Larson confronted the issue of using militaristic language and metaphors in scientific articles about invasive species. Larson argues that although using militaristic metaphors may seem like a good way to raise awareness, both in a public way and in a scientific manner, it is actually counter-effective because it causes confusion about the problem and what we should do about it. Larson identifies three problems with using militaristic language: first, it causes people to consider invasive species inaccurately; second, the language creates “social misunderstanding, charges of xenophobia, and loss of scientific credibility; and third, the language is ineffective in the long-term for conservation because the species are consistently related to wars and fighting.
Looking back on previous WordPress posts by my classmates and myself, I came across a post of my own that had a militaristic term in the title: “El Nino vs Weevils: which is the conqueror of water hyacinth?” In incorporated the word “conqueror” because I wanted a strong word that would convey the idea of vanquishing the hated water hyacinth from Lake Victoria. However, upon reading Larson’s article, I found that this term is not only contextually incorrect, but actually detrimental the argument I based my opinions on. The water hyacinth isn’t an enemy that needs to be conquered, it’s just an invasive species that is extremely problematic and needs to be prevented. Acceptance of the issue is crucial so as to prevent issues like this in the future, and we need to accept that we might not be able to eradicate the water hyacinth from Lake Victoria. Larson would advise the public to understand that water hyacinth wouldn’t have entered Lake Victoria without human interference, and since we can’t look back on our mistakes, we just need to push forward and try and prevent further infestation.
The use of militaristic language is overall negative because it implies that there is a war, which requires two sides, and that we will eventually win because humans are the good forces and the invasive species are the bad forces. I agree with Larson when he says we are not fighting the species, we are just fighting what we ourselves created, which is never a winning situation. Additionally, when we relate invasive species to wars, this just dilutes the meaning of warfare and allows further abuse of the word and relative language. It’s unacceptable to compare invasive species to terrorist attacks, or overseas firefights, because ultimately methods can be implemented to reduce effects of invasive species, whereas wars and their consequences are permanent. Larson argues that instead of using militaristic language, which is in fact counterproductive, scientists should start creating alternate means of promoting conservation while still being firm. We should direct the meaning and understand of invasive species not towards opposition, but towards prevention and control.
Larson, B.M.H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Diaz, Cecile. 2010. El Nino vs Weevils: which is the conqueror of water hyacinth? http://sites.duke.edu/writing20_12_f2010/2010/09/13/analysis-of-fierce-debate-of-water-hyacinth-on-lake-victoria/
Photo taken from Geography: Staffordshire Learning Net
I really like your post and I agree with you that it is oftentimes not appropriate. You presented some very interesting ideas: especially about diluting the meaning of warfare which I did not completely think about.