Posts Tagged “larson”

Dr. B.M.H Larson argues that the utilization of “militaristic rhetoric” by biologist in communicating about invasive species is both “problematic” and “ineffective”. He believes that such language  undermines the conservative objectives of dealing with non-indigenous invasive species, and humans should have a more conservative philosophy in mitigating the effects of invasive species rather than a terminative philosophy. Yet despite the fact that militaristic metaphors have increased the gravity and awareness of the effects of invasive specie in our environment, he views this attention merely as a short term effect.  Larson thinks that social issues are largely the cause for the results caused by invasive species and that militaristic language actually misleads us to implement biological solutions to deal with the invasive species. In addition, he argues that militaristic language might detract from the professionalism and objectivity of scientific publications.

Larson views two principle problems with biologists using militaristic language.  First, he points out that “a war requires two opposing sides” and it’s misleading to think that they are opposing us as it was our human activities such as globalization and consumerism that transported these species to our new environment.  Second, he thinks that “wars are staged on the assumption that good will triumph over evil, but will never win this war and return ecosystems to pristine states.”

Larson makes a valid point that the “we will never return the ecosystems to pristine states”. As long as humans inhabited environments, the ecosystem would no longer have been pristine. For as humans we have shaped the environment either with advantageous and disadvantageous characteristics. As the magnitude of industrialization has increased throughout the centuries, we have continuously been modifying our ecosystems more profoundly from its initial pristine state to what it current state. Humans, I believe are more aware of the affect that they are causing on their own environment. There have been ‘disputes’ within our species as how to mitigate our own effects on our environment,  but we collectively as human beings view the effect of invasive species as a threat, because they are not of  genus  and it’s natural and instinctive that we would view them as foreigners and a threat.  In addition “we will never win the war”, as invasive species cannot be eradicated, but many of the methods, humans need to manage these invasive species does require sever actions and techniques.

In my second blog post entitled “Rapid Assessment Surveys, First Step In The Fight Against Destructive Aquatic Invasive Species”, I noted that  Dr. James  Carlton is  tracking the rising rate of destructive aquatic invasive species, for he believes that around the world, we’ve seen tremendous numbers of invasions in the last quarter of the twentieth century and these appear to be unabated as we move into the twenty-first century.” This excerpt was a commentary in response a to video documentary, which explained the effects of invasive species on our environment, how these non-invasive species were introduced to their current location, and methods being employed to ‘manage’ there effects on the environment.  I viewed this document in the early stages of this course when I had a sparse knowledge of aquatic invasive species least the gravity of the effect they had on our environment. The uses of such militaristic jargon, a subtle difference from negative language, help me contextualize the situation of non-indigenous species and our surroundings. I say that there’s a subtle difference between militaristic versus negative metaphors, because militaristic jargon doesn’t always have morbid and terminative implications. I view the use of militaristic metaphors as having more grave and systematic implications, and that Dr. Larson might be over analyzing such use of these metaphors.  I also do not agree with his argument that militaristic metaphor is responsible for the adverse and extreme measures humans take the ‘control’ invasive species. If he had at least considered other factors, he would have come to the realization that militaristic metaphors couldn’t be solely responsible for such human response. I would take into consideration if he had mentioned that militaristic metaphor played a minor role in such human actions.


Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.

May, A.J. 2011. Rapid Assessment Surveys, First Step In The Fight Against Destructive Aquatic Invasive Species (Blog Post SW2),  Writing 20- Aquatic Invasive Species, Duke University, Published 1/24/2011.

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Many papers on invasive species search for more colorful language than ‘control’ and ‘prevent’ and turn to militaristic synonyms like ‘combat’ and ‘defend’.  Larson (2005) believes that such strong, combative words can obscure the ultimate motive of invasive species control, which is not to destroy the invading species but to protect the native environment.  These words can seemingly deviate from scientific objectivity and denote an aggressive stance against the invasive species.  While those who are involved with the invasive species control will understand or at least accept the use of this language, other citizens are likely to be surprised by the perceived bias and feel sympathy for the invader.

