Immediate Return and Invasive Plants

I have a question. What do people who push for a future of just immediate return hunting and gathering envision when it comes to invasive species management?

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Eat and use indiscriminately. Plant and promote natives.
The best management technique is: don’t kill the earth + time. Obviously there are some barriers to deal with to use that technique most fittingly.

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Cool, that would be my solution (although I would do prescribed burning too). I guess my question is, then isn’t that tending the wild?

I don’t think I advocate for an immediate return h/g lifestyle, but I think I agree with K.T. I would certainly encourage people learning to use invasive species. I don’t think we should be encouraging them. In my area, native plants typically provide a better food source than invasives and they support greater landscape-scale diversity. So I would tilt tending efforts (like burning) toward natives.


I think “tending” becomes a perspective. I see tending as an agrarian mentality. I know others don’t see it that way, but I do. Because I do, I see tending as conscious manipulation, a kind of control, even if the intentions are good. On the flip side, I think other people see anything as tending, that it’s all implied through the act of foraging, eating and shitting seeds. If you see it that way, then everything is tending.
It’s not that IRHGs don’t know what they’re doing, it’s not like they are unaware of how ecology or biology functions, but it comes down to perspectives of time, history, and place. Taking part in a continuum isn’t the same as planning for a future as a separate place. To me, that’s how the tending leans on the agricultural mindset. Which is a long way of saying, no, I don’t see it as all tending the wild.

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I never said that they don’t understand ecology, or that just foraging is tending (although I have mixed feelings on that last one). My question is how does planting certain types of plants in order to get a specific ecological outcome not qualify as tending? Does that make sense?

The point I’m trying to make here comes down to intentionality. If you’re a nomadic forager, then propagating specific plots isn’t really a game plan. If the entire bioregion is your home and you move regularly through it, then it’s not propagating in an agrarian sense.
In that regard, all foraging is tending, which I don’t believe is the case. But to “get a specific ecological outcome” doesn’t seem relevant to nomadic foraging life. That’s long term planning. They, on the other hand, are just long-term living. No need for planning, no other options, no other reality.

Seems like long-term planning is something you get from “delayed-return” which requires storage.

I think humans invented specific strategies to leave Africa, and in a lot of places, delayed-return (food storage/planning) was the only way possible to do so. It’s unfortunate, as this kind of “intensification” leads to more people, and more problems. The chips are all still falling from whatever has happened in the last tens of thousands of years. After reading Tao Orion’s book “Beyond the War on Invasive Species” I’m not even really sure what to think in terms of tending the “new wild.” (Also, the book the “New Wild” which wasn’t as good as Tao’s book but covers a lot o the same ground).

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Peter, can you briefly define “new wild”? I’ve read about 1/2 of Tao’s book and have mixed feelings so far. I haven’t read New Wild.

Read the synopsis of “The New Wild”. I have a feeling I would strongly disgree with that one. But that’s likely neither here nor there in this conversation.

The New Wild is kind of annoying. I don’t really agree nor disagree… The world will continue to fix itself with or without the help of humans. Most of the time humans (especially civilized humans) just fuck shit up worse than before. I have a hard time seeing how anyone who isn’t living entirely from the land where they live, would know anything about how to live there or how it “should” look. The New Wild is basically anecdotes about invasive species that come to a place and leave it better off (they are fixing nitrogen in the soil due to terrible agricultural practices for example) than the horrible systems of civilization that decimated them in the first place. It’s true, there are very few examples of invasive species actually causing a native plant to go extinct, and where there is some evidence for that, it was more the existence of civilization and agriculture that causes the extinction and invasive species played a very, very minor role (and a symptomatic role of agriculture anyhow). New Wild is basically like, “there is nothing we can do. it’s not really a big deal. who cares.” Whereas, Tao’s book puts everything in a contemporary context of management which I feel is much more helpful (and she goes after agriculture, which makes me happy).

