Are Environmentalists Too Obsessed With Native Species? (Video)

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From native plants in Brooklyn's backyard to keeping native Australian stingless bees, there is much to be said for working with plants and animals that have adapted to the region you live in. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I've argued before that a war on invasive weeds may actually be misguided, because non-native plants have their uses too. Here a prominent permaculturist takes on some environmentalists' obsession with native-only gardening and botany.

Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden, knows a thing or two about gardening, and a thing or two about native plants. And it's clear that he is not by any means against the use of native plants—he simply argues that "native" can be a relatively arbitrary definition, and that we are better off looking at each individual species and what we want it to do within the landscapes we create.

But beyond simply choosing the right plants or animals, says Hemenway, we need to decide what we are trying to achieve. Are we trying to save individual species within our backyards, or should we be seeking to minimize our overall environmental footprint so that nature has more room to do its own thing elsewhere?

It's an important discussion, and one without simple right or wrong answers. But I'm glad it's being delivered with humility, insight and an eye to common ground.