For Natives, Against Nativism

There’s a perspective that says that native plant advocates mimic the rhetoric and (consciously or unconsciously) the beliefs of the politics of nativism, paralleling the hateful and ugly resurgence of some of America’s most shameful traditions manifested in the disgusting Trump phenomenon. Calling a plant or animal an alien or an invasive is, in this thesis, said to be the same as using the term “illegals” and the like about people.

While there may be some native plant fans who are political nativists, the argument doesn’t actually work. Because the end results are opposite. People coming to the U.S., by whatever means, diversify society. That’s a good thing. But invasive plant and animal species do precisely the opposite; they create monocultures. That’s a bad thing. Garlic Mustard, Japanese Knotweed, Phragmites, for some plant examples, are highly successful at blanketing landscapes and drowning out biodiversity. Starlings, Zebra Mussels, House Sparrows, are animal examples; the most horrendous example has got to be the domestic cat. Both feral and let-out-of-the-house cats slaughter reptiles, birds, and mammals by the hundreds of millions.

Meanwhile, biodiversity and human diversity are both markers of healthy ecosystems and societies, from the fundamental level of a more expansive gene pool to a habitat-wide richness of species, which in the human context we might call… multiculturalism.

1 Response to “For Natives, Against Nativism”


  1. 1 Kevin Dann July 4, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Beautifully stated, Matthew, and perfectly timed, on this Independence Day twixt the rock and hard place of fear-driven ethnic nativisms. The true Sophianic impulse behind the foundation of America was wholly pluralistic and tolerant. May we find a path to restoring that impulse!


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