Rayamahji et al. (2010) avoids military words for most of his essay, preferring such phrases as ‘negatively affect plant performance’ and ‘reductions in density’.  However, during the discussion the paper starts to use terms like ‘combined attack’ and ‘deployment’.  While these words could definitely have affected the tone if placed earlier in the essay, at this point the objectivity of the report is clear.  Moreover, he only uses such phrases while talking about combinations of biological control agents, where they are relatively understandable.  While using more military language would be dangerous, I think that Rayamahji’s minimal and tasteful use of such words does not harm the image of the essay.

Min Rayamahji, Ted Pratt, Paul Center, and Thai Van, 2006.  Insects and a Pathogen suppress Melaleuca Quinquinervia cut-stump regrowth in Florida.  Biological Control 53, 1-8.

Brandon Larson, 2005.  The War of the Roses: Demilitarizing Invasion Biology.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 3(9) 495-500.

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Scientists often use war metaphors to describe invasion biology and their efforts to control and prevent invasions. Larson (2005) argues that militaristic language is hurting efforts to manage invasive species because it leads to inaccurate views, social misunderstanding, xenophobia, loss of credibility, and counterproductive conservation strategies. However, his arguments do not make sense in the context of most invasive species.

For example, I have found several examples of war-like language in my own writing. In a post on miconia, a South American plant that is invading the Hawaiian Islands, I state, “Currently, over a quarter of Tahiti’s native species are threatened with extinction as a direct result of the miconia invasion” (Finn, 2011). In the post, I also use the words “takeover,” “kill,” and “eradication.” Though these words call to mind a fight against a threatening enemy, they do not exaggerate the situation. Indeed, the people of Hawaii have referred to miconia as the “purple plague” and the “green cancer.” In the context of the miconia invasion, combative language evokes an appropriate reaction to the devastating plant.

There are flaws in each of Larson’s arguments. First, he argues that militaristic language “leads to an inaccurate view of invasive species.” However, describing an invasive species in militaristic terms does not prevent a nuanced understanding of invasive species, including their potential benefits and connections to humans that caused the invasion. Contrary to Larson’s assumptions, a militaristic approach to fixing the problem of invasive species does not preclude the placement of blame on humans. In fact, painting over invasive species with a kinder brush could lead to a misconception that invasive species are a natural part of human life and cannot be avoided.

Second, Larson claims that militaristic language “contributes to social misunderstanding, charges of xenophobia, and loss of scientific credibility.” In reality, most references to invasive species are in regards to a particular species, rather than to invasive species in general (Bossenbroek et al., 2005). Beneficial species are usually not referred to with unnecessary militaristic language. Therefore, as long as readers do not generalize specific cases to the whole field of invasive species, there should be no harm in using militaristic language if the situation merits it. Additionally, for legitimate articles, charges of xenophobia stem from reader, not the scientists. Good scientific articles reference only the invasive species in question, not irrelevant information from that species’ home. It is illogical for a reader to assume an article is attacking the people from a specific location when, in reality, it targets a harmful species. Larson also argues that the war metaphor could lead to a loss of scientific credibility if it is not used discriminatingly. In any scientific pursuit, a statement that is applied incorrectly could cause the field to lose credibility. As long as invasive species remain a significant threat, the appropriate use of forceful language should not cause a loss of credibility.

Finally, he argues that combative language “reinforces the militaristic patterns of thought that are counterproductive for conservation.” Larson claims militaristic language creates a larger association between invasion biology and politics. This association is not necessarily counterproductive. More legislation needs to be enacted to successfully control existing invaders and to prevent future invasions. Furthermore, Larson’s examples demonstrating “polarization” with regards to invasive species reference opposition to control methods. Control methods often have opponents, but this opposition should not be blamed on the language in the literature.

