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.