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Are Humans an Invasive Species? A Heathen’s Point of View

Are Humans an Invasive Species? A Heathen’s Point of View

I was talking with a friend of mine and he remarked that humans are an invasive species. I had to think about this a moment because, quite honestly, I don’t consider humans to be an invasive species.

To a large degree, this is an insulting term when referring to ourselves as such. Insulting and wrong, mainly because of the definition of what an invasive species entails. Even though we shouldn’t consider ourselves an invasive species, that doesn’t mean we aren’t damaging the environment and causing extinctions. But calling ourselves invasive isn’t correct.

I’ll go over the facts with you, and give you my take on it.

What Exactly is an Invasive Species?

Spotted Lantern Fly

When we talk about invasive species, we often think about the spotted lantern fly or feral hogs. (Both, incidentally are invasive species.) Sometimes we talk about the spotted knapweed or giant hogweed, when it comes to invasive plants. But are humans invasive? Well, not according to the definition.

Image by Dominik Rheinheimer from Pixabay

An invasive species is as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “animals, plants or other organisms introduced by man into places out of their natural range of distribution, where they become established and disperse, generating a negative impact on the local ecosystem and species.”

Thanks to the Smithsonian Magazine, who analyzed this very question some time ago, they also came up with other definitions which included a non-native species which has widespread distribution. But do humans fit in the invasive species category?

Are Humans a Non-Native Species?

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Now, here comes the tricky part. Are we not native to the land? Humans have colonized every continent on Earth except Antarctica at least 20,000 years ago. Most places even earlier because our Homo Sapiens ancestors migrated out of Africa about 100,000 years ago. Yes, many species were around before us, but given that we’ve lived almost everywhere on Earth for a very long time, one could make the argument that humans are indigenous to all continents except Antarctica.

Image by Daniel from Pixabay

Even in the Western Hemisphere where scientists are still trying to decide when the first humans arrived on the North American continent, humans could be consider indigenous. (Current archaeological finds suggest around 20,000 years ago.) I think that most Native Americans and First Nations people would agree with me on that they are indigenous. And arguing that European descendants are an invasive species doesn’t work, because we’re all the same species.

What About the Introduction Part?

Image by Ante Hamersmit from Pixabay

Part of being an invasive species is having humans introduce the species (intentionally or not) to a place outside the range of normal distribution. That non-native species has to disperse and cause a negative impact on the native species and the environment. The concept of humans introducing themselves is patently absurd, even if we have had a negative impact on other species. So, that doesn’t really count either.

As a side note, if we were an invasive species, where would we return to? The European-descendants to Europe? The Native Americans to Asia? But then, we all came out of Africa, so do we all go back there? The concept is ludicrous. I, for one, wouldn’t go simply because I hate hot weather. And bugs. Africa is too buggy for me.

Let’s Talk About What We Really Are

Image by Dorothe from Pixabay

For all our destructive tendencies, what we should really be considered is a hyperkeystone species. A keystone species is “…defined as organisms that have outsized ecological impacts relative to their biomass. Here we identify human beings as a higher-order or ‘hyperkeystone’ species that drives complex interaction chains by affecting other keystone actors across different habitats.”  (Worm B, Paine RT. Humans as a Hyperkeystone Species. Trends Ecol Evol. 2016 Aug;31(8):600-607. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.05.008. Epub 2016 Jun 13. PMID: 27312777.)

In layperson’s terms, a keystone species is an animal that impacts the environment in a way that exceeds its basic needs to survive. A hyperkeystone species affects not only its environment the way a keystone species would, but also affects all the other keystone species no matter where they are.

So, basically we’re not only using up resources beyond what a normal animal of the same mass (weight) would to survive, but we also affect all the other keystone species as well.

So Why Does Not Being an Invasive Species Matter?

Image by erge from Pixabay

Okay, so now you know we’re not an invasive species. But why does that even matter? An invasive species doesn’t really go out of its way to be malicious; it simply does what it always has done to survive. Problem is, it has good success in the new environment because there aren’t any predators to keep it in check. So, it is able to flourish unchecked.

Humans, on the other hand, have no real predators anywhere on Earth to keep our population in check. Sure, we might get taken out by a lion or grizzly bear in the wild, but for the most part, we’ve eliminated the dangers of predators outside of our species by our technology. War, famine, disease, natural and manmade disasters, and all the other blights that come with humanity now keeps our population in check.

