We are an invasive species.
I love wisteria. Should I pull it all out? It’s invasive, grows maniacally fast, and strangles the trees. But have you smelled the flowers? They are heavenly. One of the first things I remember about moving to my new city is how magical everything looked, draped in purple wisteria blossoms. Spring was a gentle riot, and the wisteria got it started.
Burmese pythons are hunted in competitions each year in Florida. Kept as pets, they escaped or were let loose especially after a major hurricane in 1992. Now, the pythons are eating their way through the swamps and threatening the fragile ecosystem of the Everglades. They are enormous and gorgeous. Since their population became a real problem, the stats are shocking. “In a 2012 study, populations of raccoons had dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.” according to the U.S. Geological Survey.”
Invasive species do a lot of damage. Birds, trees, and wildlife of all kinds struggle to compete with hardy, fast-growing, and ravenous outsiders. Organizations that promote conservation advise us to rip out all non-native plants. You can’t get their “certified” seal of approval unless you do. But we are the most invasive of species.
Sometimes, invasive species are introduced accidentally, but humans also have a long history of marching into places, importing our livestock and unleashing our pets, planting whatever we want, and adding or subtracting substances to the environment to suit our needs. Too many rats or snakes? Import the mongooses! Too many weeds? Spray on some Round-Up! We killed the predators who kept the balance in the ecosystem. Through monoculture in agribusiness and the heavy use of pesticides, we destroyed species that keep the insect populations in check. We indulged our desire for pretty new plants and exotic pets. Climate change is also playing a role.
The beautifully complex and highly functioning system we are part of is not about simple add and subtract equations. If we become better neighbors to the human and non-human beings around us, we may find our place within existing ecosystems without such brutal interventions.
©2023 Mara Bishop