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Xenophobia is Killing Our Planet

July 31, 2015

We are publishing a guest post from South Africa with mixed feelings.  We are glad to welcome another like-minded person into our effort to prevent the pointless destruction of the plants that have been members of our communities for generations, solely because they are not considered “native.”  On the other hand, we are saddened to learn that other communities are experiencing the same destruction that we are witnessing here in the San Francisco Bay Area. This guest post is an article that was published by The Witness, which the author describes as “South Africa’s oldest daily newspaper.”


Xenophobia is Killing Our Planet

Xenophobia (both human and ecological) is raging worldwide. Yet we are all Earthlings and life on Earth has always migrated. The Khoisan are the first known inhabitants of Africa, and African elephants and lions once roamed North America; America’s bison, bear and deer immigrated from Eurasia, while horses, which evolved in the States, radiated outwards, returning home to be shot as aliens.

Historically, the mass hysteria of rhetoric-spurred xenophobia has sucked reason and compassion from sections of whole countries. Propaganda supporting Hitler’s racial-purity infected Germans to hate Jews who were vilified as pigs. In Rwanda, the genocide of the Tutsi tribe began with the Hutus defaming them as cockroaches. In South Africa, foreign nationals have been slandered as lice and ticks. While in ecological warfare, exotic plants are demonized as cancers and monsters. Those brainwashed by this illogical prejudice, tend to overlook their own ancestral origins and their personal culpability about the very things they fear and denounce in more recent arrivals in our war-torn world now over-flowing with desperate refugees.

Essentially we are all settlers at any given time. Definitions of nativeness are changed at whim by invasion biologists who measure other creatures via a creed they themselves do not exemplify. ‘Alien’ plant species are destroyed country-wide, drastically disrupting ecosystems for the slightest inconvenience to native species or commercial interests. South Africa’s multi-billion rand [1 US $ = 12.64 S. African rand] Working for Water, the world’s largest ever tree-cutting campaign, is a terrifying example. Levelling countless rain-drawing trees on a planet already suffering from tree-loss-induced global warming, is tantamount to blood-letting an already haemorrhaging patient. Far from saving water, the dire rainfall deficit has devastated South Africa with widespread drought causing a conservatively-estimated R400 million  loss to livestock and crops in KwaZulu-Natal alone.

Unprecedented ferocious winds, fires, floods, heat waves, violent storms and catastrophic disasters are battering our over-populated planet, our ice caps melting faster, its creatures dying. And it is no wonder: armed with poisons, the world’s chemical corporations have dressed themselves in Xenophobia, using it as a front to motivate and mask their hugely-profitable, unceasing nature destruction. In a study published in the journal Science this year, 18 international researchers found that human abuse has so disrupted complex interactions between oceans, land and atmosphere that the earth is becoming inhospitable to life. Johan Rockstrom, professor of environmental science at Stockholm University, gravely concluded that, for the first time in human history, we risk destabilizing the entire planet.

Only enough ecosystems, essential for regulating Earth’s climate, keep our civilization from extinction, and scientists estimate we’d have to return as much as 40% of all land to nature to regain long-term stability. Britain’s James Lovelock says we can all help by letting portions of our gardens go wild. Forest ecologist at Stellenbosch University, Dr Coert Geldenhuys, explained in an article how alien infestations repair forests when indigenous trees can’t fill the pioneering role, rehabilitating the soil before dying out, allowing natives to return. This Earth-healing is harmless, sustainable and free, yet fanatics continue mutilating and polluting, with depraved indifference leaving countless creatures, (both native and alien, seen and unseen) homeless, poisoned and dying – as recently verified by scores of dead baby weaver birds strewn amid an axed casaurina forest. Yet ever more prominent ecologists the likes of David Theodoropoulos, Mark Davis, Matthew Chew, Ken Thompson and Dov Sax, see a bigger picture with the role of invasive aliens far more complex and beneficial than generally believed. Fred Pearce (author of THE NEW WILD) puts it all in a nutshell: invasives re-boot Earth’s man-damaged ecosystems to help nature withstand global warming.

AT WAR WITH NATURE, a powerful exposé by New Zealand conservationist W F Benfield (available on AMAZON) reveals that the chemical industry in league with blindly-believing invasion followers who manufacture the crises needed to justify saturating our planet with poisons, are now offering their lethal services to the uninhabited islands of other lands. They were recently enlisted to rid our own Marion Island of mice. But this ‘extinction industry’ as Benfield succinctly describes it, uses deceit, staged photographs and chemicals to do far more harm to resident wildlife than any pest explosion ever could. (Watch POISONING PARADISE on YouTube.) The shockingly inhumane poison 1080 (banned in most countries) is regularly released over New Zealand where corporate conservation plans to render the entire country predator-free. Naturally, once predators are eradicated, their prey will multiply to plague proportions – creating unending opportunities for ever-hungry chemical corporations.

