It is our pleasure to republish with permission a post from the website of Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group. Flood Creek is located in Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia. Across Australia, Landcare is a popular volunteer-based environmental movement which enjoys general support from government in the form of occasional financial grants. Over the last 25 years, many Landcare groups have undertaken projects with the stated goal of eradicating non-native plants based on a belief that native plants and animals would benefit. That strategy will sound familiar to our readers, as will the damage to the environment which it causes.
The Non-Nativist Landcare Group is a small team of people with a history of participation in Landcare who want to foster a discussion of current nativist approaches to environmental management, and question their outcomes. Based on their experiences with conventional Landcare projects, the Non-Nativist Landcare Group has concluded that these often do more harm than good. The Group describes their mission: “Above all, this discussion is inspired by the goal of taking a more ecologically-based and functional approach to Australian socio-ecological systems and their health. We seek to highlight the inconvenient-truth that rational environmental management can never be based upon a simple mantra of “natives good, non-natives bad”. Extermination is rarely an effective way to promote landscape diversity and resilience.”
Please visit their website and wish them well in their effort to find a less destructive approach to land management.
When you look at the willful and wanton environmental destruction conveyed in these photographs you must ask yourself: ‘how could anyone do this in the name of environmentalism?’ After all the disturbance we’ve already inflicted upon this biosphere, how is this really helping?
In this example of willow demolition, the trees were cut down and dragged away and the stumps were poisoned. Then (for some unfathomable reason) a drainage ditch was excavated into the floodplain. In the photo below, the main flow-line is 40m off to the left.
Apart from the economic motives at play (a theme for a future post), I can think of only one reason why an ‘environmentalist’ might condone this kind of damage and disturbance. It must be to do with that old adage, ‘the end justifies the means‘.
The reasoning seems to be: ‘Sure, it makes a big mess and causes erosion, and nutrient release, and carbon emissions, and local temperature increases, and loss of habitat, but it’s necessary because we’re going to make Australia a place for natives-only again.’
So that’s the end we’re aiming for: a ‘native-only’ Australia. And these photos show the means we must accept along the way. It seems we’re just going to remove all of the non-natives from this continent so the environment is back to ‘pristine’ again and then we can stop with the chainsaws and excavators and herbicides in the name of ‘saving’ the environment.
We just want 1788-Australia back. Presumably without the dingoes and without the previous intrinsic Aboriginal management; plus with a few minor additions like cattle; and sheep; and horses; and apples; and asparagus; and hops; and wheat; and rice; and trout; and tomatoes; and lettuce; and cats; and dogs; and goldfish; and maybe just one or two other things, but that’s it! And we want all the ‘invasive’ natives, like Cootamundra Wattle, and Sweet Pittosporum, and Kookaburras to know their place and to go back where they were when Europeans first arrived….And stay there forever and ever….And not move just because the climate or fire regime has changed. And this won’t happen by itself so we’ll need funding and legislation and heavy machinery. And we’re going to fix it all ‘real good’ without knowing what it was actually like or exactly what species existed in many parts of the country back in 1788. And….and…..
….And then again……When you think about it…..Are we ever actually going to achieve anything even remotely approaching a native Australia?…..really?
I doubt it.
And I’d doubt the sincerity (or sanity) of anyone who says that we could. Surely nobody actually believes this?
So, given this impossibility, it seems pretty reasonable to ask ourselves: ‘how can the end justify the means, when it’s clear there really is no conceivable end?’ If it just goes on and on forever, then how do we justify these means to no end at all? How do we live with this permanent state of expensive self-congratulatory environmental vandalism?
More importantly, given how well-supported the above activities currently are, how do objecting grassroots Landcarers begin to articulate new ways to work with the adaptive living-landscapes around us? And how do we influence the direction of our own movement so that participation in Landcare is not assumed to mean support for this destruction?
All the death and destruction in these photographs is familiar to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The only difference is that the trees that were destroyed in this project were willows, which are native in California, but not native in Australia. That difference helps us appreciate the arbitrariness of nativism, which treats eucalyptus as demons and willows as the “good” trees in California.
We have yet to witness a “restoration” that wasn’t far more destructive than constructive. And based on our experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, we can venture an answer to the rhetorical question, “Where does it end?” It doesn’t end because every “restoration” is quickly occupied again by the plants that were destroyed by herbicide applications. As long as the objective continues to be to kill everything non-native and re-populate a landscape with native plants, the project will never be complete.
Therefore, it only ends when the goal is revised and/or the effort is no longer funded. And the only way to achieve that revised goal is for the public to object to the destruction of their public lands. So, if you are tired of witnessing these destructive projects, speak up! Tell your elected representatives that you don’t want your tax dollars spent on the pointless ruin of public open space.