Alternative language to war metaphors could understate the great damage that invasive species are capable of, thereby decreasing efforts to control and prevent their spread. We cannot afford to passively accept the presence of invasive species.  Combative language may be the only way to effectively convey the gravity of some biological invasions and the need to prevent and fight their spread.

Bossenbroek, J.M., McNukty, J., and R.P. Keller. 2005. Can ecologists heat up the discussion on invasive species risk? Risk Analysis 25: 1595-1597.

Finn, C.B. 2011. Miconia: the purple plague. <>

Larson, B.M.H 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Fronteirs in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.

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All too often do we see reports on invasive specie control using militaristic words like “kill” and “destroy,” but is that a real concern to us? Larson (2005) believes that scientific commentary and its destructive word choice have labeled invasive species as nuisances that must be dealt with immediately.  Thus, such literature has inaccurately led the public to view species containment as a “final solution” scenario where all of the species can be eradicated with the introduction of a single invader. Specie control, Larson argues, cannot be a one-step “bomb” where an invader is simply introduced and the problem is killed; Adaptive ecosystems require cyclical, rational solutions for the invaders to go away.  He believes the public should view invasive species from a Greek perspective as symbionts we live with, not as immediate threats to our survival. This mindset involves humans taking responsibility for the introduction of invasive species and then working at limiting the future spread of these organisms.

In SW3, when discussing the water Hyacinth invasion, I had written: “Weevils did their job, trying to destroy as many plants as possible, but failed to flush away the plants without El Nino patterns”.  The metaphors I used in my blog were there to spark interest in the reader, not to imply anything negative about the Hyacinth or the weevils. When referencing bio-control, the introduced predator is a killer, and its’ actions should be portrayed as aggressive.

Having looked at my own “military” metaphors, I think Larson is overreacting about the implications of words used in popular science journals. Contrary to his belief,i think the general public should see invasive species as a terminal threat, so they’ll be encouraged to support monitoring programs and volunteer efforts. The destructive solutions to species invasions are not driven by military metaphors; they are driven by our narrow-minded  understanding of complex ecosystems.  We try the most aggressive, yet simple techniques because there are too many factors in an ecosystem to formulate a well-planned, multi-step solution for a species, not because we’ve been brainwashed to love war by science-journal writers. I wonder what Larson has to say about his own use of the commonly accepted term “invasive” species, is that not a militaristic analogy? If the term was “non-native,” the reader could assume either positive or negative consequences of its’ introduction on the new ecosystem. But by labeling non-natives as “invasive,” readers view them as insurgents that need to be suppressed immediately.

I find it hard to agree with Larson’s statements in this article. He admits that readers need to be pulled into a story through provocative and militaristic words, but then worries that too much military opposition for a species is a problem. Invasive species control needs to be viewed as a necessity, and the only way to do that is through relatable military terminology.

Larson, B.M.H. 2005. The war of roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500

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Militaristic language is a common tool in describing aquatic invasive species. Although it is memorable and understandable for the public, Larson (2005) argues that militaristic language is inaccurate, inconsistent, and lacks scientific credibility.

In addition, Larson (2005) has two main complaints about militaristic language. First, this language produces war-like imagery. Two opposing sides are created, yet Larson (2205) argues that humans can not “fight” against invasive species due to their entanglement with the invaders. Second, Larson (2005) believes that the ecosystems, will never be restored to their original. Therefore, good will never triumph over evil like it does in a war.

Although, militaristic language has brought attention to invasive species recently, in the long term this language will hurt the efforts to control these species. For example, Larson(2005) fears that militaristic language will have the opposite effect on its readers. The “boomerang effect” as he refers to it may infer that invasive species have a lesser, better impact than they actually do. Moreover Larson(2205) proposes the question, what if this language, leads to an actual war, like it has in the past?

Changing war metaphors to disease metaphors is one solution Larson (2005) offers.  He also suggests that we can live with these animals harmoniously. Therefore, we should start thinking of them in such a way, rather than invaders. Lastly, we can compare cultures and model our restoration after theirs.