Man’s agriculture is presently eating away so much of the planet’s diminishing wilderness that the European Union and United Nations called for a global shift to a vegan diet to alleviate global warming caused by livestock farming and chemical poisoning. Recently the World Health Organization finally verified a study linking Roundup to cancer after hundreds of studies with similar findings were skewed or suppressed for 30 years. This tumour-causing herbicide was also connected to a mystery kidney disease which killed up to 20,000 farmworkers labouring in extreme heat in Central America, India and Sri Lanka. Scores of Argentinean farmers are suing Monsanto over their infant children’s birth defects, including cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, psychomotor retardation, missing fingers and blindness.

Roundup leaches nutrients from the soil, damages micro-organisms, kills earth worms and stimulates unstoppable super weeds. In Australasia it has killed 3 frog species, and, according to World Health statistics, the mere careless use of glyphosate-containing herbicides sickens and kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide annually. Besides damaging the digestive tracts of animals and humans, incidences of once-rare diseases have soared since its use, linking it to Alzheimer’s, attention deficit disorder, autism, asthma and infertility. Workers spraying from backpacks are at risk simply by breathing in spray drift. Destroying harmless naturalized vegetation with chainsaws and deadly carcinogens, xenophobia, in bed with the chemical industry, is a danger to all life.

Jacaranda street trees in bloom in Pakistan.  Creative Commons - Share Alike

Jacaranda street trees in bloom in Pakistan. Creative Commons – Share Alike

Pietermaritzburg’s beloved Art in the Park has to move next year because the original river-side site has been so degraded by felled trees, and everywhere gracious Jacaranda trees lining our streets stand tragically ring-barked and dying. In the decades since this merciless ethnic cleansing started, our bees have been poisoned to the edge of extinction, our butterflies, birds, rare frogs and chameleons as well as common-place insects and microscopic organisms essential to planet life, vanishing from our shrinking vegetation, while our polluted waterways and seas have vast chemical dead-zones, and scores of fish suffocate when poison-sprayed water-plants suck oxygen from the water whilst dying en masse.

Ring-barked (AKA girdled) jacaranda tree in South Africa.

Ring-barked (AKA girdled) jacaranda tree in South Africa.

Bamboo before it was killed with herbicide.

Bamboo before it was killed with herbicide.

In Pietermaritzburg, magnificent five-storey tall bamboo in the once-beautiful stream-side park behind the Beacon Hill apartment block, were recently hacked and poisoned, risking the stream and its life-forms and resident geese and ducks, as well as the city’s ground water. Helicopters dropped clouds of poisonous herbicide on dagga growing amid hill-side food crops belonging to impoverished KwaZulu-Natal villagers. In the US, tons of chemicals dumped into Lake Michigan to kill one ‘alien’ fish, killed hundreds of thousands while brain-washed con-servationists and scientists cheered. American animal advocate, Nathan Winograd, reflected that in the hopeless battle to return America to a mythical ecological state, slaughter without end has been proposed. 

Bamboo after being killed with herbicide.

Bamboo after being killed with herbicide.

The effects of removing everything arbitrarily judged to be foreign are incalculable. Migrating thousands of miles, the incredible monarch butterfly – a precious natural wonder – has dropped an astounding 90% in numbers since milk weed was killed by herbicides. The worldwide massacre of plants and creatures sometimes just miles ‘out of place’ have evoked unlikely alliances between hunters and vegans who fear Earth’s animals are being wiped out. Andrew Tyler, Britain’s Animal Aid director, believes that the growing appetite for ‘alien’ blood is driving the slaughter of animals scapegoated for human-committed environmental abuses.

America’s Agricultural Department recently revealed that since 1997 it has destroyed a staggering 27 million animals by aerial snipers, poisons and traps, to help dessert bighorn sheep, deer and pronghorn. This alien killing mania spread quickly to unwanted natives. Elk, cougar, fox, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, prairie dogs, bears, wolves, wild longhorn, burros and horses – creatures which once filled us with wonder – among those left to rot that.  Alien disdain is worldwide: mustangs are killed lest they damage native plants, Britain’s grey squirrels destroyed to bring back the red, its deer culled to protect wildflowers, Canada Geese shot for dropping scat on pathways, while South Africa’s own shameful hit list includes the endangered black Kenya rhinoceros. Are purist’s any better than rhino poachers?

This madness, instigated and exonerated by invasion biology, is done at the unknowing tax-payer’s expense. With our living green world turning into a dead planet there have been increasing calls from the public, social sciences and ecology itself, for invasion biology to end. It is the only ‘scientific’ field ever doubted, and this, as they themselves admit, via a virtual ‘cottage industry’ of critical scientific articles, and even death-wishing obituaries in well-respected publications. Many regard this unproved discipline as money-making deceptive hype, xenophobic, immoral, cruel, nonsensical, climate changing and earth endangering. An English review of the book LA GRANDE INVASION explains the inspiring perspective of French ecologist, Jacques Tassin, who adjures conservationists to reconcile man to a new alliance with the living world, including invasives, which he believes are symptoms of pollution testifying to ‘ a richness for tomorrow’.

