Monday, May 20, 2013

Rethinking the Concept of Pests

Are bugs really "bad"?  Are unwelcome plants really "weeds"?  Are opportunistic plants really "invasive"?

I am reading an EXCELLENT book entitled Invasive Plant Medicine by Timothy Lee Scott which is challenging my preconceptions about so-called invasive or non-native plant species.  As I study some of the world's least appreciated plants otherwise known as "weeds," concentrating initially on their medicinal uses, I have noticed in my own understanding a change of direction.

Just as many people, I was raised with a non-specific belief that all bacteria were bad.  It went something like this..."bacteria are GERMS, GERMS are bad because they cause disease, and to kill germs is GOOD because to do so is to kill disease!"  And then the pairing of the idea of soap and antibacterials were akin to being really really CLEAN.  And of course, clean is good!  So went the rationale of my childhood and early adulthood.

And so went the assumptions of most everyone I know who has never learned the full story of bacteria, that without bacteria there would be no life.  To eradicate all life, of course, eradicates bad "germs" but also eradicates all the others as well.

This germ theory is the basis of much of modern western medicine, though perhaps the general public is becoming a bit more educated as our assumptions have oftentimes failed us.

I won't make this post about the germ theory of medicine, good gut bacteria, anti-vaccines, and so on.  But I'm saying all this to demonstrate my own change of direction in these areas.  As my awareness of the world of bacteria changed (I'm all about vitality and encouraging the "good" bacteria and flora), my mindset changed about things such as insects considered "pests" and plants considered "weeds."  I am, in fact, rather in love with the weedier of plants after discovering they are the heros of our plant world, staunchly surviving our attempts at eradication and yet continuing to offer to us their (often unsung or unrealized) benefits.  If anyone begins to study plant medicine, especially herbalism, they soon find that these little tough survivors are rather our allies instead of being our adversaries.  Not only are they best suited for improving human health (as opposed to synthetics or components divorced from their herbal whole), but they are also fantastic soil cleaners and nutrient restorers.  I HIGHLY recommend the aforementioned book.  I am in the process of reading and rereading it.

I just today found a very good article via Facebook contrasting the proliferation and actions of so-called "pest" insects when existing in a diverse food-forest style planting versus a managed planting lacking natural diversity (in this case, a hydroponic planting).  I'm not posting this to refute anyone's chosen style or type of planting, but rather to urge us to rethink terms such as Pest and Weed.  When I see insects on our plants any more, I don't cringe.  I wonder if there is some imbalance making that plant susceptible.  Something in me just KNOWS, some sort of wisdom or reluctance, I guess, buried under those years of "Kill it!" responses to bacteria and bugs.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this article called Food Forests and Natural Pest Control, by Angelo Eliades I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading!


Practical Parsimony said...

Often a healthy plant in a healthy environment will be able to resist the pests. While I was writing that sentence, a huge moth dive-bombed me. is it speaking to me?

Dessa Wolf said...

Thank you very much for recommending this book! I had to go place an order.

Robbyn said...

Practical Parsimony...hahahahahaha!!! Yeah, my benevolence does not extend to roaches, fleas, and bedbugs...

Dessa, let me know how you like it! It's funny I'd never seen it on a recommended booklist.