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Exploitation, "Invasiveness"

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8/21/2011 -- Exploitation, "Invasiveness"

I did not have to dig long for some material on homo sapiens as an invasive species. Here is a common definition of "invasive species" as found on Wikipedia today:

Kudzu"(...) plants or animals that adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically. They disrupt by dominating a region, wilderness areas, particular habitats, and/or wildland-urban interface land from loss of natural controls (i.e.: predators or herbivores)."

Sounds fitting to humans? Indeed; but we wriggle out of this definition by extending: invasive species are "firstly, outside their natural distribution area, and [only] secondly, threaten biological diversity." - while of course we take it as a given that the whole planet is humanity's "natural distribution area"; even beyond, from below sea bottom to above the atmosphere's limit.

KudzuThis will quickly get into a discussion what "natural distribution", or "natural" generally is. If humans are considered natural everywhere, and we are the distributor of non-native invasive species, aren't these species as natural, everywhere? Also, if we consider industrial civilization kind of a "species" (opposed to indigenous peoples), isn't our civilization an invasive species by the exact definition as mentioned above? Aren't we crowding out not only plant and animal species, but even indigenous peoples; even today to get to cheap oil, timber, gold and other resources?

At the end of the day, it's not the mere existence of a species in a particular area which makes it "invasive", but its exploitative nature. Species which take more out of their landbase than it can provide, are invasive by the very meaning of the word: they are at this moment in time in-vading as they can not have been there for very long; and they will sooner or later be trimmed back to size.

KudzuNotably, we are the first species to claim the whole planet our "natural distribution area". It may take a little longer, but also this extensive landbase will stop giving to an exploitative species - "you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely" (Story of Stuff ).

Recently I heared the statement "I am not exploitative!". Well ... for one, there are studies enough that humans in general, driven by the "western world", are taking more out of this planet that it can provide - e.g. WWF's "Living Planet Report" drew the conclusion that "Humanity's demands exceed our planet's capacity to sustain us". But more concrete, here is a very specific example of exploitation, which most of us contribute in: the electronic gadgets around you like laptop, TV, game console, mobile phone etc. are likely made possible by exploiting people and nature in Africa - see Wikipedia for ethical and environmental impacts of coltan mining. (Sorry I got that wrong recently, it's not rare earth elements, which too are used in electronics and leave behind toxic mining sites, but rather exploit the environment in China than in Africa ...).

So - are humans an invasive species? I should have entered this question into google before all my preaching - here is another take on this question . I rather agree with a comment on this article: we are invasive. Environmentally destructive, and the greatest perpetrators of the destruction of species diversity on this small planet.
Next blog post will be something more positive. Promise!

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