Invasion Biology has given chemical corporations an excuse to devastate our beautiful planet on a scale never seen before. We’ve become a world at war with itself. If this anti-life pseudo-science is not abolished, Earth’s millions of life-forms are doomed. Humanity has forgotten the spirit and intelligence innate in the wild: before it is too late we should unshackle nature to help heal itself. It’s time we all denounced what we’ve unknowingly allowed to happen. Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ We should empathize with terrified foreign nationals and innocent creatures persecuted and killed through xenophobia’s ugly ethos, and remember that Christ himself identified with the alien Samaritans of this world, declaring: ‘What ye do unto the least of these my brethren, ye do also unto me.’

Gloria Keverne is a South African environmental activist and the international bestselling author of A MAN CANNOT CRY and BROKEN WINGS. In xenophobic riots in South Africa this year seven foreign-national human beings tragically lost their lives, while for decades countless trees, animals and insects have perished, poisoned and deprived of habitat by this prejudiced mind-set.  She can be emailed at glory@chrysalis-dreams.co.za.  If you agree with her viewpoint, please take a minute to thank her for defending her local landscape and wish her good luck in preventing its needless destruction.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2015 8:38 am

    I read Gloria’s statement and tears filled my eyes. She tells it like it is. What kind of a species are we that is so self destructive, and mean spirited. Thank you Million Trees for publishing this gift from South Africa. There is no doubt that it is the chemical companies that have the most to gain from the zenophobia of the invasion biologists. Lets hope that there is time to listen to the growing number of voices that are outing the zenophobic policies that have been endorsed by too many who should know better if only by their silence.

  2. Patsy Cotterill permalink
    July 31, 2015 9:46 am

    I agree with Gloria Keverne that Man has devastated and is devastating the planet, but I think she should give some credit to people who are trying to undo or reverse some of this devastation based on their best understanding of ecological principles. Her blanket condemnation of various actions, without looking at the precise situation or the rationale, is deceitful, aimed it seems at enlisting more uncritical supporters to her cause.
    The mice on Marion Island, for example. Presumably they are there as a result of human action? Presumably they are causing devastation to the vegetation and the ecosystem as a whole because they have no predators? Yes, they should be dispatched humanely, but their dispatch may mean that many other plants and animals can live on that island. Grey squirrels, deer and Canada geese all exist in high numbers because of human activity. Deer particularly can eat so much vegetation in protected areas that the ecosystem is severely impoverished. Man has both created the conditions in which their populations can thrive and restricted their opportunities to find nourishment. Culls may be the immediate if not the long-term answer. What does Ms. Keverne think about the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park? Their natural culls of the elk by these predators have allowed many other creatures to thrive in the revitalized vegetation.
    To her rant against herbicides I would just say that conventional wisdom, rightly or wrongly, holds that herbicides are necessary to grow the food to feed our burgeoning billions of humans. She confounds things. Veganism may help global warming, but it appears that even soya beans are grown with herbicides.
    As for her rant against invasion biology, well it’s new to me that it’s in the pay of the big chemical companies, but if it is it is no different from medical science in the pay of big pharma. Like any science it is and should be criticized, but by peer research not by emotional rants.
    As for Million Trees’ use of photos, this is also deceptive. You show a street of lovely (alien) jacarandas, and then a picture of one that has been ring-barked to kill it. Is anyone systematically cutting down cultivated trees in streets in South Africa? Couldn’t the ring-barked tree be one that had to be removed because it was old and disrupting the pavement? And what’s with the bamboo – you didn’t explain? There was no indication that the other trees were native so there may have been horticultural reasons why it had to go?

    • August 1, 2015 7:11 am

      I can’t answer some of the questions you ask, so I sent your questions to the author of this article. I haven’t had a response from her yet, so I will answer the questions that I can. Please understand that I am speaking for myself, not for the author of this article.

      Although I am not familiar with Marion Island, I am acutely aware of the fact that many islands all over the world are being aerial bombed with rodenticides to kill animals considered predators of birds. Generally, these projects make no effort to monitor the collateral damage to non-target species, so we don’t know how many animals lose their lives in these projects. Rat Island off the coast of Alaska is an exception to that general rule. The after-the-fact monitoring was done about 6 months after the aerial bombing of rodenticides, so we should assume that the number of birds known to have been killed by this project is an underestimate. Hundreds of birds were killed, including many bald eagles. Here is an article published by the New Yorker about the animals being killed by these projects: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/big-kill

      I am very familiar with the argument that the quantities of pesticides used by the “restoration” industry are minuscule compared to use by agriculture. I find that argument nonsensical. In fact, it seems to me that if we are being bombarded with pesticides in our food and we are unable to avoid that exposure that is all the more reason to avoid using pesticides when we can. Such is the case with pesticide use by “restoration” projects. Many pesticides used by both agriculture and “restoration” projects bioaccumulate in our bodies and persist in the environment beyond our lifetimes. Therefore, when we can avoid using them, it is in our collective interests to do so.

