No tears will be shed for the giant hogweed. No protests will be held for the embattled Asian carp.
Almost every species has far-flung origins. But these lowly migrants are relative newcomers. So they get branded "invasive," a declaration-of-war made easier by a general lack of "cuteness." Millions are spent by local, state and federal governments in a futile battle to eradicate them. Governments and green groups say that these troublesome migrants were, by and large, introduced by humanity, as if that fact really matters in a geological sense. They're just the newest patsies in an alarmist fundraising campaign.
The war on invasives has nothing to do with environmental policy. It's solely an economic issue for environmental groups and food producers alike.
The battle for survival -- for resources -- has no rules or moral imperatives. But that's exactly what's being sold in the war on invasive species. "Bad" transplants are killing off "good" long-time residents.
Gov. Bruce Rauner this past week signed legislation adding eight plants, including giant hogweed, to the state's Exotic Weed Act, which bans the purchase, sale or cultivation of numerous troublesome plants. The state chapter of the Sierra Club had pushed the move.
The slack-jawed Asian carp's explosive reproductive success in the Mississippi and Missouri river systems has received special attention. The voracious fish easily outcompetes "native species" and threatens fishing economies throughout the Great Lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated last year that it would cost $18 billion and several decades to stem the carp's advance on the Great Lakes system.
And, in all likelihood, it's a losing battle anyway.
Meanwhile, webcam viewers throughout the world obsess about the plight of the panda, a species that all but refuses to copulate. But they're just so adorable, aren't they?
Few species are truly "native." But self-centered humanity has a passion for the arbitrary frame of reference. In Illinois, for example, "prior to European settlement" is the irrational division between "native" and "invasive" or "exotic."
Almost all species, at some point, arrived from somewhere else. Over eons, they spread from their locale of origin, battling indigenous species for resources and, as displayed by their survival, winning. About 100,000 years ago, a few small bands of humans wandered out of Africa, destined to spread to every corner of the planet. Both competing and prey species were eradicated in the process. No one weeps for Neanderthal.
Either carried by driftwood or in a vacationer's luggage, the method of a species' movement is essentially meaningless. Humanity is, like the asteroid that allegedly eradicated the dinosaurs, just another agent in an incomprehensibly vast system.
An estimated 99.99 percent of all species that have inhabited the planet over the past 4.5 billion years went extinct. Imagine the incredible forms that had their day and, thanks to one cataclysm or another, went the way of the dodo. Often, no doubt, these extinction-level events were driven by the sudden appearance of a new, more adapted species.
Each and every one of us should give thanks to whatever slaughtered the dinosaurs. Without it, our warm-blooded, vole-like predecessor might have been the alpha and the omega of mammalian kind. Extinction is what put us here.
Asian carp indeed pose a threat to Great Lakes fishing economies. It's a massive annoyance, and even a danger, for boaters on the Mississippi. This is about mankind picking winners and losers based on our economic needs. And that's just fine. Calling it an environmental issue is self-serving alarmist bombast, which neglects the very nature of life itself.
Invasives are simply organisms doing what life does best -- surviving.