August 9, 2014

"The uprooting of invasive 'non-natives' such as the Japanese knotweed is of course not necessarily motivated by racist intent."

"Yet accounts of alien immigrant invasions, weak native hosts bedevilled by larger, more aggressive, rapidly reproducing foreign species, and stable sustainable environments upset and jeopardised by overpopulation, clearly demonstrate a language that is shared in descriptions of human and nonhuman life."
When global economic and environmental crises reveal the fragility of the nation state, I suggest that a defence of British nature – expressed, for example, when the “native” red squirrel is described as being “driven out by the relentless northern march of the greys” – can become the site of displaced nationalist sentiments. 
That's from the sociologist Ben Pitcher, whom we were just talking about a few days ago under the post heading "Is it racist — or uncomfortably racist-like — to express hostility to non-native plants?"

31 comments:

traditionalguy said...

But did he also uproot the chrysanthemums? That would be racist.

rhhardin said...

Nipped in the bud.

raf said...

If you look for racism, you will find it

Fernandinande said...

...is of course not necessarily motivated by racist intent."
Yet ..."
I will imply that it is.

Strange but true: most goofy people are NOT sociologists.

Paco Wové said...

I see Mr. Pitcher is having his 15 minutes of fame now.

Revenant said...

If reality sounds racist, ignore reality?

Anglelyne said...

These little pomo excursions are all very amusing and great stuff if you're a bunch of undergraduates with a bottle of tequila that isn't going to drink itself.

Pitcher is an academic tool, peddling a very stale product - still sneeringly dismissing dissenters from the multi-cult as "little Englanders", wetting his pants over "nationalism" (as if they word had one meaning - Nazis!), and straw-manning the crap out of notions of "purity" and Platonic categories of kind that nobody holds. Writes itself and sells books to students of "media studies" and American professors.

Meanwhile, issues of national and cultural identity, and problems with immigration, some of them potentially explosive (especially in Europe), remain. They will not be addressed by yet another decade of psycho-analyzing the ignorant indigenes for the sources and cryptic manifestations of their wrongthink.

Roger Sweeny said...

He is on to something but he has it backwards. Everyone knows that it is hideously improper to say, "we must keep out foreigners, lest they hurt British civilization." Nor is it good manners to say, "British culture is worth defending."

Yet everyone has a certain non-political conservatism, a desire to retain things that one is used to and feels comfortable with. Being against "invasive species" is a way of expressing that feeling in a way that doesn't take you out of the fraternity of right-thinking people.

You will not vote for candidates that promise to limit immigration. You will vote for candidates who promise to save ecosystems. Unlike "saving native culture," "saving native ecosystems" does not make you a person of the right. You can be a person of the left.

HT said...

So what's the converse of that Roger? We should be ok with pythons and Mexican petunias proliferating in the Everglades? Why not cobras? What the heck right? We have moccasins, what's one more venomous variety. The real dumbasses in my opinion are the people who continue to not just plant invasive species, but who BUY them. As a gardener, they're no fun to deal with, and deal with them we must. Of course, there are native invasives too. But I guess we can't flame/fling and sort ourselves out into warring camps on that one - well, not as easily.

Yall have fun entertaining yourselves by calling ecologists racists. Get in on the PC talk, sure. Meanwhile, the gardeners keep on going.

ddh said...

Anyone who thinks talking about native red squirrels being displaced by nonnative gray squirrels is xenophobic is more than a bit, um, squirrelly, if he is serious. If Prof. Pitcher doesn't watch his language, next thing you know he'll be saying that environmentalists are reactionary in their opposition to evolution.

That raises a question: If the sociologists take on the environmentalists, which side would the gender studies people take?

Original Mike said...

Why do we need sociologists?

ddh said...

We need sociologists to keep the anthropologists from overrunning the environment, like gray squirrels and kudzu.

John Lynch said...

It's a bad thing when sociology intrudes on reality.

A troubling feature of social science is when it identifies a stereotype but won't ask if it's true. The mere existence of a stereotype is enough to discredit it.

But what if it is true? What if invasive species really do wipe out native species? Then what?

wildswan said...

Historically Pitcher is right in that historically there is a link between "master race" ideologues like Madison Grant and conservation. But it is a link through a trajectory of development, not a necessary link. You could be for conservation even in the heyday of Madison Grant in the Twenties without accepting his views on race and immigration. It isn't necessary to follow the whole arc of development which he and other eugenicists followed - from game conservation to conservation to wildlife refuges to culling wildlife refuges to establishing North America as Nordic race refuge through immigration restriction to culling the inhabitants of the United States or elsewhere.

Madison Grant wrote "The Passing of the Great Race" which was about how the "Great Race", the Nordics, were being displaced in the United States by the Alpines and other Mediterranean races through immigration. But Grant was also extremely important in getting the conservation movement going in the US - he was a master organizer. We owe the system of forest reserves and nature reserves to those he organized. We should know that it is a fact that people who work on conservation issues have often then moved toward racism and immigration restriction for racist reasons. Something about preserving a race, species or variety of animals or plants turns into a conviction that there are human races, species or varieties and they also must be conserved - at least some of them. Hitler was great fan of Madison Grant - that's a fact.

