Invasive Species


Poison Ivy growing prolifically on a hillside 

So, invasive species are on the march and making life miserable for other species getting crowded out. Just how pervasive are these species and what can be done about them? One particular story describes how biologists are cutting trees down and then poisoning the stumps to prevent them from growing back. Still, this only covers one species out of literally thousands that are causing major issues. Anyone who has ever seen a hillside covered in kudzu can testify to the destructiveness and almost totality of an invasive plant taking over an entire area. In an update (5-31-22) to this entry, I am adding this article on a new study about giant hogweed, a very serious threat due to it being extremely poisonous. From the article, quote:

"Skoltech researchers are forecasting that by 2040–60, Sosnowsky's hogweed will likely exploit global warming to expand its habitat, threatening to infest almost the entire European part of Russia. Published in Scientific Reports, the study makes it clear that the aggressive poisonous weed has to be watched more closely and controlled."

However, invasive species don't necessarily need to take over an entire area to be invasive, quote: 

"An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy, or even human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label “invasive.” 

An invasive species does not have to come from another country. For example, lake trout are native to the Great Lakes, but are considered to be an invasive species in Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming because they compete with native cutthroat trout for habitat.

Invasive species are primarily spread by human activities, often unintentionally. People, and the goods we use, travel around the world very quickly, and they often carry uninvited species with them. Ships can carry aquatic organisms in their ballast water, while smaller boats may carry them on their propellers. Insects can get into wood, shipping palettes, and crates that are shipped around the world. Some ornamental plants can escape into the wild and become invasive. And some invasive species are intentionally or accidentally released pets. For example, Burmese pythons are becoming a big problem in the Everglades."

This article goes on to explain that one of the important factors is how invasive species act upon the environment when introduced to a certain ecosystem; how the invasive species affect biodiversity, alter food webs, change soil chemistry, change intenisty of wildfires, and also alter the abundance of other species (among other things). Evidence of this can be seen in this article about the cacti known as "prickly pears" taking over the Alps in Switzerland. Like most invasives, once the species gets going, it is almost impossible to eradicate.

As one can quickly surmise from just this little snippet of information, invasives can cause huge troubles in very little time. I have great concern over the anthropocentrism contained in advice I am seeing being spread around the environmental community. There are some who are now advocating something called assisted migration and/or translocation of species, and as one study points out, we don't really know the effects of intentionally moving species around the globe in an effort to prevent their extinction. As I pointed out in a previous article quite some time back, we actually lack agency to "save" species from extinction. In addition, we cannot evolve fast enough to keep up with the rate of change. This includes many other species as well; especially species with longer lives such as ourselves. One of the reasons for extinction in the first place has to do with how quickly a species can reproduce. If a species cannot keep up with the death rate by being able to supply more births than deaths, eventually the species will become functionally extinct. 

My article about saving species from extinction also goes into details on precisely how we are not nature (but a part of nature), meaning the choice on whether to save a species ultimately isn't up to us in the first place. Where do we get this idea that we can or even should command and control nature? Isn't this actually the root issue - the very mindset of which - is causing our unsustainability? We tend to suffer from the illusion of control. It also provides further proof of why relocating species to new ecosystems is fraught with trouble. This is part of what makes invasive species such a pernicious predicament no different than any of the other symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot. 

The whole point of my blog is to explain the difference between a problem with an answer or solution and a predicament with an outcomeIt is this constant hubris caused by our inability to comprehend this difference combined with the anthropocentrism that we *MUST* continue attempting to command and control nature to facilitate a "desirable outcome" (desirable for humans, not generally desirable for any other species) which inevitably leads us to make the same mistakes over and over, simply increasing ecological overshoot rather than reducing it. I have pointed out time and time again that increasing ecological overshoot worsens the symptom predicaments such as climate change, extinction, energy and resource decline, and pollution loading. How short-sighted do we really need to be to see that moving other species around the planet doesn't reduce ecological overshoot any differently than moving ourselves (another species) around the planet? How well has this worked out for life on this planet by becoming an invasive species ourselves? This is just another plan which in theory sounds good, but in reality really can do little else other than make the existing predicaments we face even worse. 

Think for a moment how all our other plans to "save" the planet have worked out. Have they actually saved the planet? No. In fact, every single species that is lauded as being "saved" has only been saved for the time being. Once the fossil hydrocarbon platform supplying the energy to us and providing that special "magic" can no longer be maintained, then what? Once we can no longer maintain quick and easy travel to and from distant and/or remote places, how will "assisted migration" work then? Considering that there really isn't anywhere on this planet "safe" or "excluded" from climate change and all the other symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot, what good does moving anything (including ourselves) actually accomplish other than unintended consequences? Why can't people come to the realization that all these ideas to "save" things are riddled with wetiko? We hatched these ideas in our mind convinced of their viability without truly knowing said viability and we have denied this reality (that said viability may not even exist). There are always unintended consequences and the original goal always comes at a cost of increased ecological overshoot. Given this outcome and knowledge, the ONLY way to reduce ecological overshoot is to reduce technology use - continuing the same ideas we used to get to this point will only produce heartache and unnecessary suffering. But there is that nasty lack of agency dogging us. Not only can't anyone "sell" society on the idea of reducing ecological overshoot to reduce symptom predicaments such as climate change (because it means giving up some of our creature comforts that we have gotten used to having), but even if we could actually accomplish such a task, who would actually want to? 

