Land Design
and Restoration

Sorrel Inman

Mergoat Land Design and Restoration

Sorrel Inman

[email protected]
(865) 250-6140

Volume 2 N°1: A Horde, A Heap, A Pile… (Digital)

Released:June 5, 2024

Digital PDF download available immediately after purchase.


If you have ever taken I-40 from Knoxville to Asheville, you have driven one of the most visually striking stretches of interstate in the so-called US. 400 million-year-old rock outcrops and rugged terrain seem to morph, as a monochrome tapestry of deciduous and evergreen summer leaves gives way to autumnal yellow and red hues. In May, a silky pink flower appears, nearly homogenous on the roadsides—Albizia julibrissin, more commonly known as mimosa tree…

What are invasive species? While this question seems simple, it has become one of the most controversial topics in popular ecological discourse—riddled with misinformation, malpractice, and magical thinking. Varying opinions amongst practitioners of ecological conservation, permaculture, herbalism, and craft have emerged, often carving deep conceptual and practical divisions.

We aren’t going to resolve this conflict in one issue of a magazine, nor over the course of a single year. Our hope, though, is to open a clearing where diverse practitioners can learn from one another, while also participating in good-faith critique and dialogue. Conflict, collaboration, vulnerability, and humility are all necessary parts of this process—because at the end of the day, one fact stands tall above all others: no single person, organization, or practice can resolve the crisis of invasive species. Is it possible, though, to identify some fundamental definitions and realities we can agree on in order to strengthen our individual practices and collective impact?

Science has taught us over and over again of the profoundly negative impacts invasive species have on biodiverse ecosystems. A classic example of this crisis in Southern Appalachia can be observed in the rapid decline of eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) as a result of the introduction of the woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). These insects, which appear as cute little fuzz balls, have viciously affected as much as 90% of the eastern hemlock population throughout the region, inevitably leading to a sequential chain of collapse in the relative food web. In the worst cases, the extinction or drastic decline of a single species can spiral out of control, generating an extinction vortex and compromising entire networks of biodiversity.

While institutional Western science provides an enormous amount of data on the history, impacts, and relevant management strategies pertaining to invasive species, it is not without its major flaws. There are two glaring defects in the approach of Western science when it comes to invasive species. First, it often fails to incorporate Indigenous knowledges—often referred to as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)— into its methodologies. These forms of knowledge, passed down through generations to our indigenous communities, are greatly underrepresented in the scientific literature. The failure to incorporate TEK into our knowledge bases is a direct reflection of the white supremacist origins of our institutions and their ongoing enmeshment with structural white supremacy.

Second, and in relation to the first failure, institutional science has failed to incorporate culturally sensitive language and practices. For instance, many have suggested that use of the term “invasive” in conjunction with common species names that often refer to specific geographical locations or place names (“Chinese privet,” “Japanese honeysuckle,” “algerian ivy,” to name a few), contributes to problematic cultural beliefs about the people and places where these species are found natively.

In an effort to build a more inclusive conservation community, practitioners of permaculture, herbalism, and ecological landscaping have worked to reframe the discourse using culturally sensitive language—introducing novel terms, like “immigrant species” and rejecting culturally insensitive common names. In some cases, this novel language has led some to make propositions that simply are not supported by basic scientific data. One example of this phenomenon is the suggestion that the introduction and proliferation of invasive species is a natural part of an evolving world in the face of climate change. This idea fails to account for the anthropogenic distribution of these species, and the inalterable catastrophes they generate in conjunction with climate change. The literature is clear that invasive species are crushing biodiversity at a rate that is not yet fully understood by the scientific community.

Many practitioners have occasionally suggested that we embrace certain invasive plants for their medicinal, nutritional, and economic benefits. Acknowledging these benefits is not a bad thing in and of itself, and in certain applications, it is a major net positive. Nevertheless, we often find negligent pseudoscientific propositions accompanying these practices, propositions that downplay the need for management and eradication. Occasionally, we observe examples wherein the messaging even takes on a prophetic or eschatological character, teaching that certain species were sent here by some divine force to teach us a lesson or to bring us back into right balance with the earth.

While many people experience healthy spiritual connections to plants, animals, and the natural world—animism itself is an important component of many Indigenous religious and spiritual practices—how do we hold our communities accountable when westernized appropriations and commodifications of these practices serve as vehicles for misinformation? When we center the anthropocentric value of invasive species, or purport to be a medium for gnostic truths about them that do not accord with basic scientific observation, we veil the profoundly detrimental impacts they have on our lands and the diverse array of indigenous flora and fauna that inhabit them, often desecrating Indigenous religions in the process.

…In many cases, woodland edges that were once rich zones of biodiversity known as “ecotones,” have been ravaged and homogenized by the same mimosa tree that produces the delicate pink flower along I-40 between Knoxville and Asheville. Throughout Winter, these trees unleash a devastating assault upon our lands in the form of hundreds of thousands of viable seeds—seeds that lay in waiting for the next opening in the canopy when they wake from their slumber. As the light warms the ground, an indefatigable lawn of mimosa seedlings appears, and the diverse community who natively occupy that space question their fate.

Some guiding questions we seek to explore in this issue are:

  1. How do invasive species relate to colonization, industrial capitalism, globalization, and climate change?
  2. How can we visualize and correct the role of colonization in the introduction and proliferation of invasive species and requisite destruction of our native ecologies?
  3. Is there a way to break through the wall of misinformation about invasive species in popular discourse without further fragmenting the community of earth-loving people?
  4. What is the role of white practitioners in confronting the toxicity and malpractice that exists in certain segments of ecological, agricultural, and medicinal practices?
  5. How is the dominant language pertaining to invasive species culturally insensitive or deceptive, and how might that be remediated without sacrificing approaches that take the need for management and eradication seriously?
  6. How do we clarify the discourse around the use of herbicides and pesticides in a world where companies like Monsanto have abused these chemicals in ways that have damaged our bodies and communities?
  7. How does temporality figure into our understanding of invasive species management and conservation?
  8. Should we look backward in an attempt to return nature to a former state, or do the demands of our natural world require us to reframe what symbiosis means for the development of future human society?
  9. Should TEK be distinguished from “indigenous knowledges,” and at what point is the use of TEK appropriative?


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