I'm always pointing out the African-American birthrate is below replacement level and yet the Federal government and Planned Parenthood are trying increase contraceptive usage in that group which will accelerate its elimination. That's wrong. But you will never hear a conservation group opposing anything Planned Parenthood wants and that's because the conservation groups have haven't really shaken off the legacy of Madison Grant - they are racist in orientation still in the exact way described by critical race theory (a theory I do not support in general but which has reasons for being and points to make.)

Sum it up:
The members of the conservation movement are not racists (mostly) but the movement was founded by racists and has retained a bias and so there is a sort of stifled inner contradiction between the movement as it is and its members as they are.

PS
There is a great book on Madison Grant and the conservation movement which just came out called Defending the Master Race and anyone curious about where my information is coming from can get this book on Kindle (through the Althouse Amazon portal naturally) and The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant is online for free.

Eustace Chilke said...

There is a portion of humanity, nearly all found in the west at this time, that has seceded from... I want to say society but it's reality that I'm thinking of. They talk as though they've taken reality with them instead of leaving it behind. This is the danger those in a societal niche so artificial that nothing one does matters in real terms should guard against. Failing that (and it always fails) those of us who still toil on planet Earth would be glad of safeguards against the mischief that the disconnected intellectuals who mainly represent the secessionists get up to. The usual remedy is a crash landing following the discovery that some lunatics have been attempting to steer without reference to reality for too long. Stuff that really matters will always intrude on the blithe maunderings of a loon eventually.

Quaestor said...

Pitcher is engaging in a bit of misdirection when he leads one to think his complaint is about squirrels and "displaced nationalist sentiments." It's about nationalist sentiments, period.

The English, never mind English squirrels, are being driving out of their native habitat not by an invasive species, but by members of an invasive culture. The English have begun to notice, and many don't like it. Pitcher's sleight of hand is battle space preparation.

The Left is really peculiar. If an ordinary believing Christian of Anglo-Saxon origin were to speak of women and gays in the same terms as would an ordinary believing Muslim, the Left would metaphorically crucify the Christian, yet have nothing to say about the Muslim. The society the Left has built in Britain over the last 90 years or so of Labour dominance is in grave peril from essentially foreign cultural influences. Yet who is censured by the Left? It's not the people who promulgate the foreign influence, is it? One would think they don't give a fig for equality for women or the right of homosexuals to be homosexual.

David said...

Kudzu is our friend!

Anonymous said...

They need to rename kudzu "redneck vine" so it'll become OK to speak ill of it.

Original Mike said...

Here's how New Zealand deals with their invasive rabbit population.

Straightforward and effective.

Fernandinande said...

wildswan said...
I'm always pointing out the African-American birthrate is below replacement level and yet the Federal government and Planned Parenthood are trying increase contraceptive usage in that group which will accelerate its elimination.


Do you also point out that the US black fertility rate is higher than that of whites or Asians?

Do you really believe that Planned Parenthood treats blacks differently than everyone else? If so, how about some evidence?

That's wrong.

Yes, your statement above is misleading as well as factually incorrect, since black fertility, at 2.1, is not below replacement level.

Mountain Maven said...

"That raises a question: If the sociologists take on the environmentalists, which side would the gender studies people take?"

Reminds me of a comment about the Iran-Iraq war: "Too bad they both can't lose." Of course both did as there were over 1,000,000 fatalities.

Quaestor said...

Mountain Maven wrote: Reminds me of a comment about the Iran-Iraq war: "Too bad they both can't lose." Of course both did as there were over 1,000,000 fatalities.

War isn't a sporting contest. Nor is it a game that's scored by who kills the most of whom. Saddam attacked Iran hoping to annex some oil-rich territory by exploiting what he perceived as chaos within Iran, and general hostility to the Ayatollah's regime without. The Persians can't stop me, and the American's won't stop me, he reasoned. He was wrong. Though the American's didn't intervene effectively, as Saddam surmised, the Iranians proved to be much more united, and much more willing to take casualties than the Iraqis were. Saddam lost. Iran won.

Roger Sweeny said...

I'm not saying ecologists are racists. And, of course, sometimes non-native species wipe out native species.

I AM saying that the desire to "protect native ecosystems" or "protect native species" by keeping out foreign species is psychologically similar to the desire to "protect our way of life" by keeping out foreign people.

The moral questions raised are also similar. There is nothing inherently bad about foreign species. So what if English sparrows aren't native to the western hemisphere. In some cases, letting in foreign species may results lots of us think are bad. Emerald ash borers can kill an awful lot of North American trees. I would like to keep them out (though it may not be possible) because of that, not because they come from somewhere else.

There is nothing inherently bad about foreigners. But letting them in will change things. Some people won't like the changes caused by some foreigners.

HT said...

