In many reseach studies about invasive species, the authors use militaristic language to describe the problems that alien species have caused. However, Brendon Larson says that this approach is inadequate and inaccurate. In 2005, he argued his point by saying that militaristic statements lead to inaccurate perception of invasive species, contribute to misunderstanding and loss of credibility, and patterns of thought that are not productive for conservation. He stated that to be a war, there has to be two sides, one good and one evil(Larson, 2005). However, one side cannot be determined evil or good becasue many invasions were intentional and were facilitated by humans. Larson also suggested that the militaristic language is not representing the conservation efforts well and doen’t inform the public adequately about the solutions (Larson, 2005).
In my literature review, “The possible affects of bloody red shrimp in the Great Lakes”, I use militaristic language to describe how the problems of the invasion and how important it is to control the shrimp. I believe that this a very effective way to inform people of the problems and to get them to take action. This tactic is useful because it is designed to capture the public attention. Once the attention is on the issue of invasive species, planning can take place on how this problem can be controlled.
Larson (2005) argues that using militaristic language is not effective when discussing the problems that invasive species create. Using militaristic language takes attention away from what is really causing the problem. It pits humans against invasive species when humans are the main cause of invasive species distribution. This type of language can also discourage people from supporting conservation efforts and may have an opposite effect than the one intended on the people reading it. Larson(2005) advocates languagae that acknowledges the role humans play in the spread of invasive species and helps raise questions to analyze what we can change to lessen the effects of invasive species. I titled one of my blog posts “Termite Attack” King (2010). This was the title for my SW2 where I talked about how subterranean termites were a problem in New Orleans, Louisiana. I felt the word attack was appropriate because the termites are literally attacking the wood structures in New Orleans. They have become a permanent threat and because of them the people of New Orleans can no longer trust the strength of their houses.
The one argument that Larson (2005) presents that I agree with is that militaristic language distracts from the fact that how human interactions with the environment are how invasive species spread. For example ballast water carries hundreds of species across the globe from their habitats to foreign environments everyday. The only way to make progress on the issue is to recognize how people contribute to the spread of invasive species and then investigating what can be done to change how humans add to the problem.
Larson, B.M.H. 2005. The war of the roses:demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
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
According to Larson (2005), the use of militaristic language in various articles concerning invasive species is quite counterproductive. Generally, most articles are written to inspire action by the public or anyone in a position to help the cause. While in the course of motivating people, many authors rely on militaristic diction to communicate urgency and importance regarding an invasive species. Larson (2005) warns that these attitudes may do more harm than help by perpetuating xenophobia, wrong perceptions of what invasive species really are and the use of militaristic tactics of dealing with these species. In one example, he mentions the attitude of natives who feel that the “attacking” these invaders draws many parallels to the number of foreigners who have entered their respective countries. It seems ironic that people who have assimilated into other nations are would be so adamant about restricting that which is foreign.
I agree with Larson (2005) that the wrong ideas are presented about invasive species. It doesn’t make sense to basically “declare war” on a species that we brought here ourselves. In my own blog post, entitled, “Invaders of Lake Victoria, Uganda,” I used militaristic metaphors when referring to the interaction between hyacinth, the South American weevil, and Lake Victoria. One quote stood out in particular, ” Ogwang decided to import the weevil in hopes that it could quell the takeover of Lake Victoria.” I agree that the language I used in this sentence is very suggestive in promoting a message of war. This is a bit excessive considering that the whole mission in Lake Victoria was to simply get the water hyacinth under control as opposed to completely eradicating it. In the future, a modification of the diction used when referring to invasive species should be sufficient in preventing misconceptions of invasive species.
Larson, Brendon M. H. “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology,” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2005; 3(9): 495–500
Brendon MH Larson’s article discusses the use of combative language when describing invasion biology. He claims in his paper that the militaristic metaphors used do not promote effective and appropriate responses to invasive species. Instead, such language leads to readers misunderstanding the invasive species, increase xenophobia, and promote militaristic thoughts towards the species rather than approaching the issue scientifically. He believes that aggressive language will promote short-term results but in the long term, it will not result in success in ecosystem conservation (Larsen 2005).
An example of such language can been seen in a British news site article on invading species that were colonizing Britain. Right away, the title uses the militaristic phrase, “Invasion of the aliens,” followed by, “colonising Britain.” (Clay-Jones and Bignell 2008) From the title, a person’s first impression would be that something foreign is taking over and living in Britain and that such an invader should be kicked out as soon as possible. The opening paragraph then states that the “poisonous false widow spider are booming and expanding as never before,” (Clay-Jones and Bignell 2008) which makes the reader think about alien poisonous spiders taking over a country, leaving a very misleading impression. Such an opening approach isolates the species from the reader’s world, making them feel as though the animals came from a different planet and must be stopped before the aliens take over the world.
