Perhaps those among us who have lately become unnecessarily hysterical about the plethora of invasive species both recently introduced and long entrenched on Hawaii Island at the behest of Department of Land and Natural Resources’ overpaid bevy of career puritanical scolds should temper their sentimentality with a dose of science — and a little thoughtfulness. Allow me to present a few facts:
All the biological residents of a mid-ocean volcanic archipelago such as the Hawaiian chain were originally “invasive species,” including reef fish and coral. The ancestors of every single species of plant, fungus and land or sea animal originally came from elsewhere. The nene evolved from the Canada goose and the koloa maoli evolved from the mallard in relative isolation, but there is no solid evidence (yet) that stray Canada geese and mallards have not occasionally added their genes to the genomes of those respective species as results of the same types of oceanic anomalies which brought the ancestral birds to the islands in the first place.
Those state and federal bureaucrats who have developed such policies are presently rethinking many of their eradication efforts because of field research revelations. In politically correct California, biologists are now warning concerned officials that their efforts to eradicate an alien species of spartina grass is impacting efforts to save the endangered clapper rail which has adapted to building nests in the invasive vegetation. Wow, a species adapting, fancy that. And this is not the only such case. If something cannot survive in the wild otherwise, then captive breeding remains an option, but indiscriminate eradication should never be implemented.
At this point in history, most of the plants and animals on this island chain have been introduced by the most damaging invasive species of them all: humans. And, yes, I include the “native” inhabitants for their own introduction of such present-day “pests” as pigs, dogs, rats and a large number of plants originally absent from the archipelago’s biota. This is not a nature preserve, it’s an inhabited group of islands where humans have come to farm, work, retire and raise families. The more those who are busy playing God endeavor to eradicate other species, the more those who don’t are going to resent their efforts as the former negatively impact quality of life for many residents for the sake of a few recreational bird watchers and other misguided eco-puritans by killing off species that the latter enjoy. Every year, more otherwise harmless species are vilified and added to the slaughter list. If you believe this is sensible policy, watch donations to environmental organizations wane as ordinary nature lovers sour on all the carnage.
As I mentioned above, that the most pesky invasive species on this island is Homo sapiens — which includes those humans employed by the DLNR — is a fact that no thinking person would deny. The environmental footprint of just one human being trumps any damage done by every individual of an entire population of invasive species otherwise, even if you can find somebody who runs around naked, lives in a cave and eats dirt. So if you want to rid the local environment of a singularly depredatory alien, do you really need me to suggest your solution? Just something to mull as you pick the alien food from your teeth as you sit on your imported hardwood lanai or cruise to the transfer station in your diesel pickup.
I know that this letter will rile many of those whose intentions are noble and whose sensitivities are beneficent but who apparently haven’t thought the matter out clearly. One cannot gobble up then spew forth much of what a natural system produces without bearing the blame for all that is askew with it, then cherry-pick such defenseless species for persecution that are just trying to get by in an environment ultimately chosen for them by humans. That consideration might be alien to so-called environmental thinking, but most of us understand it as being fair.
Tom Munden is a resident of Kapaau.
Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.