Fwd: [permaculture] Are we a weed?

Marimike6 at cs.com Marimike6 at cs.com
Sun Mar 23 13:09:49 EST 2003

Dear Bob, Toby et al---

This whole thread is getting really interesting. I will agree with Toby that 
the weed thing is not the most accurate analogy once you get into the 
specifics of our infestation. Perhaps a mosaic virus. You'll recall that the 
tobacco mosaic virus encounters healthy tobacco leaf and converts the whole 
mass into mosaic. In fact, viruses generally do what we do, since they don't 
rely on a disturbed ecology to "lay their eggs". We come in, lay our eggs and 
then disturb the ecology. By the time the process is finished, it becomes 
housing for our expanding populations.

Here in North Carolina we see the process in fine detail. To accomodate an 
expanding population, farm land is being taken out of productivity at a 
record pace and put into subdivisions. Every yuppie family moving into one of 
these subdivisions proclaims themselves to be against "urban sprawl"-- which 
is precisely the form of planetary utilization they have voted for with their 
pocketbooks. This is where we're headed, and is the process our economy must 
rely on to avoid stagnation. We can't afford to put an army of builder-ants 
out of work.

To fill in the picture a bit, the other half of the process is the way farm 
profits have become co-opted by big, horizontally and vertically structured 
conglomerates like ADM, Cardiff, Dow and the other usual suspects. They make 
the money and the family farmer faces a tough choice-- either continue 
planting seed and going deeper into debt or selling the farm for a decent 
one-time sum, to a developer.

The rosy side of the picture is that while job-seekers from the rural 
counties go to the edges of the major metropolitan areas, where they buy up 
the new houses in last year's cotton fields, they empty out all the counties 
that are not adjacent to urban areas. These places go back to seed, or the 
cheap vacant land is bought up by people like you, for homesteading purposes.

North Carolina, for instance, currently has more land in forest (I believe, 
even if you don't count tree farms as "forest") than we have had since the 19 
teens. By the 20's and 30's virtually every acre in the state, except for the 
Joyce Kilmer Forest and a few sunless mountain hollows, was put up in crops. 
So, taking the long view, there will be some cause for optimism until the day 
every county across the entire globe has been put into midrise apartment 
blocks, to house the billions to come.

But Bob, to address one specific you mentioned, I do believe it's generally  
the case that the hardy weeds of Eurasia have typically gone rampant in the 
rest of the world -- the zebra mussel is a good example--  while it is very 
rare for species from the smaller continents to gain a toehold in Eurasia 
unless they are cultivars, like tomatos, potatos and cotton. I don't think 
they have fire ants or wallaby problems there, while the plague is, of 
course, Eurasian. I like your analogy between ourselves and the locusts, 
experiencing their first population surge. 

I hope the whole planet doesn't end up looking like Ethiopia and the Sudan-- 
areas that have adjusted to periodic locust plagues by becoming barren and 

I'm sure there must be isolated examples of wrong-way invaders, but I can't 
think of any easy exceptions to this odd rule. I also note that people who 
write about this general tendency can't come up with any really compelling 
reasons why it should be so, except for the obvious generality that in the 
larger landmass there is more competition, thus the more competitive species 
are victorious. Our own competitive advantages do not quite follow the 
analogy, in that we have a technological edge over the native cultures we 

Keep the comments coming. This is good stuff.

Mike Elvin
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Subject: [permaculture] Are we a weed?
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