Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who's invasive now?

Posted on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 3:11 PM

Who is really the invasive one in our War on Weeds? We are the species who compacts the soil, defoliates, plows, overgrazes cows and degrades large tracts of land. Then we are the ones who spray known toxins on weeds that have the nerve to grow on ground we ruined. It's as if on a subliminal level we know the plants are a testament to our cruelty and we want to get rid of their damning evidence, fast. Don't our actions make us the invasive one?

Who do you put your faith in—the chemical companies' testing laboratories, some of whom have received felony charges for falsifying test results? The Environmental Protection Agency, who has not pulled Milestone's registration despite the die off of thousands of garden plants that were mulched with Milestone-laced manure? Or do you put your faith in scientists who tell us that even micro-doses of toxins can derail a child's development in utero or after birth causing autistic disorders, ADHD, developmental and cognitive disorders and brain cancer in our children?

Our use of chemicals is so rampant that the Center for Disease Control started testing humans for chemical residues and found almost all of the tested chemicals. They even found DDT despite its ban since 1972. Newborn babies have hundreds of chemicals in their cord blood yet we continue to spray chemicals on our parks, school yards and campgrounds. Do we really value weed-free grass over our children's health?

I know people's efforts to eradicate weeds are well-intentioned; saving genetic diversity on behalf of the botanical kingdom is compelling justification for using poisons. But in our noble effort to save genetic diversity we are, in fact, reducing diversity on a global scale by maiming future generations of insects, birds, amphibians, mammals, and yes—ourselves. How is this okay?

And just for the record, herbicides are not accomplishing their intended goal. Since 1996 weeds have grown more and more herbicide resistant. Studies also show that landscape application of herbicides, such as the aerial spraying the U.S. Forest Service currently employs, causes more problems than it resolves, a major one being the arrival of more weedy species; the Forest Service actually budgets in chemical treatment for the second wave of non-native species they know will come. Do we really want to amp up our chemical barrage?

I think we are missing nature's metaphor. Just as white blood cells in our body rush to the site of an infection and overpopulate it in order to fight the disease, might weeds be the Earth's equivalent of white blood cells trying to repair our infectious impacts? By sending in weeds nature is trying to heal, not hinder. Many weedy species such as dandelion, burdock and thistles are medicinal for humans. Might they also be medicinal for soils we have impacted? Is anyone looking into this? Perhaps we are killing the cure.

Native seeds remain viable in the ground for decades, even centuries, and re-inhabit landscapes once the harmful impacts have been removed and the soil has healed. Letting the weeds run their course may seem unfeasible in a world that has grown dependent upon chemicals, but if you truly think this through doesn't the economy of health and well-being for ourselves, for wildlife and for our land trump all other economies?

Rather than focus our venom against the weeds, we need to admit the weeds are here because of us. Instead of administering a steady chemo drip to our children and our environment, modifying our impacts and restoring soil health is a far safer way to proceed.

Randi de Santa Anna

Seeley Lake

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