Friday Apr 19, 2024

Finding the potential in "invasive" species, with Tao Orion

I’m really lucky that I have been collaborating with book publishers since the early days of this podcast. It gives me access to all of the books from the authors that I interview and the full catalogs of most of the publishers too. As a result I have a pretty good overview of the new literature that comes out on the topics that I focus on in this podcast.
Under these conditions, It’s rare that a single book stands out so much in my mind for the quality and importance of the ideas in it, and for the practical examples that illustrate those concepts in a way that someone can put into action.

For me though, that book is “Beyond the War on Invasive Species” by Tao Orion. Perhaps I really connected with it because of my work in the conservation corps and the collaborations with the US forestry service and National Park Service on those jobs. The fight against invasives in those circles was very present and left an impression on me in my early career. The idea of fighting against the propagation and spread of a plant or animal never sat well with me though, but I didn’t have a way of expressing my unease about it until I read this book.
The world view and perspective on our role as earth stewards that Tao outlines continues to inform so much of my work and experience on my own land. So let's get into it. 


Tao Orion is the author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration, and "“People as Purposeful and Conscientious Resource Stewards: Human Agency in a World Gone Wild” and Rethinking Wilderness and the Wild: Conflict, Conservation, and Co-Existence. Tao consults on holistic farm, forest, and restoration planning through her company Resilience Permaculture Design, LLC and works as an instructor in the Oregon State University Permaculture program. She holds a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture from UC Santa Cruz, and a MSc degree in Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security from the National University of Ireland. She lives with her husband, two children, and an array of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and animals on her southern Willamette Valley smallholding, Viriditas Farm.

In this interview, Tao and I dig through the ideas and examples in her first book from the origins of the concept of invasive species, through to the governmental policies that wage war on them in modern times. We look at how species migration has accelerated with human travel technologies and how their spread has mirrored the spread of global trade.
Tao describes the paradoxes of demonizing opportunistic and displaced species and gives examples of how we can begin to look deeper into the reasons, conditions, and needs that bring about their proliferation to gain insight how we might look beyond eradication to collaboration in their management.

We also talk about some tangible examples that I’m dealing with right now on my farm and local area in an attempt to uncover the hidden potential in the species that the authorities around me are working to control.

I know I recommend a lot of books on this show, and for good reason, I stand by all of those recommendations. But if there’s one volume that you really take the time to understand and internalize in your way of observing and understanding the fast changing natural world around us, it’s this one.

Oliver M Goshey 2023

Version: 20240320