by Sue Holloway
A disturbing practice which is becoming common in environmentalism is the renaming of creatures with the intent to create negative status and remove legal rights. In the past, we have accepted such practices, using words such as "pest" or "weed" in mainstream culture, as excuses to do violence to a certain form of life.
Now, there is a potent political/legal agenda, put in place by President William Clinton in an Executive Order (Feb ‘99). In this Order, he renamed all "exotics," i.e., non-native plants or animals, as "aliens." This includes intentionally-introduced creatures beloved for their beauty. The order also established a tremendous bureaucracy to propagate associated activities. Congressional funding allows $29 million annually for researchers and groups to locate "aliens" in specific places, and develop plans for "control."
Much of this becomes grant money which, in effect, coopts academics who seek support for research activities. The funding reduces intellectual opposition and thus "normalizes" the language and practices. Thousands of plants and animals are now potential targets.
Even children are being encouraged to participate in the elimination of "potentially-invasive ‘alien’" species. In Connecticut, for example, a shoreline land trust newsletter of September ‘00, mentions that Eagle Scouts will be eliminating the "more invasive" plants in a natural area as a service project. This is encouraging children to associate violence with public service; to equate acts of hatred with "caring" for the landscape. It is an insidiously destructive agenda for children.
We can look to Biblical teaching for enlightenment. The practice of negative-naming is based in a belief in human dominion, commonly pointed out as a Biblical teaching. But the Judeo-Christian tradition foretells an evolution out of dominion, with movement into a partnership between humans and the rest of Creation. This is the teaching of the parable of Moses and the rock.
In the Book of Exodus, as the people of Israel were going into exile, passing through the desert, they became thirsty and asked Moses for help. The prophet turned to God, who told Moses to strike the rock. Water came forth, and the people’s thirst was slaked.
Much later, when returning to the homeland, and again passing through the desert, Moses likewise petitioned God’s assistance. And God bade him bring the rod, but to ask the rock. Moses instead struck it -- not once, but twice. Still, the rock gave sustenance, but Moses and the people were again banished.
The prophet had not noticed that the rules had changed. No force was needed; the miracle would occur with a partnership of prophet and stone and divine mystery -- a humbling circumstance. Humus: of the earth. Moses ignored the rock’s participation in the miracle.
The evolutionary destiny expressed in this prophetic teaching is a voluntary movement into nonviolence -- possessing the capacity for striking, or taking, but choosing not to employ this method. The story prophesies an ethic of respect for the rest of creation, a time for humans to trust in the presence of God’s intelligence in all forms. The alternative is spiritual exile.
Note: Sue Holloway, Ph.D., is author of Swan in the Grail.