"I AM saying that the desire to "protect native ecosystems" or "protect native species" by keeping out foreign species is psychologically similar to the desire to "protect our way of life" by keeping out foreign people."

You'll just have to fill that in for me a little bit more there. Feel free to use me as an example.

There ARE for lack of a better word ecosystems that are, as far as I understand, threatened by invasive species, and THEY ARE NOT ALL IN THE UNITED STATES. As just a little ole gardener, there are invasives I deal with a lot. I root them out. Am I a racist? Is the fact that I think about them from time to time and consider them a pain undergirding this psychology?

Not all foreign plants are invasive and I don't work only with native plants. But there are extremely good reasons for doing so, that make sense from A to Z. It's about connections and how one thing leads to another. I mean, I understand that the word "invasive" can be flash point-y for some people, but that's just the sound of it. Is that all we're talking about here?

HT said...

Or use discussion of the eastern hemolock or American elm as examples.

Roger Sweeny said...

"There ARE for lack of a better word ecosystems that are, as far as I understand, threatened by invasive species, and THEY ARE NOT ALL IN THE UNITED STATES."

That is a scientific statement but it is phrased in a way that is conservative in a non-political way. "Threatened" is much more emotional than, say, "irrevocably changed." It implies that the change is a bad thing.

Even the word "ecosystem" nowadays has an emotional, positive weight. To lots of people, an "ecosystem" is some sort of super-organism that nature maintains in a wonderful state of timeless balance that humans then screw up. But this is scientifically untrue.

And, even if it were, science can't give you an "ought" from an "is." Saying, "I want chestnuts and elms in America" is a moral or aesthetic judgment. Forests did not disappear when most of them were gone. They changed. As they will survive and change if other trees are destroyed by "invaders."

To a large extent, we like what we are used to. In polite company, it is okay to feel and express that when it comes to plants and animals. If plants and animals make changes, it is okay to value those changes as bad. It is not okay to feel and express that when it comes to people.

Roger Sweeny said...

I'm not sure that was responsive. Certainly, I didn't touch on the NOT ALL IN THE UNITED STATES part.

Saying, "I want to save ecosystems all over the world from invasive species" would be similar to, "I have nothing against foreigners, as long as they stay where they belong. We shouldn't destroy their culture over there and they shouldn't destroy our culture over here."

It is not impolite to speak of any introduction of a new species as "degrading an ecosystem." It is very impolite of speak of the immigration of a new person as "degrading a culture." But, of course, they are both just changes. Degradation puts a moral value on the change.

HT said...

So have fun with this one, Roger. A good way to deal with invasives is to eat them. They say once anything becomes prized, it becomes not as easy to get. An example might be Chinese yams.

http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/chinese-yam

And also --
http://www.eattheweeds.com/yam-c-the-chinese/

"The water extract possessed high antioxidative activity and scavenging activities against superoxide anion and hydroxyl radicals. However, it showed no inhibitory activity against angiotensin I-converting enzyme. The yam tuber contains relatively high contents of vitamins, different micro- and macroelements, enzymes, and dietary fibers. The yam D. opposita tuber will be increasingly regarded as a health-promoting food.”"

I hope I have everything correct.

Well, anyway, thanks for the replies, but we just disagree. I understand the temptation and fun in making parallels, psychological parallels, as there are hot button words being used, but I think they're facile, and I actually think it degrades the seriousness of discussions and thought about plants and ecosystems, as well as immigration.

Roger Sweeny said...

I don't mean to degrade the seriousness. My serious point is:

Change is morally neutral. Depending on your moral views, some changes are good and some changes are bad. Adding something new can have good effects or bad effects.

However, among educated people, it is the default that adding non-native species is bad and should be resisted. For the same people, it is the default that adding non-native people is not a bad thing and should not be resisted.

I think both defaults are facile and "degrade[s] the seriousness of discussions and thought about plants and ecosystems, as well as immigration."

HT said...

"However, among educated people, it is the default that adding non-native species is bad and should be resisted. For the same people, it is the default that adding non-native people is not a bad thing and should not be resisted."

If the educated saw it as a problem, then why is it now such a problem? I mean, some educated people such as yourself do not see it as a problem, and some do. I have very strong disagreements with other educated gardeners on this. Maybe I'm taking this too far and you just mean the 'trend' now or the consensus now. For, had they really thought it a problem, then we would not have whole swaths of land taken over by um, invasives. (Sorry) And again, the one word you left out was invasives. There is nothing wrong with non native plants if they don't take over. There's nothing wrong with native plants if they don't take over either (pokeweed i'm looking at you).

Again, you say "for the same people" - so you think that the people who do not like non native invasives do not like immigrants. You just come right out and say it. That is just not true. There are close close close family members of mine who are non native - some might say i myself am a half breed. I wouldn't. But I am not one hunnerd percent American. Well I am but technically I suppose I'm not.

HT said...

I made a mistake in reading your post. You say for the same people adding non native people (that's all of us pretty much) should NOT be resisted. My mistake.

I am totally scrambled now, none of it makes sense, and I think I'll just bow out.