Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Coming to terms with "non-native" and "invasive" plants

As plants and animals move from continent to continent, so do language speakers. Ideas can move across academic disciplines, too. So can people. Whilst researching English language education and assessment, Bonfiglio (2010) kept inserting himself in my thinking, (even though that work was only peripherally relevant to the specific
area of research, language examinations for New Scots). 

Native, natural, nationalism: just three etymological siblings in a large family. And during the Trump campaign in 2016, I encounter the concept of nativism, nicely defined by Huber et al (2008) as "the practice of assigning values to real or imagined differences, in order to justify the superiority of the native, to the benefit of the native and at the expense of the non- native, thereby defending the native’s right to dominance."  The nativist critical framework is not confined to the US: see for example Smith, 2016.

Until recently I would have said I wanted a garden or allotment with "native" plants, without thinking why, and without thinking what that even meant. How far back in the past does a plant have to go to qualify as a native? The sycamore, for example, Acer pseudoplatanus, is not a "native", though it has been "naturalised", (Woodlandtrust.org.uk, 2017). Is there a scale, here? Native: good; naturalised: not-bad; non-native: bad, invasive, blow-in. As with plants, so with animals. The treatment of the "non-native" grey squirrel in England is fascinating (Barkham, 2017). 

Trees and squirrels matter less than people, but we could ask: what is the relationship between our "native" population's attitude to "non-native" people, such as refugees or EU migrants, and attitudes to other species, inanimate and otherwise? Richardson and Rejmanek's (2011) definition of "invasive alien species" (IAS) of trees and shrubs "contains no connotation of impact", presumably they are where they ought not to be, interfering with a notion of authenticity in the landscape, just as Nigel Farage hankers after the mid-1950s, to the era before mass immigration to the UK, (Norman, 2016), when a white person could walk down the street of all but a few major cities, and encounter only other white people
with British accents.

There are invasive native species too. I have introduced one such, bulrush (Typha latifolia). I am deliberately encouraging another, bramble (Rubus fruticosus) - a dangerous beast if ever there was one. 

But look at the hits you get on Google Scholar with the native invaders:

And what you get with the aliens: 

You might think that, as a species, we have an obsession with "others", "aliens", or "non-natives". What's that all about?

REFERENCES [NB: I've gone back to the Harvard style I used for the MA, as opposed to APA used during the now abandoned EdD).

Barkham, P. (2017). ‘Kill them, kill them, kill them’: the volunteer army plotting to wipe out Britain’s grey squirrels. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/02/kill-them-the-volunteer-army-plotting-to-wipe-out-britains-grey-squirrels [Accessed 17 Aug. 2017].

Bonfiglio, T.P., 2010. Mother tongues and nations: The invention of the native speaker (Vol. 226). Walter de Gruyter.

Bremner, A. and Park, K., 2007. Public attitudes to the management of invasive non-native species in Scotland. Biological conservation, 139(3), pp.306-314.

Fridley, J.D., 2013. Plant invasions across the Northern Hemisphere: a deep
time perspective. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1293(1), pp.8-17.

Higham, J. (1955). Strangers in the land: Patterns of American nativism 1860–1925. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Huber, L.P., Lopez, C.B., Malagon, M.C., Velez, V. and Solorzano, D.G., 2008. Getting beyond the ‘symptom,’acknowledging the ‘disease’: Theorizing racist nativism. Contemporary Justice Review, 11(1), pp.39-51.

Norman, M. (2016). Our biggest mistake was to underestimate Farage – and look where we are now. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/our-biggest-mistake-was-to-underestimate-farage-and-look-where-we-are-now-a7121071.html [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].

Richardson, D.M. and Rejm├ínek, M., 2011. Trees and shrubs as invasive alien species–a global review.
Diversity and Distributions, 17(5), pp.788-809.

Smith, H.J., 2016. Britishness as racist nativism: a case of the unnamed ‘other’. Journal of Education for Teaching, 42(3), pp.298-313.

Woodlandtrust.org.uk. (2017). [online] Available at: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/common-non-native-trees/sycamore/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].