Look at the war in Ukraine. How is this actually helping accomplish anything? Inevitably, the war is based upon both resources and ideology. Perhaps blasting Ukraine into the stone age to access mineral and hydrocarbon reserves might make sense to some, but how does any of this reduce ecological overshoot? It doesn't - it increases it and at the same time ramps up symptom predicaments; especially food and water security and energy and resource decline. Given what is happening in the southwestern United States with the drought situation, the extreme weather events driving crazy wildfires this early in the year (both here and in Siberia), and a concomitant shortage of energy caused by all of these predicaments acting together in unison along with the associated rise in inflation, prices for everything including food and basic necessities are expected to literally skyrocket this fall. Welcome to the new world we now live in.

In fact, now they are even admitting these hydrocarbon shortages, despite the MSM's claims that the woes for the economy and inflation are being caused by the pandemic, supply chain issues, and the war in Ukraine, quote:

"The amount of unused capacity that the world can tap to produce more energy products is running out, warned top oil ministers.

Referring to recent price spikes for refined products, Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at a Tuesday conference, "I am a dinosaur, but I have never seen these things," according to Bloomberg.

"The world needs to wake up to an existing reality. The world is running out of energy capacity at all levels," he added.

Getting back to invasive species, one must remember how they crowd out native species. Many people focus on tree planting because of trees' ability to sequester carbon. Little attention, however, is often paid to what species of tree is selected for planting, leading to the situation brought to our attention by the first article I linked to above. So, even though planting trees is a fun and rewarding activity, it doesn't always lead to a good outcome. In fact, most people hoping for trees to "fix" climate change are in for a big surprise. Sad to say, this just isn't reality. There aren't enough trees in the world to offset society's carbon emissions, and there never will be. It's a hard pill to swallow, not much differently than learning the harsh realities of energy and resource decline taking away the lifestyles we have become used to, or climate change blasting heatwaves, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, drought, and all sorts of other extreme weather events into the forefront of today's news headlines. 

So it is about far more than just pear trees, or poison ivy, or kudzu, or even invasive insects such as pine beetles, the hemlock woolly adelgid, and the emerald ash borer. We are driving these invasives by our lifestyles and even through ideas which are often thought of to be some sort of "solution" for one of the symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot. Quite honestly, I didn't realize just how huge an issue invasives were until I started researching last year on several different articles including the one on saving species as well as the three-part series on what we should do. Originally intended for just a single article, I ran into some serious discussion which promulgated the second article and then that article ran into the third article taking a slightly different turn. At the end of the day, even though those ideas on what we should do are noble indeed, I am seeing no real efforts to get things going in the correct direction (sustained, serious, and large-scale efforts at reducing ecological overshoot). Society simply will not agree on doing what is necessary until there is no longer any choice left in the matter. Working on action for any symptom predicament while ignoring ecological overshoot is basically a complete waste of time and energy because doing so ignores the very cause of said symptom predicament and ideas such as assisted migration ignore not only the cause of the decline of the species attempting to be "saved" but also ignore the invasive species side of the issue as well. 

It is often somewhat ironic that a person will notice the pattern of our collective behavior causing one of the symptom predicaments such as climate change and blame the wrong driver (such as carbon emissions, which are actually yet another symptom predicament of ecological overshoot) and work towards reducing said wrong driver, refusing to see (denial of reality) that ignoring ecological overshoot means that said wrong driver CAN NOT and WILL NOT be reduced until the correct driver (ecological overshoot) is reduced instead. Certainly we can all come up with many other symptom predicaments and wrong drivers to notice the failure of logic on each one. Live Now! 


  1. Nobody seems to have joined the dot that humans themselves are an invasive species.....

  2. My other thought was there isn't actually anything such as an invasive species - that is merely a human-centric label - it is merely a species in Overshoot. All species, regardless, will expand to the maximum of it's biosphere - life wants to live afteral - grow, overshoot and collapse. Normal checks and balances such as diseases, predators and climate variations usually keep overshoot to a minimum so that across a multi-diverse biosphere it's not noticeable.
    Human activity has destroyed that balance, and modified and degraded the biosphere that much, so that a random assortment of species as well as us can go into temporary Overshoot. Then we have the cheek to call them invasive species....


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