By Peter Coates
Occasionally by chance and infrequently on goal, people have transported vegetation and animals to new habitats worldwide. Arriving in ever-increasing numbers to American soil, fresh invaders have competed with, preyed on, hybridized with, and carried ailments to local species, remodeling our ecosystems and growing anxiousness between environmentalists and most people. yet is American nervousness over this difficulty of ecological identification a contemporary phenomenon? Charting transferring attitudes to alien species because the 1850s, Peter Coates brings to mild the wealthy cultural and old facets of this tale by way of situating the historical past of immigrant wildlife 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 reveals is that we have got continuously perceived crops and animals on the subject of ourselves and the polities to which we belong. surroundings the saga of human family members with the surroundings within the large context of clinical, 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 wildlife.
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Extra resources for American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species: Strangers on the Land
And their critics considered English sparrows among the dirtiest of birds. 38 Droppings fouled ledges, window casings, porches, awnings, and park benches. They besmirched statues and headstones in cemeteries. The unsanitary sparrow’s detractors also accused it of transmitting hog cholera and poultry lice. Some of these objections were entirely reasonable. Critics failed to realize, though, that explosive urban growth was creating hospitable conditions. Canker worms were easy pickings. 39 The birds also descended on copious quantities of edible refuse.
Across the former British “settler” colonies, today’s environmentalists privilege native forms. Indigenous creatures are lionized as more appropriate ecologically as well as more beautiful and more culturally and historically authentic. By the same token, exotics are often heavily stigmatized. qxd 9/25/2006 2:57 PM Page 35 The Avian Conquest of a Continent 35 of nature by an exclusive one makes the nineteenth-century passion for exotics difWcult to appreciate. Yet, whether in North America, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand, immigrants were intent on habituating familiar species.
Though poor natural science, representing birds as miniature humans (regardless of nationality) was an enormously popular device in nature writing. 15 Reactions to the bird divided into the two camps of Americanism—pluralist and conservative—identiWed by Higham in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. William Rhodes, a Canadian colonel from Quebec who was instrumental in the Wrst introductions to Maine (in 1854), spoke for the pluralists who believed that being in North America—and behaving itself—meant that a particular species was, de facto, of North America.
American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species: Strangers on the Land by Peter Coates