Objectivity and Native Plants
Objectivity and America’s Medieval Future
“Objectivity has not always defined science. Nor is objectivity the same as truth or certainty, and its younger than both. Objectivity preserves the artifact or variation that would have been erased in the name of truth; it scruples to filter out the noise that undermines certainty. To be objective is to aspire to knowledge that bears no trace of the knower—knowledge unmarked by prejudice or skill, fantasy or judgment, wishing or striving. Objectivity is blind sight, the ‘objective view’ that embraces accidents and asymmetries…This book is about how and why objectivity emerged as new way of studying nature, and of being a scientist.”
So begins Lorraine Daston’s brilliant Objectivity (Zone Books 2007), an archaelogy of the impulse to ‘pure’ science. Of course this impulse or pretension permeates all levels of our society and is not confined to the scientific academy. Not only that, but by not interrogating what this term means we unwittingly transfer power over in a fundamental and comprehensive way.
Something of this is vividly manifest in the popular conception of native and so-called ‘invasive’ plants. Take the Goumi Berry (Eleagnus Multiflora): this shrub is a variety of Eleagnus that the status quo defines as one of the worst of ‘invasives’. Just as in the case of the transcendent Robert Moses carving up New York with highways, supported by a fiefdom of corporate money, hardcore native plant proponents defer authority to an argument funded by Monsanto, one of the worst ecological offenders of the last century. Oftentimes conservation efforts that remove Eleagnus directly supports the Agri-Chemical monopoly of these and other herbicide manufacturers, who are also single-handedly trying to control the world’s food supply through Genetically Modified seeds.
Goumi berries perform a number of functions in the landscape: they fix nitrogen for plants around them, making it a great complement to other fruit trees, provide nutritious berries that help prevent prostate cancer (a true counter-invasion of the manipulated surroundings we live in) and are full of other antioxidant compounds. Goumi Berries provide 3000 times the amount of Lycopene than a tomato. They also provide early nectar for beneficial insects and pollinators in the early Spring.
“Goumi Berry is a great plant with many overlapping benefits,’ said Chuck Marsh of Useful Plants. ‘I’m a nurseryman and have tried everything to propagate the Sweet Scarlet Goumi berry. People need to differentiate the lack that surrounds them, manifest a productive alternative. ”
Similarly, Sea Buckthorn, another nitrogen fixing fruit shrub is used in Organic and Biodynamic orchards throughout Germany. According to the quarterly journal Herbal Gram, Sea Buckthorn is “an official medicine in the Chinese pharmacopeia, indicated for the treatment of cough with profuse expectoration, indigestion…and is high in Vitamins A, C, protein, fatty acids, carotene, and Vitamin E..”. This beautiful shrub is also used extensively in China to reforest and reclaim waste areas.
The list of high quality non-‘native’ fruits goes on: Russian Pomegranate, Asian Persimmon, Goji Berries, Cornelian Cherries, Jujubes, even some apples and pears….The real question may be: Who is who the invader really is? . Patterns of succession in forests necessitate the arrival of nitrogen fixers where land has been disturbed, or where topsoil and organic matter have been scraped away for new housing developments. We should select native perennials first whenever possible, but to truly begin the work of regeneration, we will need these plants for a sustainable and sovereign food future, free of the objective world view of Monsanto.
There are many eradication programs around the country that systematically eliminate Eleagnus with both organic and inorganic methods. According to Dave Jacke and Jono Nieger, Persimmons and Pawpaws have also somehow retained their genetic components ‘though their dispersal agents disappeared in a megafaunal dieoff some 13,000 years ago’. Plants have always migrated and with species loss (or the global life support system) one of the major environmental issues we face, we need to revisit what these terms actually mean.
There are of course egregious examples of ‘invasives’ like Japanese Honeysucle, Japanese Wisteria, and many types of bamboo, and we do not argue that they should not be removed on a home-scale to plant integrated edible landscapes. What we are recognizing is that getting nitrogen-fixing plants in to mini-orchards and landscapes performs a niche role in ecosystems that can provide food, beauty, and less work in the edible garden. When we summarily dismiss these important plants in the name of an ideology we have not begun to define, we risk losing valuable tools to regenerate our homes and communities.