  3. July 31, 2015 2:37 pm

    Gloria Keverne, thank you so much for this article and you are right: biological xenophobia is killing our planet. Here is the San Francisco Bay Area, as you note, over 400,000 trees – entire forests – will be eliminated and countless animals killed as a result. In Australia, the government just announced it will kill 2,000,000 cats in the next five years. And in Europe, animals of all kinds are being hunted down and killed. But South Africa is ground zero in the war on nature by nativists. It has employed over 25,000 people every year for the past two decades destroying nature: killing animals, ripping up plants, chopping down trees. With chainsaws and machetes, plants and trees are destroyed. With traps, muskrats are killed. With guns, deer are shot. Smaller animals are poisoned. Tragically for nature and animal lovers, South Africa is the global leader in acting on these xenophobic impulses. This is why your country was chosen for the headquarters of the IUCN Global Invasive Species Program. Yet despite the billions of dollars they have spent, Fred Pearce in his book, “The New Wild,” notes that “the amount of land covered by the target species increased by more than 4 percent…” It is truly a war they can’t win (shouldn’t win) and with no end. And millions of animals and millions of plants and trees will continue being sacrificed to the darkest impulses of humanity. It is bloody horrific.

  4. Marigold Klein permalink
    July 31, 2015 9:33 pm

    Found an interesting article that pertains: Trees Make Canadians Feel Healthier By Elizabeth Preston | July 10, 2015 10:47 am

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/inkfish/2015/07/10/trees-make-canadians-feel-healthier/#.VbxK2LU9mPU

  5. Patsy Cotterill permalink
    July 31, 2015 9:37 pm

    I think there is a lot of confusion here. Politicians, developers, mining companies, oil companies, agri-business, as well as people whose religious beliefs encourage them to have large families, thereby contributing to the no. 1 problem that is destroying the natural planet, human overpopulation, are in the front line of blame for environmental devastation, although none of us are innocent. But it’s ridiculous to target the “nativists” as you call them, who are trying to conserve and restore the planet in the face of these depredations. I was just reading about the Dept of Natural Resources in Minnesota who are concerned that a little plant called Hudson Bay eyebright, a relict of the Hudson Bay and Great Lakes Region from the ice age, will be outcompeted by an introduction from Europe of a plant called European eyebright (brought into North America for medical purposes). I don’t know that they propose to do anything about it or can do anything about it but isn’t it good that they care about their local flora? Isn’t it the duty of biologists, including invasion biologists, to protect their native local flora and fauna, including where it is at risk from aggressive alien species that are here as a result of the hand of Man?
    Read what “Million Trees” says critically; they only present one side of the story.
    They showed a picture of Jacaranda trees in a street and then one that had been killed, the implication being that Jacaranda trees are felled as aliens in South Africa. I asked the question whether they remove cultivated trees in South African towns in favour of native ones, and didn’t get an answer. I very much doubt it, but MT wants to give readers that impression!

    • August 1, 2015 7:32 am

      Your argument is based on the assumption that the mere existence of a non-native plant is a threat to a native plant. In fact, there is no empirical evidence that supports that theory. Every study which asks that question, finds that where plants have been introduced, biodiversity has increased, not decreased. Every study that sets out to prove that the eradication of a non-native was beneficial to an ecosystem, finds the opposite. Many of these studies are reported here on Million Trees so I won’t repeat them here.

      However, here is a new study which Million Trees hasn’t yet reported:
      “Nonnative, Noninvasive Woody Species Can Enhance Urban Landscape Biodiversity,” Linda Chalker-Scott, Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 41(4): July 2015.
      This is a meta-analysis of 120 empirical studies of biodiversity in woody shrubs in the continental US. This analysis reveals that “The preponderance of studies demonstrate that parameters other than species nativity have the greatest influence on biodiversity of these groups. Rather than limiting tree and shrub selection lists to a narrow palette of native species, a more practical, science-based approach to enhancing urban landscape biodiversity is suggested.”
      The fact is, scientists have tested the assumptions of invasion biology and they have consistently reported that there is no empirical evidence that supports those assumptions.

      I can’t answer your question about jacaranda trees in South Africa. I hope the author of this article will answer your question.

    • August 9, 2015 10:13 am

      I believe this is the only link you have sent that I have not published previously. I didn’t post it earlier because it has nothing to do with the article on which you are commenting. The link is to an article about salamanders carrying a pathogen and a proposal that importation of salamanders be stopped to prevent the introduction of the pathogen.

      There are two important differences between these two issues: (1) The plants in South Africa are not infected with a pathogen and there is no evidence that they are doing any damage to anything. (2) The arguments for killing/destroying plants and animals are different from not introducing them. No harm is done to the plant or animal if they are not introduced. If someone is proposing to kill them, they should be required to provide some evidence that they are doing some harm.

