Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Angry Letter

The following letter was send today to the CBC Radio program Sounds Like Canada currently hosted by Kevin Sylvester. I am reposting it here in the hopes that it will demonstrate how we need to change our thinking towards the natural world and avoid getting into a battle with nature (for nature always wins in the end).

Dear Kevin,

While coming in and out of the shower today, I was distressed to hear guests of your show maligning plants - maligning being the sort of thing one does out of ignorance.

First off, there is no such thing as a weed. This classification is given only by people who are trying to do the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nature does, however, provide us with a raft of plants that repair damaged landscapes. The field thistle (Cirsium arvense), mentioned by one of your guests for example, is an indication of overgrazing. So after damaging a field, this kind plant comes along and tries to repair the damage. And the thanks it gets? All out warfare against a soil-restoring plant with edible roots and medicinal uses as an antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory), and liver tonic. And I could make similar comments for the ox-eyed daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula).

One of the plants not mentioned, which has caused tremendous damage to Canadian agriculture is genetically modified canola; and we might throw in genetically modified corn as well. The former has caused great losses to Canadian canola sales and the latter, considering that it is wind pollinated and that they now use GE corn to "grow" insulin, may wind up killing you one day.

Or perhaps plants in the Gramineae (grass) family. People devote billions to this nearly useless plant polluting themselves and their neighbours with dangerous pesticides and the emissions from lawn mowers (which have no catalytic converter).

Labelling plants as "weeds" is the sign of either ignorance or lack of creativity. There is a place for all of nature, if only one bothers to discover what that place is.


Douglas Barnes
Torrance, Ontario


Anonymous said...

Very, very well said.

I'd like to add that the word "weed" is a sign of prejudice and more-likely ignorance regarding how the world works.

Unfortunately, many people have simply inherited and accepted the twisted and illogical beliefs that support the use of the word "weed" without question. (Commercial propaganda from the chem-ag industry doesn't help, to say the least).

Like all labels of does the world and all it's living creatures great harm and dis-service.

The word "weed" is rooted in the concept of competition...that there are winners and (therefore) losers in the world. That there is a food chain, and somehow, for some reason, humans just so happen to be at the "top."

Instead of intelligently trying to cooperate with each other for everything's benefit (a win-win situation), many people ignorantly believe that there is some winner-take-all competition taking place.

Instead of seeing the interconnected food web, some people continue to see a food chain. Instead of seeing the whole picture...some people see only themselves in an "us vs. them, eat-or-be-eaten" fight for survival when in reality, no such thing exists.

The thing many humans (especially in the over developed world) have yet to understand, is that we are all inter-dependent upon every life form and that this concept of competition is destroying the chances for human survival on this planet.

As pointed out in an earlier article on this site about worms. If human beings were to vanish from the planet tomorrow...the rest of the life on the planet would get along just fine...however...if worms were to dissappear...the soil web would collapse, and so would everything a rather short time...yet people still carry a prejudice against worms, making careless statements that they are gross, disgusting or "dirty" even though some species could be considered the earths soil "cleaners."

The concept of cleanliness, extermination and sterilization is killing us...not the things that we are trying to exterminate, clean and sterilize. Obsessive cleaninliness in our life or in the garden, and trying to force nature into our own sense of beauty is an insanity quite similar to people who might wish to cut out their own perfectly good heart to replace it with a man-made version because the heart they were born with doesn't aesthetically suite their liking.

There's a famous saying, "A place for every tool, every tool in its place." Which could be better phrased as "everything has its' place." We humans have yet to understand that everything...every plant, every animal, insect and bacteria and microbe has a valued purpose, even if some of us don't like it...we all have to learn to live with with each other, not just other humans, but all the earth's life forms.

The sooner we figure this out, and start living our lives in this way...the sooner we will achieve peace, harmony and sustainability.

If anything needs to be exterminated, it's the concept of fear and insecurity which leads to humans living in competition with nature (of which we are all a part of).

Anonymous said...

I know its all been said before

and its clear both sides are firmly entrenched with their dogma

but yes weeds do exist
and a good number of them are garden plants incl the early suite of promoted permaculture plants

im sitting in the middle here in the weed war
and it clear that not all weeds are created equal

That invasive species exist is not i believe a matter of belief, but a demonstrated fact

what is less well understood is how ecosystems function
and the honesty with ourselves to make long lasting decisions about the kind of world humanity might best inhabit

Tim lows 'new nature' is an excellent introduction to the state of affairs in australia

we are stuck at a place in time, where the change has already begun, but theres still time to make some choices
about being somewhere on the continuum between biodiversity and a new world age, the homogocene

we must confront and moderate our own actions. to be cautious while we still dont understand the implications.
we have to confront our cultural inheritance, to see if its still the best way to travel forward.
many times we are too quick to bring in a well known species, when we really dont undertand yet the dynamics of the place we are at, esp with semi-wild and wild species.

we also have to come to grips with our preconceptions of nature.
Australia where i live is not a wild continent, its an overgrown garden. Such is the case with teh rest of the world too
we are just waking up from the 20the century myopia to he realisation that much of the world has been under intensive human pressures for 30 to 120 000 years, particularly by fire
and that the landscapes encountred by european colonists were not wild, butr highly managed, and alot what is out there now is 200 years of unmanaged regrowth

many species have sufferred or gone extinct as a result of the cessation of aboriginal land management
It is becoming apparent that having been so fundamentally involved in shaping the world
now we are indeed essential to its current state of abundance
and not as is sometimes said, not to be missed
if we did disappear whole suites of domestic and semidomesticated species would disappear or be radically endangered

pieceing back together what was will be forensic ecology
deciding where to go next - is political

so lets try to understand
lets not be 'weed deniers'
lets acknowledge we acted wrongly in the past
and endeavour to be among the first to integrate leading edge ecological findings
and lets choose the lesser risks wherever we can

Unknown said...

I would say that there are plants that fit in niches. They might fit better or out compete with what you are hoping to grow in a particular location, but they are weeds only to your perception.