American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species: by Peter Coates

By Peter Coates

Occasionally by chance and infrequently on goal, people have transported crops and animals to new habitats around the globe. Arriving in ever-increasing numbers to American soil, fresh invaders have competed with, preyed on, hybridized with, and carried illnesses to local species, reworking our ecosystems and growing anxiousness between environmentalists and most people. yet is American anxiousness over this obstacle of ecological identification a up to date phenomenon? Charting moving attitudes to alien species because the 1850s, Peter Coates brings to gentle the wealthy cultural and ancient facets of this tale by means of situating the heritage of immigrant natural world in the wider context of human immigration. via an illuminating sequence of specific invasions, together with the English sparrow and the eucalyptus tree, what he unearths is that we have got continually perceived vegetation and animals on the subject of ourselves and the polities to which we belong. surroundings the saga of human relatives with the surroundings within the large context of medical, social, and cultural heritage, this thought-provoking publication demonstrates how profoundly notions of nationality and debates over race and immigration have formed American understandings of the flora and fauna.

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American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species: Strangers on the Land

Occasionally unintentionally and infrequently on objective, people have transported crops and animals to new habitats all over the world. Arriving in ever-increasing numbers to American soil, fresh invaders have competed with, preyed on, hybridized with, and carried illnesses to local species, remodeling our ecosystems and growing nervousness between environmentalists and most people.

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89 Debates of the 1970s and 1980s over the mink—a semiaquatic fur farm escapee (originally introduced in 1929) whose naturalization in the late 1950s is usually blamed for the decline of the otter and the water vole—were no less saturated with metaphors of the vicious, fastbreeding, all-conquering alien than many concurrent American debates over invasive exotics. Moreover, British wildlife managers and popular science feature writers are equally fond of the suggestive imagery of otherworldly menace.

What is clear, though, is that the sparrow provoked greater and more impassioned discussion than the starling. Because the sparrow controversy has a novelty and degree of emotion lacking from its starling sequel, responses to the sparrow constitute this chapter’s main meat. qxd 9/25/2006 2:57 PM Page 31 The Avian Conquest of a Continent 31 Figure 1. English sparrow (male). From Walter B. Barrows, The English Sparrow (Passer domesticus) in North America, Especially in Its Relations to Agriculture (1889).

73 Yet this popular synonym for nonnative does not fully explain this book’s subtitle. My inspiration comes primarily from John Higham’s seminal study of hostility toward immigrants, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of Nativism in American History, 1860s to 1920s. In a new preface to the second edition, Higham touches on the themes of immigrant promise and immigrant menace by emphasizing the perennial tension in American society and culture between the desire for openness and flexibility and the demand for stability and security.

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