      Comments do not include pictures. If you want to make a photographic case, you should consider starting your own blog.

      I have published informative, but critical comments of native plant advocates, as you can see on this article. Your comments are unnecessarily inflammatory and insulting.

      • August 10, 2015 7:12 am

        Look at the headline here……”Xenophobia is Killing the Planet.” I’m pointing out that your philosophy of “cosmopolitanism” would include pathogens, viruses, monocultural infestations and other destructive epidemics, either by direct or accidental introduction. Your website is replete with unqualified, inflammatory and insulting attacks on “nativists.” I don’t see how you can cry foul and attempt to back-pedal.

        • August 10, 2015 7:59 am

          Gw digs herself in deeper with this off-the-wall interpretation of xenophobia. The dictionary definition of xenophobia is “an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.” If pathogens and viruses make plants and animals sick and/or kill them, it is not unreasonable to fear them. In contrast, it is unreasonable to fear plants and animals for which there is no evidence of such harm, particularly when there is considerable evidence of the valuable functions they are performing.

  6. Keith McAllister permalink
    August 1, 2015 10:33 am

    Patsy Cotterill accuses the people at Million Trees of “deceit” and “deception,” ad hominem attacks without content. She offers no evidence to counter anything said by Million Trees, only her unfounded assumptions. Patsy “presumes” the mice on Marion Island are devastating the ecosystem as a whole. No evidence cited. Patsy *assumes* jacarandas are removed in South Africa because they are old or disrupting the pavement. Patsy is apparently unaware of the raging debate in S.A. over destruction of jacarandas as “alien invaders” and “non-African,” as well as the stiff fines and jail sentences in S.A. for having listed non-native plants in your back yard. (Eat your hearts out, American weed warriors!) The war on non-native plants in South Africa is just as fierce as in the US. Patsy assumes the bamboo was destroyed for “horticultural reasons,” without even offering a hypothetical reason. Of course removing bamboo for being non-native could be counted as a “horticultural reason,” if you hate non-natives.

    But the argument that it is OK for chemical companies to finance “invasion biology” because big pharma finances medical science is bizarre. Both are serious problems for the same reason. Chemical company finance of invasion biology distorts that “science” exactly as pharmaceutical company finance of medical science distorts medical science. Both kinds of corporate financing corrupt science to support corporate economic interests. The corruption of one science does not justify the corruption of another one. (Likewise, the dangerous, widespread use of pesticides by agriculture does not justify the use of pesticides by the “restoration” industry.)

  7. Patsy Cotterill permalink
    August 1, 2015 11:16 am

    First a reply to Million Trees above. I am not saying that the mere existence of a non-native is a threat to natives at all; don’t put words in my mouth.

    Webmaster: This is what suggested that was what you were saying: “I was just reading about the Dept of Natural Resources in Minnesota who are concerned that a little plant called Hudson Bay eyebright, a relict of the Hudson Bay and Great Lakes Region from the ice age, will be outcompeted by an introduction from Europe of a plant called European eyebright (brought into North America for medical purposes).”

    But to say that some alien species aren’t a threat to native ecosystems, both plant and animal, is totally and utterly untrue. A classic case in North America is purple loosestrife, which has taken over wetlands, reducing native biodiversity and causing problems for the native fauna that use the native vegetation.

    Webmaster: I suggest you read The New Wild by Fred Pearce. His chapter about loosestrife addresses your concern about purple loosestrife. The fact is, loosestrife becomes a problem only when there is bacterial pollution in the water. Getting rid of loosestrife does not solve the pollution problem. And the presence of the loosestrife reduces the pollution, so it is beneficial in the long run. If and when the pollution issue is resolved, the loosestrife is no longer a problem. This is a typical example of the assumptions of invasion biology. When non-native species become a problem it is usually because there has been some underlying change in environmental conditions. Eradicating the non-native species does not change the underlying conditions. Therefore, whatever preceded the non-native species does not return unless the underlying conditions are changed. Non-native species are usually scapegoats for much more difficult issues that modern civilization cannot or will not address.

    Another classic and famous case is that of the saltmarsh grass, cordgrass. Smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, native to eastern north America, was brought over to Europe as a mudflat stabilizer around the coasts. It hybridized with the native cordgrass Spartina maritima to produce a hybrid S. x townsendii which underwent a doubling of chromosome number to create an aggressive invader (S. anglica) that outcompeted S. maritima and caused problems for many European coastal authorities, not to mention the wading birds that had lost their open mud flat food sources. S. alterniflora is likewise ousting native California cordgrass Spartina foliosa in San Francisco Bay by hybridizing with it and creating a faster growing hybrid.

