Wednesday, March 23, 2016

More Skewed Logic on Invasive Species--Bradford Pear

Soon after writing a critique of the NY Times article that demonizes those of us who are concerned about invasive species, I received an email saying "They've done it again!" The email pointed to a NY Times oped by a science writer, Gabriel Popkin, about the Bradford Pear. Called The Ups and Downs of the Bradford Pear, most of the oped tells the standard story of how this tree, introduced by the nursery industry with great fanfare, became an ecological problem years later. Only at the end does the oped take a bizarre turn, using strange math and selective pessimism to conclude that, in a world full of bigger problems, we need not take any action.

The Bradford Pear turns our towns, and increasingly our countrysides as well, white with its intense, incandescent blooms in the early spring. It seems like a beacon after the long voyage of winter, telling us that the comforts of spring are close at hand.

But like many species introduced to our continent with great hopes,

Monday, March 14, 2016

Skewed Logic Thrives in NY Times Article on Invasive Species

One expects quality from the NY Times, but for some reason it periodically weakens its standards to publish an oped or article attacking native plant advocates and biologists who study biological invasions. (See list and previous detailed critiques here.) The tactics are always the same: a blurring of important distinctions, a failure to explain to readers the basic concepts of invasive behavior in plants and animals, the creation and tearing apart of strawmen, an embedding of bias in word choice and sentence structure, and a lot of mean-spirited pejoratives. This curious, recurrent smearing of those who seek to understand and tend nature's garden is fueled, as best I can tell, by a never-ending stream of resentment emanating most stridently from a couple California-based websites, then given undeserved validation by journalists who lack training and field experience in biology and ecology.

The latest, by veteran science writer Erica Goode, is a polemic loosely disguised as an article in the Science section. Entitled "Invasive Species Aren’t Always Unwanted", it portrays invasion biology as a xenophobic, militaristic, quasi-religious cult that has invented a false enemy and caused people and governments to behave in violent ways. We are asked to accept this dark psychological portrait largely on faith.

Like attacks on climate science, the article claims to shake the foundations of a major area of scientific study