Scientists. http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/snakehead/news0710.php. Viewed 12 Oct 2010.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
I agree a holistic approach is often useful in getting rid of invasive species. I would be interested in example where a militaristic approach was used effectively to wipe out an invasive species. Can not it be said though sometimes attacking a species directly is most productive? Often times when we attack the problem directly the results can render the best success. Just a thought. Good points though!
I’m impressed by your introduction of the “Spawn of Snakehead” article. I agree with you that militaristic metaphor may lead to inappropriate solution sometimes, but still I value its effect on raising public awareness more.
Regardless of how an invasive species got to where it became a problem, do you not think that it is us, fighting for a native ecosystem, against the species, which is destroying it? While I understand that in many cases we are to blame for introducing these unwanted species, now that they are where they are we can either let them be or battle against their existence, and in many cases the passive approach is the more destructive one.