    Webmaster: Spartina alterniflora is a good example of an eradication effort that has done far more harm than good. It has decimated the population of endangered Clapper Rail (now Ridgeway Rail) because the non-native spartina provides superior habitat to the native, which is shorter, less dense and dies back during winter months. Thousands of gallons of herbicide were used to eradicate the spartina. Then those engaged in this futile exercise wonder why the native spartina will not grow where they have poisoned the non-native spartina. Here is an article about this particular boondoggle: https://milliontrees.me/2014/06/02/spartina-eradication-herbicides-are-their-dirty-little-secret/

    I have already mentioned the threat to the Hudson Bay eyebright on Lake Superior from European eyebright. Yes, it may be a zero-sum game when it comes biodiversity (a hybrid replacing a native species) but when these hybrids are aggressive and pervasive they are ecosystem-changers, with all sorts of collateral damage. The invasion biologists seek to understand, document and if possible mitigate this.
    Re the reference to jacaranda and there being stiff fines for having non-native plants in your back yard in S.A., send me some documentation and I’ll believe it! I simply can’t believe the horticultural industry would put up with that.

    Webmaster: Documentation is readily available on Wikipedia or you can read Fred Pearce’s book.

    I’m not saying it’s OK for chemical companies to finance restoration projects, any more than it’s OK for Monsanto to prevent farmers from growing and sowing their own seeds. I’m saying that just because herbicides are used on a large-scale in agriculture shouldn’t preclude their use on a much smaller scale in restoration projects. Think about it. What is the danger to a human consumer of herbicides used in a natural area (which probably isn’t even close to where they live) compared to that of herbicides used to grow the food they eat?
    Re Gloria’s comment about 100s of cats being killed in Australia. I’ve just heard a news clip that they are reintroducing bush-tailed betongs and other iconic marsupials into an area in New South Wales, from which state they have been extirpated. They have to fence them in to protect them from feral cats and foxes. The clip also said that it may take 100 years to get rid of feral cats. Does this sound like a mass killing to you? If feral cats could be sterilized, and Australians largely desisted from cat owning, they would not exist within far less than 100 years and the fence could come down! Remember, those native marsupials, killed and driven out by human action, deserve to live too! Are the biologists doing this NSW relocation worthy of being called Nazis and xenophobes? Get a sense of proportion!

    Webmaster: I suggest you visit the website for the Dingo Biodiversity Project. If dingos were not killed by ranchers, neither cats nor foxes would be a problem for smaller animals. When humans remove the top predators, they can expect consequences. Cats should not be the scapegoats for those choices.

    • Keith McAllister permalink
      August 1, 2015 2:20 pm

      Patsy picks and chooses what she wants to believe, but reality doesn’t always comply with her prejudices.

      Consider:
      The South African Agricultural Research Council describes what you can and cannot do with Jacaranda:
      “Category 3 plants [which includes Jacaranda] will not be allowed to occur anywhere except in biological control reserves, unless they were already in existence when these regulations went into effect. The conditions on which these already existing plants may be retained are that they do not grow within 30 m from the 1:50 year flood line of watercourses or wetlands, that all reasonable steps are taken to keep the plant from spreading, and that the Executive Officer has the power to impose additional conditions or even prohibit the growing of Category 3 plants in any area where he has reason to believe that these plants will pose a threat to the agricultural resources.”

      The law says what happens if you don’t pay attention:
      “NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT: BIODIVERSITY ACT 2004 (ACT NO. 10 OF 2004), amended by ALIEN AND INVASIVE SPECIES REGULATIONS, 2014
      . . .
      (2) Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with a provision of these regulations is guilty of an offence and is liable, on conviction, to- (a) a fine not exceeding five million rand, and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding R10 million; or (b) imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years; or (c) to both such fine and imprisonment.”

      So, Plant a Jacaranda in your back yard; go to jail.

  8. Patsy Cotterill permalink
    August 2, 2015 4:16 pm

    Interesting! These are serious fines, so somebody in authority must clearly think that non-native, invasive species pose a threat, both to natives (as in not planting near wetlands, although this may be to reduce spread by water), and to non-natives (agricultural resources). Doesn’t this rather contradict MT’s statement that non-natives don’t pose a threat to natives? I would point out that making it illegal to plant certain non-natives is not quite the same as making the blanket statement that it is illegal to plant non-natives in S.A. !

    Webmaster: Jacarandas are presently considered “native” to South America, but they have been grown successfully all over the world, in Asia, Australia, Africa, the Caribbean, etc. Because they have been grown in those places for generations, they have attained cultural significance in some places, such as this description of jacarandas in South Africa from Wikipedia:
    “Pretoria in South Africa is popularly known as The Jacaranda City due to the enormous number of Jacaranda trees planted as street trees and in parks and gardens. In flowering time the city appears blue/purple in colour when seen from the nearby hills because of all the Jacaranda trees. The time of year the Jacarandas bloom in Pretoria coincides with the year-end exams at the University of Pretoria and legend has it that if a flower from the Jacaranda tree drops on your head, you will pass all your exams.”

