Will the Real Invasive Species Please Stand Upright?

Dropping cargo meant to kill invasive species will only lead to more environmental predicaments. But try telling this to U.S. personnel in helicopters descending upon Guam, and their $8 million mission parachuting 2,000 mice injected with Tylenol into canopies to try and kill overpopulated brown tree snakes.(1) It was also reminiscent of another dubious mission when in the 1950’s, the World Health Organization bombarded Borneo with massive doses of DDT, part of the Green Revolution, and to fight malaria spread by mosquitoes. As wasps ate the mosquitoes and other so-called pests, and then cockroaches ate the wasps which were then eaten by lizards, DDT, an extremely deadly toxin, worked its way up the food chain to Borneo’s cats. Before long, cats had all but died out and millions of rats took over the island, devouring the fruit and grains of the fields while spreading typhus and other diseases. Faced with this unforeseen invasion of rats, the experts convened another crisis committee and decided to parachute in hundreds of cats.

While the invasive brown tree snakes made their way to Guam via cargo shipments, thanks to globalization, that is international militarism and commerce, DDT was used on the island of Borneo to increase food and eradicate diseases. In each case the causes of ecological imbalance was brought on by another type of chain, a belief in technology and automated mindset. Modern technocentrism-where humankinds primary relationship with the environment is mediated through technologies, and that humankinds main interest in the environment is a productive and economic one(2)-made Borneo and Guam to be overran by rats and snakes. Technocentrism has caused other predicaments too, like global warming and climate change, chemical and nuclear disasters (Bhopal, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima), and large-scale deforestation and depletion of soils brought on by urban development, dams and road-building schemes.

When technocentrism and mega-technology, with their invasive appetites of unsustainable growth, creates more environmental crises, automated thinking assumes more technological development can heal, repair or restore the ecological damage caused by environmentally insensitive technologies. Sadly, they eradicate other possible causes of environmental degradation, usually caused by misguided political, social and ethical behaviors and policies. Technocentric and mega-technological perspectives can also rule out any discussion or acknowledgement of how humankind’s ethical, political and economic priorities will have to be transformed to prevent more ecological imbalances. Only an environmental-changing conversion that enables people to view technologies through the environment, in which humankinds primary relationship with technologies is mediated via environment and that humankinds main interest in technologies is an environmentally unproductive one, will prevent more environmental ruin.

In “The Long Descent,” John Michael Greer writes how humankind no longer faces a problem that entails a solution, but instead a predicament which has no solution. Thanks to the invasiveness of technocentrism, mega-technologies and automated thinking, it will take centuries to unravel the damage committed against the Earth and its delicate ecosystems, some of which have already disappeared. Thus, humankind’s only hope is to develop appropriate responses that will lessen an oncoming collapse followed by major upheavals and dislocations. Appropriate responses will not consist of more techno-fixes, nor technocentric solutions, but human- and mental- and behavioral-fixes that are environmentally centered, starting with rejecting ill-conceived efforts to liberalize and globalize militaries and markets, including their militant techno-centric perceptions and rapacious mega-technologies.

The object of “To Tell the Truth,” a popular afternoon game show which aired on television many years ago, was to ask questions and try to figure out which contestants were lying, and which one was actually telling the truth about who they really were. At the end of the show the host would say, “Will the real (name) please stand up!” After a long and anticipated pause, the real person would finally stand up. From Borneo to Guam and many other places around the world, the real culprits might not be those species that walk on all fours. The real invasive species might be those who walk up but not right in regards to their environmental surroundings and are carriers of technocentric and anthropomorphic ideologies. At the same time, the real threats to sustainable environments, balanced ecologies, and the future might not even be killer bees or ants but instead, killer technologies and mega-technologies. Hasn’t invasive technocentrism produced environmental inequalities for much too long? Isn’t it time to walk up and right?

(1) www.washingtontimes.com, U.S. drops 2,000 mice on Guam-by parachute-to kill snakes by Douglas Ernst. 12/3/2013.

(2) Barry, John and E. Gene Frankland. International Encyclopedia Of Environmental Politics. New York, New York: Routledge Press, 2002., p. 446.