Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Native Debate Heats Up: Doug Tallamy Takes on The New York Times OpEd

While I try to avoid link-posting on this blog, this interview in Garden Rant with scientist Douglas Tallamy is too good to pass.  Tallamy rocked the gardening world a few years ago when he published Bringing Nature Home, a book based on scientific studies that show exotic plants support exponentially less wildlife than native plants.  Tallamy, a professor and chair of the entomology and wildlife ecology department at the University of Delaware, believes that biodiversity is an essential, non-renewable natural resource that people are forcing to extinction.

Tallamy addresses some of the backlash against native plant advocacy, addressing in particular the article in The New York Time's OpEd "Mother Nature's Melting Pot" that compares negative feelings towards exotic invasive plants to xenophobia.  The Times article likens the native plant movement to the anti-immigration movement:

While the vanguard of the anti-immigrant crusand is found among the likes of the Minutemen and the Tea Party, the native species movement is led by environmentalists, conservationists and gardeners.  Despite cultural and political differences, both are motivated--in Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase--by the fear of being swamped by aliens.

Ouch!  The article is filled with quite a bit of incendiary statements, loose associations, and faulty analogies.  Tallamy offers a great, reasoned, scientific perspective to counter much of the article.  Here is a link to the Garden Rant post and another to the original interview.


  1. Thanks for the balance, your's and the link to Tallamy's.

    I also saw so much twisted logic used in that NY Times OpEd, that I was almost rendered speechless after reading it, as a plant/design nerd, natural pattern watcher, and a child of 2 immigrants from the Mediterranean Basin.

    Well, not quite speechless...

  2. Thomas - would you consider writing your links in a slightly different colour? We have to mouseover to find them.

  3. Choosing natives or at least, site-specific plants, indicates concern for local integrity. Having anything you want in your garden, whatever the cost, indicates to me arrogant carelessness fuelled by too much cash, and an urge to be popular and seen. I can't believe there's so much stubbornness about the use of appropriate/native plants, and so much wanton disregard for the world around us. In Australia, perhaps because we have such challenging climates, the native/suitable 'movement' is far more mainstream than it seems to be in the US. Three cheers for Doug Tallamy.

  4. Ugh. that article really irritated me and I'm glad you posted this, as I don't always make my way around to everyone's blogs... and I missed this on the Rant. The original article seemed to take anthropomorphic thinking about plants to a whole new level... It just seemed really random and designed to start a controversial conversation. Puh-leese.

    I noted that yesterday Mr. Tallamy and several other notable thinkers and advocates for using natives and protecting and promoting our native insects got their own time to take center stage, though, and the opinion piece that resulted was excellent.


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