    Wikipedia says nothing negative about jacaranda. So, I am doubtful that they are being destroyed because there is something harmful about them. I have no personal experience with jacaranda, so I leave it to Gloria Keverne to defend them.

    However, I will say that I find your “reasoning” typical of the crusades against non-native plants and trees. Since I have been defending our non-native urban forest for over 15 years, I have heard countless specious arguments used to demand its destruction. In most cases, the negative features they claim are just plain false. The trees are not dead, dying or diseased, for example. In other cases, whatever negative feature they claim about a non-native tree is equally true of native trees. The leaves of native bay trees contain more oil than the leaves of eucalyptus and the leaves of oaks contain as much tannin as the leaves of eucalyptus.

    When the native plant movement was popular in the 1930s in Germany, demands to destroy “alien” plants were more straightforward, i.e., “kill it because it isn’t German.” The modern version of this thinking has learned that such “reasoning” isn’t appealing to most people, so they dress up their demands in bogus accusations.

    Further on this theme, perhaps you are not familiar with the Spartina examples, but of far more relevance to North America is the almost complete replacement of diverse native grass species by tame European grasses brought in to feed settlers’ cattle during colonization in both the eastern US and the West (Kentucky bluegrass, despite its name, is a European species)! Here in Alberta, our worst ecological weed is smooth brome grass, introduced from Eurasia for hay. It is everywhere, fields, natural areas, deciduous forests, roadsides, and other forage grasses running rampant, such as meadow foxtail, follow on its heels. Canada thistle (again despite its name also from Europe) also grows everywhere where there is a smidgin of moisture. Don’t tell me it isn’t taking up room that native plants formerly occupied. Yes, it does provide pollination services, but isn’t it also competing with native plants for pollinators?
    Our wetland and river shores are full of perennial sow-thistle from Europe. It wasn’t there before settlement – presumably something native was. I could go on and on… but you get the picture. Monocultures of alien weed usurpers riding on the coattails of humanity with its penchant for disturbed ground, rather than diverse ecosystems of organisms adapted over millennia to North American conditions. You MTers may not be xenophobes but I presume you are patriots? Or is your allegiance still to the countries from which you emigrated originally?

    Webmaster: Native bunch grasses were replaced by non-native annual grasses in California about 200 years ago by grazing domestic cattle brought by the Spanish. Native bunch grasses were adapted to the annual fire regime of Native Americans and herds of grazing ungulates. Fires and grazing prevented thatch build-up which prevents bunch grasses from resprouting. Many fruitless attempts have been made to convert annual grasses to native bunch grasses. They have been uniformly unsuccessful. Here is a typical effort which spent nearly $500,000 on 2 acres over a period of 8 years with no long-term success: https://milliontrees.me/2012/01/03/a-failed-attempt-to-restore-californias-grassland-costs-225000-per-acre/.

    Million Trees and like-minded people are citizens of the world. If that makes us unpatriotic, so be it.

    • Keith McAllister permalink
      August 10, 2015 12:57 pm

      OK, I’ve looked but I can’t find any place in this thread where I was, “making the blanket statement that it is illegal to plant non-natives in S.A. !” Patsy just made that up.

  9. August 5, 2015 5:25 am

    GLORIA KEVERNE

    In reply to Patsy Cotteril’s comments, since I was dealing with xenophobia, I had hoped it would be clear that the trees and bamboo featured in my article were removed or ring-barked simply because they were exotic. The five story tall bamboo in particular was a thriving ecosystem doing no harm and attracting birds, insects, frogs, monkeys etc. As for the street trees, they would all have been home to birds, animals and insects in the concrete city. Some years ago, there was a concerted effort to remove alien trees from all South Africa’s towns. In Pietermaritzburg a whole street of jacarandas was denuded in this way. But people who loved their yearly show of jacaranda blossoms began complaining. Pretoria as a city was successful in preserving the trees they had, and a compromise was reached allowing already-living jacarandas a stay of execution in other towns. However some purest’s evidently weren’t satisfied with that, and began a cowardly campaign of defying the ruling by secretly systematically killing the trees although, as far as I could see, none showed signs of infirmity, disease or cracking pavements. Since every tree is an ecosystem in itself, killing street trees is particularly harmful to its native inhabitants who, in built up areas, have no other home to move to. This means the loss of any urban tree constitutes the loss of an entire ecosystem at a time when ecosystem numbers are crucial to our ailing planet’s health.

