Where does it end?

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?

Flood Creek 1


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.

Flood Creek 2

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.

Flood Creek 3

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…..

Flood Creek 4

….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. 

6 thoughts on “Where does it end?”

  1. Yes! A mirror of our situation. Can our native worshipers look into that mirror and recognize folly?

    I’m pessimistic. The mindset of the Nativists reminds me exactly of my Evangelical upbringing in the Deep South. (If you think I’m exaggerating, I encourage you to read a transcript of Michael Crichton’s excellent final speech to the Commonwealth Club of California.) Dogmatic beliefs are almost impossible to change. Swift observed that “You cannot reason a man out of a position he didn’t reason himself into in the first place.”

    I would love to be proved wrong.

    Thanks, as always, to this blog for supporting the cause of rational thinking.

    1. I am sorry to say, I share your pessimism. Dogmatic thinking is only one of the obstacles to a more rational approach to land management. I believe the biggest obstacle is that “restoration” has become a multi-million dollar industry. The most fanatical devotees of this destructive approach are those who are making their living at it. There is no money in saving trees. All the money is in cutting them down then wasting the public’s money on fruitless attempts to install a landscape that is no longer adapted to the environment.

      We probably can’t speed up the demise of this destructive ideology. But take heart. Climate change will eventually kill it because in the end it is a question of what will survive. I hope we live to see it.

      1. The projects that we are seeing on the coast in N. Cal are being done under a Negative Declaration to an Environmental Impact Report.
        How is it possible?
        Here is what we are seeing, blown-out fore dunes, Base Flood Elevation minus twelve feet,
        desiccated wetlands, disappeared wildlife and out of control erosion.
        No environmental impact.

        1. It is possible to legally challenge a Negative Declaration. However, there is a very short time frame in which a legal challenge must be filed. Such legal challenges aren’t cheap, even if you are able to find a pro bono lawyer. However, if you win such a legal challenge, most of your expenses are recoverable. The down side of such a legal challenge is that what you win is an Environmental Impact Report, which doesn’t necessarily change the outcome in the end.

          I am not a lawyer and probably shouldn’t even be saying this much about it. Please do not make any decisions based on these statements. What little I can say is based on personal experience with our local projects.

  2. I’ve got to say, we over here are so grateful to have discovered your efforts and to know there are like-minded people around the world. There are plenty of others here who disagree with nativism, but don’t speak up because they feel powerless to change it. Thanks so much for sharing our work with your community. Historically, creating a space for discussion has always been an important step in any social change. This is good work you’re doing. Much respect and thank you.

    1. I don’t think we are outnumbered although it often feels that way. Many people share our viewpoint but aren’t as highly motivated as those who earn their living on “restoration” projects. We don’t have as much at stake as they do, so it takes much more provocation for those with our viewpoint to get involved. The destruction must be close to home in a place you care about deeply to make the time to voice your opposition. One measure of the public’s opinion of these projects are the on-line petitions that give people an easy way to express their opinion. For example, one of the most destructive local projects drew nearly 6,000 signatures in opposition to it. The competing petition in support of the project had less than 500 signatures.

      Best of luck. Carry on bravely.

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