Exotic invasions, nativism, and ecological restoration: On the persistence of a contentious debate

Ethics, Place and Environment 9 (1):63 – 77 (2006)
Abstract
Proponents of ecological restoration view the practice as a means of both repairing damage done to ecosystems by humans and creating an avenue to re-establish respectful and cooperative human-environment relationships. One debate affecting ecological restoration focuses on the place of 'exotic' species in restored ecosystems. Though popular, campaigns against exotics have been criticized for their troubling rhetorical parallels with nativism aimed at human immigrants. I point to some of the reasons why this critique of nativism persists, despite protests that no xenophobic intent is evident, emphasizing the intimacy between social metaphors and claims about exotic nature. Language is but one facet of an entanglement of nature and society that ecological restoration strives to take seriously; however, restoration practice remains ambivalent toward this dichotomy permitting a longing for lost community purity that is embraced in nativism. Regarding defenses of nativism, I point out limitations of attempts to reframe the issue from a reactionary rejection of the foreign Other toward an argument for protecting communities from a process akin to 'cultural imperialism'.
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