A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.
Invasive species invade ecosystems and threatening native plants and animals. Trade and travel vessels bring invasive foreign species across oceans to foreign landscapes. Beyond the War on Invasive Species, by Tao Orion, presents permaculture as a combatant against the view on the relevant environmental issue of invasive species. As a permaculture designer at a nonprofit sustainable-living facility, Tao Orion teaches sustainable land-use for ecosystem restoration. Although invasive species have negative impacts on the ecosystems, the methods taken to control these foreign species are more detrimental to the ecosystems than the species themselves.
Orion takes on a permaculture approach to dealing with invasive species, by noting the overall systems and patterns of different animals and plants in an ecosystem. Nature works in a complex system of checks and balances that makes up the food chain, when a new foreign species is introduced to a food chain it can have detrimental effects to the native organisms. Humans possess the desire to take control over the natural world, but Orion explains that nature is to be worked with, not against. Orion advocates for a tactic of restoration through permaculture. The first tactic looks at the environment through a macro scope, “permaculture starts with the big picture”(Orion, 183). The environment has a series of integrated systems; one needs to be aware of all the systems in play when attempting to take on the task of invasive species. The second tactic is “to find as much information as possible about the site, region, watershed, and so on”(Orion,184). Research is a key component where as the ecosystem is constantly changing and knowledge is the backbone to gaining public interest and support. The final tactic is to establish a plan, identify long term goals and use biological resources to gain knowledge about the ecosystems in the environment.
Humans have attempted to tame nature since the beginning of colonization, even though humans have been a major contributing factor to the introduction of these species. Several studies in the book depict the effects of these species on the food chain of other native species. “Over time, concern over these species has increased, and the focus of managing invasive species has moved from import limitations, fines, and penalties to herbicide-based eradication control measures- a change in focus likely influenced by business interests”(Orion, 17). We have attempted to take control of an ecosystem by using pesticides to eliminate foreign species.
In most cases, the chemicals used to control the species are more harmful then helpful to the native plants and animals. A particularly interesting example from the book, The wetlands of Washington states’s Willapa Bay have become overgrown with the invasive shore grass, spartina. Spartina overgrowth threaten the import and growth of the nonnative species of oysters in the mudflats. “Oyster farmers routinely apply the insecticide carbaryl to kill native invertebrates species like ghost shrimp and mud shrimp, which burrow in and around the seed oysters, covering them with sediment and suffocating them.” Orion wrote, “The EPA classifies carbaryl as highly toxic to salmoinds, crabs, stoneflies and water fleas. One study shows that carbaryl is highly toxic to mudflat-dwelling clams and snails” (Orion, 52). An attempt to develop the oyster business has adverse effects on the lower level animals on the food chain. Pesticides only have one role in the environment, to eradicate animals and plants. (opinion on her writing… empowering)
Orion’s book informs the reader about sustainable efforts to ecosystem restoration.
Orion states, “Restoration projects must design and implement plans that take the full picture of ecological health into consideration. Otherwise, restoration is no better than conventional agriculture- using the same tools (pesticides) and based on the same mindset (necessity to control an apparently recalcitrant nature)” (Orion, 43). This shows that when considering invasive species one must take into account the entirety of an ecosystem, rather than trying to control nature people need to work with nature. The natural world has systems in place that allow some animals to flourish in an environment and others must adapt to the changing climate, or let natural selection run its course. “Current projections indicate that up to 37 percent of existing species may be ‘commited to extinction’ by 2050 due to the effects of climate change.” Orion states “The past twelve thousand years have been relatively stable climatically, allowing for the development of agriculture and complex civilizations, but it’s come at a cost: massive amounts of carbon released from the soil through tillage-based agriculture and forest clearing, as well as the combustion of accent carbon stores in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas”(Orion, 103). Orion takes on a world view to the efforts of controlling invasive species. She believes the best way to deal with invasive species is to look at the ecosystem as a whole and determine what roles each organism plays in the grand scene of the environment, which is permaculture. But how do we implement permaculture?
All in all, this book presents an eye opening account focusing on the ways that that people respond to invasive organisms. The environment is a system of small ecosystems working together to exist and flourish in nature. People rather than trying to control nature, would be much more successful at dealing with invasive plants and animals if they attempted to work with the ecosystem. Tao Orion is an author whose words are so rich and colorful that they bring you into the systems that exist in nature.
Tricia Gerbis is a student at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.