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The Bith Shuffle
02-28-2010, 07:05 PM
Reading some books about energy and the environment, it occurred to me that the human consumption of the world's resources and the eradication of tons of species by the human race could be construed as humanity being an invasive species for the entire planet. Invasive species, after all, arrive in an environment, consume resources, multiply like crazy, and often cause other species to go extinct. So why not just say that human beings are the world's invasive species? We're chugging resources everywhere we can, killing off species with impunity, and multiplying like bunnies.

My question is not whether or not the above view is correct, but whether it has ever been suggested by academics or other serious intellectuals. Are there any published books or papers that advance the above view or interpretation?

Lumpy
02-28-2010, 07:18 PM
No one disputes that in an evolutionarily very short period of time, humans have spread to environments where the local fauna weren't adapted to their presence. It's a matter of cultural evolution taking place vastly faster than biological evolution. Fire let humans spread out of the tropics, improved hunting tools made megafauna suddenly vulnerable to human predation, and boats allowed humans to spread to islands that had been previously cut off. Even before industrial technology, there was literally no creature on Earth humans couldn't kill with enough effort, and the pace of change has only accelerated.

Wendell Wagner
02-28-2010, 07:36 PM
Let's start by noting that this idea isn't a proven fact or even a theory. It's an analogy, which may or may not be useful. It's like the Gaia hypothesis, which says that we could treat the entire Earth as if it were a single organism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis

So if a scientist were to propose the idea you mention, the first question that would be asked is "In what way does this allow us to make useful predictions about the interactions of mankind and the rest of the planet." These would have to be actual predictions, not just ways of restating the events that have already happened.

panache45
02-28-2010, 07:50 PM
What you're implying is that some things have value, from the planet's point of view, and humanity is in the process of attacking that value. I cannot imagine a "serious intellectual" suggesting such a thing. Without humans there are no values.

PlainJain
02-28-2010, 07:56 PM
Intellectuals, no. Programs, yes. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_r294bn5UI)



geek link
:)

Colibri
02-28-2010, 08:04 PM
What you're implying is that some things have value, from the planet's point of view, and humanity is in the process of attacking that value. I cannot imagine a "serious intellectual" suggesting such a thing. Without humans there are no values.

"Invasive species" are generally considered those that spread widely and cause environmental, ecological, or economic damage. Of course "damage" is defined from the human point of view. However, humans, through overexploitation of resources, pollution, and other effects, frequently cause damage to our own economic and environmental interests. So humans can in a sense be considered invasive species even from a human point of view, not just from the planet's point of view.

JKellyMap
02-28-2010, 09:13 PM
Isn't there also the problem that most "invasive species" were introduced to their new environments by humans, directly or indirectly? Therefore, humans already are, in most cases, the facilitator or enabler of invasive species, and therefore perhaps on some level an invasive species even by current use of the term.

rbroome
03-01-2010, 07:00 PM
Reading some books about energy and the environment, it occurred to me that the human consumption of the world's resources and the eradication of tons of species by the human race could be construed as humanity being an invasive species for the entire planet. Invasive species, after all, arrive in an environment, consume resources, multiply like crazy, and often cause other species to go extinct. So why not just say that human beings are the world's invasive species? We're chugging resources everywhere we can, killing off species with impunity, and multiplying like bunnies.

My question is not whether or not the above view is correct, but whether it has ever been suggested by academics or other serious intellectuals. Are there any published books or papers that advance the above view or interpretation?

I don't doubt someone would make the claim, but it seems to me that humanity fails one key part of the definition-humanity has been part of every environment on the planet for so long there is nothing invasive about the presence. Humanity might be overwhelming some local environments-similar to what happens to a waterhole when a big herd of animals reaches it- but humanity at some level has been there as long as the environment has. Actually I guess I have to limit this to land environments. Man doesn't inhabit any ocean environments though humanity certainly impacts many of them.

RickJay
03-01-2010, 09:47 PM
So why not just say that human beings are the world's invasive species?
Because humans aren't aliens. We didn't invade the Earth; we were created here.

Colibri
03-01-2010, 09:56 PM
I don't doubt someone would make the claim, but it seems to me that humanity fails one key part of the definition-humanity has been part of every environment on the planet for so long there is nothing invasive about the presence.

How long is "so long"? Modern humans have been present in much of the world for less than 50,000 years, and in some parts like the Pacific Islands only a few thousand years. And we changed the environment of these areas almost as soon as we reached them, by causing the extinction of megafauna, changing fire regimes, and so forth.

Because humans aren't aliens. We didn't invade the Earth; we were created here.

So were all other invasive species. We are not "native" to much of the planet.

rbroome
03-02-2010, 08:41 PM
How long is "so long"? Modern humans have been present in much of the world for less than 50,000 years, and in some parts like the Pacific Islands only a few thousand years. And we changed the environment of these areas almost as soon as we reached them, by causing the extinction of megafauna, changing fire regimes, and so forth.



So were all other invasive species. We are not "native" to much of the planet.

Of course you are correct, and it is up to the OP to define a "long time", but to me it certainly isn't 50K years. I would pick a number in the high thousands-say 5-10K yrs. Anything longer than that and the species isn't invasive any more, it is part of the ecosystem. I guess one can quantify it by seeing whether other species in the environment are still responding to the introduction (not the presence) of the species in question. But it is up to the OP to define (if he wishes) what is meant by invasive.

Johanna
03-02-2010, 10:03 PM
So we're native to East Africa, invasive everywhere else.

LonesomePolecat
03-03-2010, 12:49 PM
Well, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (http://www.vhemt.org/)apparently regards humans as an invasive species.

md2000
03-03-2010, 01:07 PM
What's the difference between "invasive" and "successful"?

IMHO, Truly invasive species are introduced to a new environment by accident, or by outside actions (like being taken there by humans). Successful species get there on their own power. A successful species then takes over the ecological niches currently occupied by other species, IOW "eats their lunch".

The trick is sustaining that success. Mother Nature really doesn't care if we live or die, whether we keep going or have a 50% or 90% die-off, or go extinct, just as she does not care if we make other species go extinct. All we've done is disturb the relative equilibrium of the environment. Eventually, it will reach a new equilibrium taking into account the new reality.

As for environmental destructiveness, as the old saying goes "if this cannot go on forever, then it probably will not".

Elendil's Heir
03-03-2010, 01:28 PM
...geek link :)

YouTube has taken it down. I presume it was a certain Agent from The Matrix? Not sure I'd consider him, er, it a "serious intellectual."