By Caitlin Douglas
In a BBC News article, Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environmental Programme, urges countries to take up arms against alien invasions. He maintains that, for too long, invasive species have been given an easy ride and wants to see countries take a tough approach to non-native plants and animals.
In contrast, Stephen Trudgill, writing in Area, recommends the use of neutral terminology rather than emotive words such as ‘invasive’ and ‘alien’, which imply undesirability and the need for removal. He and others have suggested that a negative attitude towards non-native species can be regarded as a form of xenophobia or ecological fascism. Trudgill urges us to accept new ecological situations rather than cling to cultural constructs of place and species.
Steiner and Trudgill appear to be referring to different endpoints on the spectrum of impacts of non-native species. Steiner discusses high-impact species which when introduced by humans have resulted in huge economic or ecosystem costs: whereas, Trudgill discusses low-impact species which have migrated to a new area due to a change in suitable environmental or climatic conditions. Trudgill even suggests that people use the term ‘refugee’ species in these instances, as this word has a more caring connotation. The suitability of the term ‘invasive’ is perhaps therefore dependent on the species’ impact rather than as a general term for all non-native species. Surely then, action against ‘invasive’ species should not be considered ecological fascism?
Read Achim Steiner’s viewpoint in BBC News
Read Stephen Trudgill’s article in Area