Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Eradicating Bodies in Invasive Plant Management

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Eradicating Bodies in Invasive Plant Management

Article excerpt

Abstract. It is increasingly acknowledged that invasive plant management, although a significant global issue, is a matter of coexistence rather than control. Nevertheless an adversarial rhetoric dominated by discourses of war and winning persists. This paper focuses on the bodies of plants, the animals with which they become entangled, and the humans who are charged with eradicating them. Plants help to rethink bodily difference beyond the human, extending feminist theories that have contributed to increased recognition of nonhuman difference. Bodies are a barely acknowledged scale of invasive plant management, which is usually conceptualised in landscape terms. Our empirical focus is the eradication of three species in northwestern Australia: Mimosa (Mimosa pigra), Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus), and Neem (Azadirachta indica). By paying attention to plant difference and illuminating the experience of invasive plant managers, we show how eradication manages the intersecting timespaces of different bodies in order to stop plants becoming collectives. We identify contradictions in the regulation and application of borders, which are less permeable for some animals than for all humans. We also draw attention to the questions of risk--for humans and others--in the process of killing plants. For embodied geographies, a plant perspective opens up new ways of thinking about bodily boundaries: in particular the individual/collective divide. The implication for invasive plant management is that, even at the eradication end of the spectrum, effective management is an uncertain process that involves living in association with invasive plants rather than living separately from them.

Keywords: invasives, biosecurity, tropical weeds, embodied geographies, eradication, Western Australia


The porous bodies, multiple spaces, and open futures now evident in the "multinatural geographies of the Anthropocene" (Lorimer, 2012) have been widely examined, not least in biosecurity and invasive species debates. We cannot appeal to a past or stable Nature, separable from human activity, as the basis of decision making. The degree of possible human control in processes previously encapsulated as 'environmental management' will be variable and sometimes illusory. However, this uncertainty does not relieve us from having to make political choices, notwithstanding that older ideas about justice as balance may not work anymore (Clark, 2011). In this paper we argue that closer attention to plants and plant bodies can help provide the new political tools for "deciding among multiple biodiversities" (Lorimer, 2012, page 9) in invasive plant management.

Invasive alien species are seen as a significant threat to global biodiversity and the viability of agriculture and other human enterprises (McGeoch et al, 2010; Wittenberg and Cock, 2001, page 1). Invasive plant management is projected to become an even bigger issue with climate change, requiring considerable economic and social investment. Perhaps because of the scale at which the problem is understood, even the modernist management paradigm acknowledges that choices have to be made among competing priorities, and that in many situations accommodation and coexistence is the most viable choice. De facto recognition of coexistence is seen in the spatialisation of invasive plant management in Australia, which frequently distinguishes between spaces where exclusion, eradication, containment, or control are possible, different activities being recommended and resourced in each (NRMMC, 2007).

Plants pose a number of challenges to Western thought (Hall, 2011; Marder, 2011), including the conceptualisation of the body itself. As detailed below, we take inspiration from Grosz and other feminist scholars, understanding bodies as a continual process of becoming, simultaneously material and conceptual. Most writing about bodies tends to assume that the bodies under discussion are human or at least animal (Bissell, 2008; 2011; Longhurst, 2011). …

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