Gardening as racism: Native species….

Gardeners are all into ‘native’ species, by which they mean plant species that originated in the local environment. They claim two major reasons. The first, which I feel is somewhat legitimate, is that species that evolved in this ecosystem may be better adapted to it and therefore more likely to thrive and survive. This is not always true but I will return to this question a bit later.

The main reason given is that there is some intrinsic value in restoring an ecosystem to its original contents. This argument I find absurd, regressive and unscientific. Think of human populations that have migrated across this planet. What of all the intermarriage? Has this not only led to a healthier breed of humanity but also a more interesting cultural expression of humanity? Would anyone suggest we isolate and maintain current genetic strains and populations of humans?

Why would we apply different standards to the rest of the biological world? The same gardeners cum ecologists, in complete contradiction to their rhetoric, act as if humanity is separate from nature and not part of it. That is not to excuse all actions of humans as natural because we evolved on planet Earth. Let me deal quickly with that canard. While I believe we are definitely a natural and normal part of the biosphere, I also feel our intelligence, and the resultant technology we have developed, as well as our ability to plan ahead do indeed makes us a special case even though we remain an integral part of the natural biosphere.

What I am saying here is that to limit new plantings in City parks, as many people demand, to native species, is really a kind of ecological racism. I find it theoretically repugnant. After all, gardening is all about imposing human control over nature anyway. There really is no better example of human domination (fascism, if you will) than gardening. So what is the big deal with adding a few different and interesting species to the list. Why the conservatism of the environmentalist groups?

As for the contention that native species are better adapted to the local environment, well… new research disputes that claim. It appears that ‘invasive’ species are often very well adapted and, further, that they add to the local ecosystem to help ensure survival of current inhabitants  (New Scientist, Issue 2727).

The ‘nativist’ attitude is unscientific, ignorant of historic fact and, certainly for those who call themselves gardeners, self deluding. And it isn’t healthy for our environment either.


2 Comments to “Gardening as racism: Native species….”

  1. Mmmmmmmm I don’t agree with your ‘assessment’ of native species and certainly Disagree with the introduction of any aggressive and invasive species into any part of the worlds environment.

    At least in farm and ranch country, you can find yourself in court and financially responsible for the removal of a damaging, invasive plant or animal species you have deliberately introduced into the local environment.
    Happy gardening

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree that some species are aggressive and destructive…whether native or introduced. I certainly am not pushing the introduction of non native species, simply decrying the antagonism toward them.
      Gardening is all about hybridization, control and generally messing with nature.
      Then we get all excited about a non native species.
      By the way, many non native species have been shown to increase diversity and improve a local ecology. Many biologists are looking afresh at the issue.

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