While describing the spiders as dangerous is not bad, giving such a strong impression of them being alien invaders that must be stopped is a strong misinterpretation. Misunderstanding species in invasion biology may motivate the population into action faster by scaring them, but effective ecosystem conservation requires society to properly understand the species and approach the situation without unreasonable xenophobia clouding people’s judgment.
Clay-Jones, Megan, and Paul Bignell. “Invasion of the Aliens: The Exotic Species That Are Colonising Britain – Nature, Environment - The Independent.” The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide News | Newspaper. 31 Aug. 2008. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. <http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/invasion-of-the-aliens-the-exotic-species- that-are-colonising-britain-913932.html>.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Larson (2005) describes an argument that the use of aggressive or militaristic language is not an effective way to combat invasive species. Larson (2005) argues that the militaristic writing styles encourages the reader to want to get involved with the effort to slow the spread of invasive species. However, this usually leaves the reader misinformed or entirely uniformed about the actual situation, which can lead to rash, ineffective, and or harmful, actions being made.
In my own blog posts I have used militaristic language. When describing the issue of the water hyacinth on Lake Victoria I used lines such as, “the water hyacinth has been extremely destructive to both the species of Lake Victoria and the humans who depend upon the lake for food and water,” and later on, describing which scientific study I believe is more correct, I continue to use militaristic language, “the weevil is now the dominant force driving down the water hyacinth population. Williams et al (2007) fails to give reasoning for why, even after the 1998 El Nino, the water hyacinth population has not experienced the same expansive growth rate that it did prior to El Nino.” Specific key militaristic phrases in these quotes are, extremely destructive, dominant force driving down, and expansive growth rate. I do agree with Larson (2005) that language such as the examples above does simplify the gravity of the situation by showing only part of the picture. And for any argument to be successful, both sides of the issue must be represented.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Militaristic language is often used when discussing invasive species in many contexts, even scientific research papers. Larson (2005) argues that the use of such language shows that scientists are seeing invasive species as the enemy, and when they describe them as such, influencing their colleagues’ and readers’ perceptions as well. He has two main issues with calling the efforts against invasive species a “war”; the first being that we simply cannot face off against invasive species since most have reached their new habitats because of human actions, and the problem cannot be solved just by killing them; the second issue is that a war takes place with the assumption that good will triumph over evil, but invasive species cannot be classified as “bad” just because they are having some negative affects on new ecosystems. Larson (2005) says that loaded, militaristic language could even cause the public to lose their faith in the scientific community’s credibility if they sound like they are advocating for the “war” on invasive species. Larson (2005) suggests language that is more appropriate to the values of conservation, using example such as traditional Chinese medicine which describes disease using metaphors about balance and energy, rather than a fight. He feels that militaristic metaphors lead to militaristic action, which is quick and effective for a short time, but is not a long-term solution.
An example of the militaristic language that Larson (2005) is discussing comes from Mack et al. (2000). While discussing how invasive species may have a lag phase after they reach a new ecosystem, some populations eventually explode. They state, “This eruption often occurs rapidly, and there are many first-hand accounts of invasions that proceeded through this phase despite the concerted efforts of the public to control them” (Mack et al. 2000). This may not seem overly militaristic, but the fact that the paper repeatedly refers to invasive species as “invaders” enhances the imagery of an army of species invading a new ecosystem, even when the public attempts to take action against them.
I personally do not find the militaristic rhetoric used by many scientists discussing invasive species to be out of line. If we are putting time and energy into trying to control or eradicate invasive species that are damaging their new ecosystems, that effort can legitimately be called a fight. The term “invasive species” itself implies that the species are entering new areas with malign intents. This is obviously not true, as most are just spreading to areas that human activity takes them, but it is difficult to see them as benign while we refer to them as invaders. Perhaps Larson (2005) is right when he says that the metaphors can be taken too far, but I certainly don’t agree that they are “ineffective” because the problem of invasive species is a substantial one that we can fight against.
Mack RN, Simberloff D, Lonsdale WM, Evans H, Clout M, and Bazzaz FA. 2000. Biotic Invasions: Causes, Epidemiology, Global Consequences, and Control. Ecological Applications 10(3): 689-710.