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Environmental Values

Speaking About Weeds: Indigenous Elders' Metaphors for Invasive Species and Their Management

Thomas Michael Bach, Brendon M.H. Larson

Environmental Values 26 (2017): 561-581. doi: 10.3197/096327117X15002190708119

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Our language and metaphors about environmental issues reflect and affect how we perceive and manage them. Discourse on invasive species is dominated by aggressive language of aliens and invasion, which contributes to the use of war-like metaphors to promote combative control. This language has been criticised for undermining scientific objectivity, misleading discourse, and restricting how invasive species are perceived and managed. Calls have been made for alternative metaphors that open up new management possibilities and reconnect with a deeper conservation ethic. Here, we turn to Indigenous perspectives because they are increasingly recognised as offering important and novel voices in invasive species discourse. We examine how Australian Aboriginal elders and land managers (rangers) speak about 'environmental weeds' (the term used to describe invasive plants in Australia) and weed management. Based on qualitative research with five Aboriginal groups in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, our findings indicate that Aboriginal elders speak about weeds through passive, neutral language and prefer metaphors for weed management that focus on health, care and creation. We outline the influence that this language has for how rangers practice weed work and discuss its implications for the mainstream paradigm.


Australian Aboriginal Peoples, discourse, environmental health, invasive species, natural and cultural resource management

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

The Need for Indigenous Voices in Discourse about Introduced Species: Insights from a Controversy over Wild Horses. Jonaki Bhattacharyya and Brendon M.H. Larson

Nativism and Nature: Rethinking Biological Invasion. Jonah H. Peretti

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Conflict and Resolution. Simon P. James

Avoiding the Invasive Trap: Policies for Aquatic Non-Indigenous Plant Management. Paul Radomski, Donna Perleberg

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