[permaculture] Are we a weed?

Toby Hemenway hemenway at jeffnet.org
Tue Mar 25 13:30:13 EST 2003


On Sunday, March 23, 2003, at 10:09 AM, Marimike6 at cs.com wrote:

> 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

Jared Diamond, in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (and a bunch of other 
ecologists, too) explain the one-way flow of "weeds" this way: European 
weeds are often the plants that preferred tilled fields, and over the 
centuries selected themselves for aggressively moving into disturbed 
ground .So as Westerners cruise around the planet plowing and digging, 
we create huge sites from which these weeds can spread into other 
sites, even ones they aren't too well adapted too. The huge seed stock 
and population reserve just swamps out other species and prevents local 
extinction of the weeds. On the other hand, native plants (pardon my 
sloppy terminology; I don't have a lot of time to spend), selected for 
specific and often not widespread conditions, will have a much harder 
time moving into developed or human-modified land (i.e., most of 
Europe, lots of Asia, Australia, etc.) and a very difficult time moving 
into intact ecosystems that are unlike the ones they came from, like on 
other continents. They must compete head-to-head with well-established 
residents, and from a small population base. Maybe I haven't explained 
it clearly, but the one-way flow makes perfect sense to me.

  I realize also that this is similar to what was said earlier about 
western cultures having a home base to draw resources from, ensuring 
their survival. Weeds have something similar in farmland. So that does 
make us a little like weeds--or weeds like us.

Toby
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