    Why were jacarandas destroyed? Introduced in the 1880s they and other exotic trees apparently caused no problems until the emergence of invasion biology. Then, when people were not willing to axe them just because they’d originated elsewhere, the lies started, growing gradually into urban myths. Jacarandas, it was claimed, deadened the ground and plants around them. Their roots tore up pavements as the roots of native trees never did. They were poisonous to native animals, birds and insects who hated them. Furthermore they used too much water (this even though horticultural literature classified them as drought resistant). I’d tried unsuccessfully to grow one of these slow-growing trees before they were banned. I and no one I know has seen them growing anywhere but where they’d been planted, yet when I asked an invasionist ‘expert’ why they were described as invasive, he said they clogged up water courses deep in the bush, a farm in Botswana was infested with them, etc. etc. Always, I noted, these strange invasions occurred in inaccessible places which had never been photographed. Incidentally I have noticed that some native trees used to replace exotics in one or two mall parking lots, have begun pushing up paving: evidently unruly roots are not a purely alien manifestation as people were led to believe.

    • August 5, 2015 5:55 am

      Thank you for explaining the sad history of jacaranda’s fall from grace in South Africa. It is uncanny how similar this sequence of events is with the crusade against eucalyptus in California. The stories that were fabricated about jacaranda in South Africa are identical to the stories that have been fabricated about eucalyptus in California. The only story line that is missing in your description is the bogus claim that eucalyptus is more flammable than native vegetation, which is now burning just 100 miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

      In Australia the identical strategy has been used to vilify and destroy willow trees. Willow trees are native to California and are therefore a favored species here, although it spreads far more than eucalyptus and is a notorious user of the water that is now so precious in California. We watch the destructive projects in Australia and we marvel at the stupidity of invasion biology.

      But is it really stupid? On the whole, I would say no. It is primarily an industry that is creating opportunities for the manufacturers of pesticides and making jobs for both highly educated people who create “management plans” and other documents used to create these destructive projects and for uneducated people who implement them. As long as there is vested economic interest in these projects, we will find it very difficult to turn the invasion biology juggernaut around. But we must try.

  10. Patsy Cotterill permalink
    August 7, 2015 4:33 pm

    I would be very grateful if readers of Million Trees would click on the following links and read them carefully:
    http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/battling-invasive-species-can.html#.VcUydV7bLX4
    http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/battling-invasive-species-can-2.html#.VcU0D17bLX4
    These articles by Nick Lapointe of the Nature Conservancy of Canada explain my point of view far better than I can. When you’ve read these articles, read a further article explaining why biodiversity matters and why biotic homogenization as opposed to preserving native floras where possible is not a good thing:
    http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/why-does-biodiversity-matter.html#.VcU4Ql7bLX4

    Webmaster: The Nature Conservancy engages in some of the most aggressive “restorations” on the planet and they use a great deal of pesticides in those projects. Monsanto is one of their funding contributors.

    We agree that biodiversity matters. We disagree that eradicating non-native species increases biodiversity and there are NO empirical studies that find otherwise.

    Re the California clapper rail, what you say is not what I read in my source, which stated that numbers of the rails were declining due to destruction of habitat, that habitat being the non-native Spartina which had completely overwhelmed the habitat the rails previously used, the native Spartina. The native Spartina could not grow quickly enough to replace the non-native as it was removed. The restorationists’ solution was to slow down the pace of non-native removal to allow the native to grow back, thereby providing continuous habitat for the rails.

    Webmaster: I don’t see any difference between your description of the spartina eradication project and ours. The fact is the population of CA Clapper Rail plummeted as a direct result of the eradication of non-native spartina, which seems to be precisely what you are saying here. These projects have been singularly unsuccessful in substituting native spartina for non-native spartina. You can see an abstract of two papers presented at the conference of the California Native Plant Society on their website. One tried several different methods of protecting newly planted native spartina. None were successful. The aerial spraying of a mixture of imazapyr and glyphosate on the non-native is not likely to be conducive to successful establishment of native spartina. The other study about seed dispersal of non-native spartina was equally grim. Perhaps if you are making your living on these futile projects, the fact that they are not successful is not a concern. If you are a taxpayer who is paying for these projects, your perspective is different.

    I grant that it is not always possible to turn back the clock and that “hybrid” or “novel” ecosystems are going to exist, but this does not preclude the validity of attempts to restore native ecosystems where feasible. No would I argue that these novel ecosystems shouldn’t add diversity in urban landscapes – my city has streets lined with American elms which are not native to this province of Canada but I appreciate their value as an urban amenity; I also doubt very much that South African authorities will win the battle to get rid of Jacaranda – I just don’t think they should be encouraged in natural landscapes.

  11. October 5, 2015 4:06 pm

    Add unethical bonsai “diggers” to your list of killers. These scavengers go out into the mountains and desserts of the western states. They dig up ancient trees hundreds of years old and carry them back to their back yards. There their roots and tops are “chopped” (their jargon) back & stuffed in pots & boxes. Most don’t survive the butchering. Those few trees that do live are “styled” and sold for exorbitant prices to bonsai collectors. Often times these trees are dug from public tax payer supported lands in California mountains, forests in Oregon & Washington and the Mohave Dessert. States need to protect these ancient denizens. Arizona could be the model with their conservation laws against collecting Saguaro Cactus.

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