Environmental journalist Pearce (The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth, 2012, etc.) examines the effects of introduced species and our responses to them.
It is time to stand back and look at the evidence when we come to judge and respond to “invasive” species, writes the author; at this point, pretty much the majority of species is invasive rather than endemic. Pearce appears ready to swing the pendulum away from conserving the “pristine” to utterly “novel ecosystems,” and part of that change will entail sometimes-irksome invasive species. Nature is dynamic and cannot be conserved in aspic; on the other hand, to claim a noninterventionist approach is just as unreal, since humans are forever intervening in nature’s progress. When Pearce writes, “we need to lose our fear of the alien and the novel,” he hits the nail on the head. When he follows that line with, “It means conservationists must stop spending all their time backing loser species—the endangered and the reclusive,” he sounds like a crank eugenicist. Are alien species really “nature at its best”? However, few would disagree with the author that introduced species do not deserve to be ecologically cleansed. Yes, Pearce admits, alien species can cause us “inconvenience,” but then how does it follow that we should “let [nature] run wild”? For the most part, the author brings the balanced perspective of a seasoned, freethinking environmental reporter, pushing points that need to be made—nature is a hothouse of change, an often temporary arrangement, and open to being remade—and what we think of as invasive is mostly hardiness and lack of competition that in many instances finds a new equilibrium, the incomers becoming “model eco-citizens.”
Pearce’s book could use some pruning and shaping of its own, but his theme is significant: There is no going back when change is the norm.