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Sophie Duncan's piece on the politics of invasive species talk in the new issue of Ethnobiology Letters

Sopie Duncan's writing and artwork are featured in a new special ethics issue of Ethnobiology Letters. Read the special issue here!

I am currently in Montana on a 50-day road trip surveying invasive plants for my graduate study. I spend all day separating invasive from native, reducing countless chloroplasts to numbers, attempting to amass enough data to answer a question I have about how plants live their lives.

When I have pockets of service and can tune into local radio stations I catch snippets of the havoc currently wrought by ICE and the current presidential administration.

As I sit in my tent after a long day of cutting open roots, I revisit an image I made over a year ago about the xenophobic nature of the language of invasion biology. 

The image is a collage highlighting how American settler colonialism seeps into the informal language of gardening and the scientific lexicon of plant ecology. I revisit the piece I wrote to accompany the image. I urge for a shift in vocabulary, and an interrogation of the role that settler colonialism has and continues to play in the field of ecology. However, aside from writing ABOLISH ICE over every possible surface, words right now feel inadequate in the face of ICE’s horror.  

Yet, words provide momentum for action, both positive and negative. Despite the seeming insufficiency of words at this moment, their role in inciting xenophobia and violence is undeniable. In addition to the responsibility for scientists and social scientists to take ownership over our vocabularies and disciplines, we must take our actions beyond just words. Now is a time for both words and action, direct action, whether that be organizing, demonstrating, or donating. In this Ethics issue we use our words as an entry point reflect about our actions and give momentum to future actions. We ask how justice is relevant to our work and how we can make our work relevant to justice.  

The articles and images in this issue cover many different facets of ethical questions we face in our work, research, and our lives. From exploring the ethical terrain of informed consent to protection of seed rights, these articles, essays, interviews, and reflections contextualize relationships between and among people, animals, land, and water.

By Sopie Duncan

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