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Celebrating the first anniversary of the Million Trees blog

May 6, 2011

We are celebrating the anniversary of our first year of the Million Trees blog by reporting our progress and what we have learned. 

Our readership has grown steadily in the past year, particularly in 2011.  Daily visits have increased 200% since December 2010.

Of our 50 pages and posts, the three most popular posts, in descending order of visits, are presently:

A more recent post “The Living Roof:  A failed experiment in native plant gardening” is in fourth place, but gaining ground quickly.  There is apparently considerable interest in the green roof on the California Academy of Sciences.

We have had over 200 comments from readers, most in support of our perspective on the native plant movement, but many critical of our approach to this issue.  We have posted most, but not all of the critical comments. 

This comment is typical of those few that we chose not to post:  “This entire website is essentially just a cesspool of misinformation.”  We responded to that reader:  “If you would be more specific, we might post your comment.  You should also cite your sources as we do on Million Trees.  At the moment, your comment contains no information.”  He did not respond, so we did not post his comment.

Most native plant advocates who post comments are more specific, but they have never provided references for the generalizations that are the underpinnings of the native plant movement, such as:

  • Native grassland stores more carbon than forests (Since carbon storage is proportional to biomass, this is a physical impossibility.)
  • Native plants produce:  “Better soil function resulting in improved air quality and hydrology and pollination”  (We have seen no scientific evidence to support any of these claims.)
  • Wildlife prefers native plants (Most wildlife has adapted to non-native plants and is sometimes dependent upon them)

We responded to these comments with scientific references that contradict these claims and we invited the authors to provide us with scientific references that support their view.  We did not receive any replies to these requests for information about the sources of their statements. 

In one case, we had a long email dialogue with a native plant advocate who filled pages with such generalizations.  We repeatedly asked him to cite his sources.  Finally he sent us a 12 page bibliography, none of which he claimed to have read.  Nor did he make any connection between this lengthy bibliography and the statements he made in support of his arguments.  That was the end of the dialogue.

We conclude that these unsupported generalizations about the superiority of native plants are symptomatic of the native plant movement, which is an ideology, not a science.  The ideology persists because it is a victim of incestuous amplification, the sharing of misinformation by a group that isolates itself from dissenting views.  They hear their assumptions repeated so often that the assumptions are eventually transformed from fiction into fact in their minds. 

Unlike native plant advocates, we read all available literature on the subject, particularly publications in support of the native plant movement, such as the newsletters of the California Native Plant Society, Nature in the City, as well as Jake Sigg’s Nature News.  When we see new claims of the benefits of native plants, we research those claims by comparing them to the scientific literature. 

It is our research of the scientific literature that gives us hope that the native plant movement is losing its credibility.  In the past few years, more and more scientists have published their research refuting many of the assumptions of the native plant movement.  We have reported on Million Trees the research of some of these scientists:  Mark Davis, Peter Del Tredici, Hugh Raffles, and Dov Sax.   The publications of these scientists have enabled us to provide our readers with the evidence that many of the assumptions of the native plant movement are unsupported by scientific research.

Thank you to the readers of the Million Trees blog for visiting and commenting.  We invite our readers to correct any misstatements of fact, as we try our best to avoid the incestuous amplification that can accompany advocacy.  We provide citations of scientific literature whenever possible to avoid that trap.  We renew our appeal to native plant advocates to supply us with the scientific literature that they believe supports their ideology and we commit ourselves to reading and reporting such evidence. 

Our inclusive view of nature: native and non-native plants at Oyster Bay

For the record, we repeat Million Trees’ primary appeal to native plant advocates:  please plant native plants if that is your preference, but quit destroying non-native plants, trees and animals. 

Destructive "restoration" at Oyster Bay

 
3 Comments leave one →
  1. johnson permalink
    May 6, 2011 10:54 am

    Thanks for the year of work – we have all learned a lot of valuable information.

    I agree with your assertion that people start to believe things they hear repeatedly…especially if they are trapped in a bubble and don’t seek other views. It would seem that the “native plant movement” is basically a fundamentalist group that attacks opposing views by slinging mud and not facts. They are NOT based in science, safe environmental practices, or ecology.

  2. Carolyn Koster permalink
    May 6, 2011 12:10 pm

    Congratulations on a year of providing science-based information. Hope it is making a difference. Thank you for your efforts.

  3. May 8, 2011 4:46 pm

    My thoughts echo Johnson’s. Interestingly, I am discovering that it is almost exclusively the native plant gardeners themselves who are so militaristic in their talk and efforts for native plants. Almost everyone else believes in a much more balanced and less extreme approach. Most of us are happy to have native plants introduced — but not happy with decimating existing ecosystems. How did those few militaristic people get the power to take over our parks and run their extreme program?

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