Personally, in looking back on my own writings on aquatic invasive species, I have come across militaristic language. For example, in my evaluation of the invasive species, water hyacinth, I used militaristic language to describe bio-control. “This process involved introducing a foreign organism, as an enemy of an existing organism, in hopes of getting rid of that existing organism,” (Thomas 2011). I go on to state that the weevils, brought in via bio-control, were “natural enemies” of the water hyacinth. I also use militaristic words such as resurgence and destruction  in this paper(Thomas 2011).

I found it difficult in this assignment to not use militaristic language even though I was writing on its supposed inaccuracy and inconsistency. I don’t know if it is because we are so use to the militaristic approach that we automatically think ” to battle invasive species”, or if it is because it is indeed a worthy way of referring to invasive species, that our desire to use militaristic language is so high. I personally think that there is no problem with the language if it is conveying to the public the problem of invasive species even if it is a bit inaccurate. I know for me, not knowing anything about aquatic invasive species before taking this class, that it has helped me understand the potential problem we have on our hands. Never did I assume that we could restore ecosystems to their original form nor did I  mis-read the information given and believe that invasive species were a positive attribution like Larson (2005) fears. I feel as if Larson (2005) was in the mood to criticize something when he was writing this paper, rather than it actually being a problem.

Larson, B.M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-

Thomas, M. 2011. A Love Story: Water Hyacinth.

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In the developing field of invasion ecology, biologists often embellish their writing with militaristic vocabulary. In an effort to use rhetoric to draw attention to invasive species issues and develop awareness of the problems that invasive species pose, scientists liken control, management, and description of invaders to war, battles, and enemies. While this aggressive approach to writing literature on the topic does not communicate literal meaning, it reflects the way in which the topic is conceptualized. Larson (2005) argues that this form of rhetoric does not serve a constructive purpose in scientific literature on invasive species. In his opinion, military language does the communicate accurate thoughts and ideas associated with this branch of ecology. He claims that by making the control of invasive species into a war, the implication is that there are two sides, the humans and the invaders. Such a view misleads the reader according to Larson because as coexisting organisms within the same overall environment, humans and invaders are linked in the sense that it is our behaviors as consumers that bring on the invasions. Furthermore, Larson believes that wars are established on the basis of a fight between good and evil, but that metaphor does not equate to invasive species issues because the invasive species problem is one that cannot be definitively solved forever. As we move about the world and continue to use the resources of the earth we will continually introduce foreign species to new environments. Finally, Larson argues that militaristic language causes the scientific community to lose credibility, and possibly also initiates a “boomerang effect” in which the rhetoric leads to disinterest in the invasion topic instead of building support for it.

In my own writing I have come across examples of militaristic language synonymous with what Larson describes. In a post on termite damage in New Orleans I wrote, “Claudia Riegel‘s efforts to combat the termite issue have reached the point of just containment. The termite infestation has spread so quickly and vigorously that eradication of the termite population in New Orleans is probably out of the question” (Potts 2011). The approach I took in description of the problem was very warlike, using words like “combat”, “containment”, and “eradication” (Potts 2011). This is exactly the type of language that Larson claims is a problem.

In reading Larson’s commentary I understand his concerns and see how some of his claims do make sense. Using language that does not literally describe the invasion situation can be somewhat inaccurate. However, I believe that Larson is being extremely nit-picky. In my opinion, using militaristic language to draw attention to the invasive species problem is an effective method of rhetorical practice. Likening an otherwise confusing or unknown conundrum to things with which the public community and even the scientific community can identify brings attention to the work that invasion ecologists are trying to present. Personally, I do see many parts of invasive species issues as having war-like qualities such as managing an out of control outbreak of invasive and destructive plant. While there is a point to which the combative language can go overboard, in moderation I feel that it serves as an effective method of appealing to a broad audience.

Larson, B.M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.

Potts, M. 2011. Carpentry Malpractice. .

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