RE: “New Wild.” This is part of what concerns me about a lot of this, shall I say, “professional” aspect of what would otherwise be critique and engagement. I feel the same about the term “anthropocene.” It was, at least as I always understood it, a critical concept, a red flag or warning about what we have done and what we are doing. Then all of the sudden these things become an accepted state of reality. There’s a whole crop of Paleo/permaculture/ecological/biological careerists that seem set on establishing that the newest era or the “death of blah, blah” equates to a new reality and that’s what we are tasked with coping with.
It’s as though the notion that we can change anything just never existed. Makes my stomach turn. There is no permanence. It’s like everyone missed Ecology 101: stability comes in ebb and flow. Changes are slow, but leveling off is possible.
I’ve avoided Tao’s book because I see the ecological side of this discussion as a battle of two false narratives: invasives are the enemy or invasives are the salvation. Invasives are invasives because we took an ecological, living thing and put it somewhere it wouldn’t have gone on its own. We disturb soils, they like disturbed soils. We wreck the balance of layered canopies, they thrive in that imbalance.
We personify and vilify invasives because then we remove ourselves from responsibility. We can keep starting over and pretending like the problem can be tended away. I just don’t see the world that way. Civilization is collapsing. That is our reality. I want to do what I can to give ecological restoration a leg up, but ultimately what brings about sustainability is how the ecosystems recover and how we act to end their decimation and suffering.
So much is waiting in the lurks. It’s not a battle of ideologies, it’s just a recognition that nothing heals the land better than itself. And as garlic mustard kills native pollinators, it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t help the land find its balance again.

I agree with you. And I agree with Tao’s fundamental premise’s. I do have a problem when invasive species are framed as the “solution”, though (which is what the synopsis of The New Wild made it sound like). I have not seen the evidence that they “repair” ecosystems more than native species with similar niches. I also think that when folks are working on conserving a small piece of ground that harbors unique biodiversity, invasive species can be a distinct threat to that biodiversity. But, yeah, in the big picture its a major distraction - or worse - to focus on invasive species over other threats to the natural world.

I apologize if this gets off track, though.

I think you might actually like Tao’s book. It’s fairly balanced in terms of this reality. “The War” she speaks of is really about the use of pesticide and herbicide, not necessarily the removal of, etc. I think she does a good job of straddling between those narratives and offering a third. At least, that’s what I took away from it wether that was her intention or not.

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This is another big point, so I won’t derail everything on it. But there’s a narrative within permaculture that seeks to solidify views of social evolution and the spread of humanity to ideas that are frankly fringe or largely discredited in terms of archaeology and history. Notions that are often really impossible. There’s no reason to believe that delayed-return was necessary to leave Africa other than spats of supposed evidence often pushed in terms of a marauding human cultures that would destroy everything every 10-20,000 years or so. In an ecological timeline, that’s absolutely impossible to think.
We’re clearly capable of fucking up. Saying anything online is evidence of that, but it makes it easier to extrapolate and contextualize either intermissions of overshoot (which Catton intended to show all species exhibit from time to time) or to explain ecological events as consequence of the innate imbalance of humanity.

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I did hear that about Tao’s book and other good things. I shouldn’t be stubborn about it, but I’ll chalk it up to massive “must read” piles already. Arguing against the use of pesticides and herbicides is naturally something good, so I take that as a positive. I suppose I just took the third option (short “New Wild” mentality) as kind of a given.

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What era of archaeology would you place the origin of delayed-return?

There is definitive evidence of temporary periods of settling within the last 20,000 years, prior to it actually taking root roughly 12,000 years ago. Glimpses as old as 70,000 years, but temporary in nature, akin to overshoot rather than building a civilization and collapsing. In terms of contextualizing civilization, I still focus on 10-12,000 years for the origins of domestication of plants, 5-7,000 years for cities. But my focus has been mostly on the impacts of sedentism and hunter-collector societies for a while now.
I wouldn’t be shocked to find timelines slowly being pushed back, but the scale is all relative since the timeline for nomadic foraging existence is pushing back as well. Quantity wise, still relatively the same, a few places, a handful of people settled and it never went well, especially for their unfortunate neighbors.