June 11, 2016
By Ned Kehde
For a number of years, we have a written a few letters to the editor at area newspapers, appeared before county commissioners, talked to fellow anglers, written newspaper columns, and written Midwest Finesse columns about the unwise ways that the biologists at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism and the managers of the reservoirs respond when an invasive species, such as Eurasian milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed, appears in northeastern Kansas' reservoirs. The response that we object to is the killing of these invasive species by applying a herbicide. Much of the rationalization behind this radical action by the biologists and reservoir managers stems from an appeal that eleven American conservation scientists, including the much-heralded Edward O. Wilson, wrote in 1997 to Vice President Al Gore, proclaiming that "a rapidly spreading invasion of exotic plants€¦is destroying our nation's biological diversity." But it has been our contention that the unintentional consequences of applying the herbicide are more disruptive to the environment than Eurasian milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.
We have never been able to understand when a plant or creature is not an invasive and exotic species. For instance, earthworms did not exist in the northern sections of the United States until the Europeans introduced them. Europeans also introduced the European honeybee in the United States in the seventeenth century, and nowadays 12 states, including Kansas, list it as their state insect. What's more, Kentucky bluegrass is an old-world or European meadow-grass.
Fred Pearce is a British journalist who writes about the environment and science. He has recently written a book that anglers and fisheries biologists should read. It is entitled "The New Wild," and it was published in 2015 by Beacon Books.
Pearce used to be a disciple of the idea that invasive species were destroying the environment. Nowadays, he has become what he describes as a new ecologist, and he embraces the manifold virtues of alien and invasive species, saying that these species can create a new wild. And he emphatically notes that that old wild cannot be recreated.
In short, Pearce's "The New Wild" sheds light on how invasive species can change the world for the better, hinting and hoping that it might have the wherewithal to counteract the diabolical effects of such things as climate change. He celebrates nature's dynamism. So, according to Pearce, embracing the arrival of curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian milfoil is what we should do rather than trying to kill it with herbicides.
From our perspective, Pearce has written a very insightful and thoughtful book. We would like to read comments from readers of this Midwest Finesse column about Pearce's book. Please post them in the comment section below.
We would also like to read your perspectives about how we can work together to significantly limit the use of herbicides and pesticides on our lawns, golf courses, parks, roadways, farmlands, and waterways.
(1) Liam Heneghan, who is a professor and the department chair of Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul University, wrote a review of "The New Wild." It was published in the Los Angeles Review of Books on Oct. 15, 2015. Heneghan castigates Fred Pearce and his book, saying it "is under-researched and one-sided, perhaps recklessly so."
Here is a link to Heneghan's review: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/is-there-need-for-the-new-wild-the-new-ecological-quarrels/.
(2) Readers who disagree with Heneghan's contentions and criticisms of Fred Pearce says Heneghan should read again pages 106 through 120 in "The New Wild." These readers also note that Pearce is not a scientist. He is a journalist, and his research as a journalist looks to be impeccable.