Have you noticed how many television shows there are about aliens these days.
Not withstanding the never-ending reruns of Star Trek and the new, much anticipated X Files, there just seems to be a heck of a lot of shows about extra-terrestrial alien species travelling to earth and settling in small towns not at all unlike Salmon Arm. Which has got me thinking about the whole alien species thing on a number of levels.
Long before human travel became widespread, plant and animal species arrived on foreign shores – more often than not by chance. Some swam across oceans, while others migrated across continents, drifting on air and water currents. Still others hitchhiked with fellow travellers until they hopped off in a new habitat. The point is, wildlife species have been dispersed and re-dispersed throughout the world for millions of years.
Plant and animal species that arrive and establish themselves in an ecosystem where they did not evolve are often described as “alien” or “exotic.” Once established beyond the initial point of introduction, they are then considered “naturalized” components of their new environment. A naturalized species is considered “invasive” when and if it displaces native species.
When wildlife biologists and other experts use words like ‘alien,’ ‘exotic’ and ‘invasive’ to describe plant and animal species that have been introduced into a new environment, it can be a bit confusing, if not a question of semantics. The plots of most television shows about aliens are less complex.
In real life, invasive species tend to reproduce quickly, spread rapidly and compete aggressively with indigenous species. This occurs, in large part, because there are usually few species that can or will predate on the successful new arrivals. These so-called alien/invasive species did not sit down and plot any sort of intentional invasion of their new home and surroundings. They simply one day found themselves there and, subsequently, proceeded to go about the business of surviving and reproducing.
It’s people that make things complicated, which also brings me to my point.
While pondering the whole alien species thing, I was reminded of a recent incident where a particular group of humans, whose ancestors incidentally once crossed an ocean and migrated across a continent to displace and settle in areas already occupied by indigenous groups of humans. They eventually found themselves in conflict with an animal species that had migrated into their territory and subsequently called upon a specific group of individuals to intervene (ie. their political representatives).
You may recall the situation. The B.C. government was being pressured into the culling of a number of wolves in the Cariboo and Chilcotin regions. The situation came about as a result of ranchers (humans) allowing their cattle (a domesticated species of bovine raised to generate monetary profit for humans) to range further and further into timbered areas the wolves called home. While the question may very well have been just who was the invasive species, the reality was that in the end, things didn’t really go all that well for the wolves. Things rarely do when human intervention is involved.
The human species has been, and continues to be, responsible for the extinction of countless plant and animal species on our planet. Why? Well, for one thing, humans see themselves as being at the top of the food chain. More likely, it’s simply because they are, in large part, driven by materialism and consumerism. Survival at all costs, at the expense of every thing else, so to speak.
Which I guess brings me back to all those television shows with extraterrestrial alien invasive species intervening in life as we know it here on planet Earth. Just how would we (humans) perceive things if we were suddenly no longer at the top of the Earth’s socio-economic food chain. One can only speculate what the dinosaurs thought about everything. Maybe we should simply look after our planet a bit better and not worry so much about invasive species – alien or otherwise.