Several years ago, in an effort to improve the quality of the soil in my garden, I bought a truckload of topsoil. It was carefully spread, then tilled and worked into the soil. The original soil and the new topsoil were mixed until they became as one. At first, it was great. The soil was darker and richer looking than the native sandy soil, and the plants that I grew there were bigger and stronger. Then came the weeds…
A superb allegory for our present crisis.
As an ecologist, environmental educator, and sometime organic farmer, I have long seen the parallels between “invasive aliens” in natural ecosystems – or gardens! – and in our cultural ecosystem. Diversity in an ecosystem, or in a diversified small farm, is a strength; it increases the robustness, the resilience, of the whole. But it must be native diversity.
Import aliens – kudzu, Japanese stilt-grass, autumn olive, multiflora rose (or allow, through negligence or oversight, even more perilous and secretive invaders like chestnut blight or emerald ash borers to sneak in), and the list could go on – and they quickly choke out the natives. And once introduced, they are difficult or impossible to ever totally eradicate. At best, one might achieve a tenuous and combative equilibrium. Likewise, as The Southern Agrarian notes,
“Culture is a very precious thing, and it must be cared for and defended. A culture – just like agriculture – requires work to maintain. There are no shortcuts. Bringing in, or allowing in, foreign elements into a native culture brings with it serious risks. While on the surface, there may appear to be benefits to mixing cultures, the hidden costs will quickly show up. Like an invasive species in nature that finds no natural enemies, it takes over and the original culture disappears. Forever.”
Words to the wise. Those who have ears, let them hear!