Being an invasive species means that it has no way of restraining itself. Hogweed and knapweed spread because that’s their biological programming. Feral hogs destroy their environment because that’s what they do. They don’t think or consider the consequences of their actions.

On the other hand, Humans can recognize when they’re doing damage to the environment. We can make changes in our behavior so that it causes the least harm. That’s why we can’t be an invasive species. We’re cognizant of the changes we’ve made to the environment and have the ability to fix it if the damage is fixable.

We Aren’t an Invasive Species Because We’re Part of the Ecosystem

We evolved as part of Earth’s ecosystem. We didn’t just arrive “poof!” out of nothing. The myth of Odin, Vili, and Ve creating humans from tree trunks is a nice story, but it is simply a way our ancestors tried to explain how we came into being. The idea that humans were carved from trees, given life, intelligence, and then given souls suggest that maybe we were crudely carved from life, itself. That may be reaching a bit, but it is something to ponder.

The point is that even the Norse myths suggest we came from the land. We didn’t just appear out of nowhere, even if the gods had their hands in our creation. We weren’t told, “You are masters over all creation.” On the contrary, we were given the chance to thrive and strive to be better.

That doesn’t make us masters of the land, but our role as hyperkeystone species puts us in a spot where if we do damage, we need to fix it in order to survive.

Luckily, we have the gods who can help us. No, they won’t get us out of the mess we’re in, but they can work with us to undo the damage we’ve done as a species. All we have to do is ask while we do the heavy lifting. Now, we just have to clean up after ourselves.

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Wake Up Calls from the Gods

Wake Up Calls from the Gods

For the past few years, humans have gotten wake up calls, but few are answering them. For the most part, we humans wander around kind of clueless, and yet, the gods are constantly telling us when we’re doing it wrong. Only, we don’t listen.

The Wake Up Calls, or Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

If you’ve felt like your life is in complete turmoil all the time, join the club. Between the pandemic, the bizarre weather, and the social problems, you might be feeling just a tiny bit stressed out. No, it’s not just you. These are the times we live in.

The gods have been sending us messages or wake up calls — and a good portion of our population has decided not to heed them. So, we’re dealing with the fall out from the problems.

What Wake Up Calls?

At this point, you may be wondering, “What messages? What wake up calls?” No, chances are Thor didn’t hit you with a bolt of lightning. But you might have been under that nasty heat dome or are dealing with wildfires and smoke right now. It’s unlikely Eir whispered in your ear when you got sick, but you’ve heard the CDC announcements to get your COVID-19 vaccine. Or maybe you thought that Tyr might grace you with his wisdom, only to hear the news on how some people are still complaining about the inequality they’re dealing with.

The Gods Talk to Us in Many Ways

While some of us are fortunate (or crazy enough) to hear our gods actually speak; our gods constantly interact with us daily through our environment. They speak through Nature a lot, and if you pay attention, you get it. Problem is, there are a lot of people who hear the messages and don’t care, disagree, or think their own opinions are more valuable than what the gods say. This is stupid and foolhardy.

Does human ignorance and arrogance frustrate and anger the gods? Of course it does, but Humans aren’t their only concern. They don’t intercede for us because, quite frankly, they have other business to attend to. What business? Shit, I don’t know. This is a big universe, and the gods speak in ways they want to.

The messages are clear, and ignoring those messages are at our own peril, because the consequences are severe.

Dealing with the Pandemic

We don’t really know much about how the pandemic started. Sure, there are a bunch of conspiracy theories out there, but most scientists believe that SARS-CoV-19 was a bat disease that was spread through an intermediary host such as a pangolin to humans, and mutated enough to become a pandemic.

Pandemics get their power from people in crowded conditions, such as cities. Usually the pathogen is highly contagious and mutates at an astonishing rate to infect as many people as they can. That’s why crowds are a really bad idea. And without protecting yourself and others some way, you can quickly spread the disease.

With our crowded planet, it’s easy to see disease spread. That’s why vaccinations are important–to help build immunity against the pathogen. Otherwise, you’re playing Russian Roulette with your life and your family’s lives.

Pathogens in the Past

Before vaccines, people either got sick and died, or they had enough natural immunity to combat the pathogen, or they practiced their own form of social distancing and rode out the pandemic. The problem, of course, was that a lot of people died. The Black Death is a prime example. It’s estimated that the Black Death wiped out anywhere from one third to one half of Europe. Whole villages became ghost towns within weeks, if not days, because everyone became sick and died.

Back then, people always assumed it was because their Christian god was displeased with them. In reality, it was a dangerous bacteria that mutated that spread easily either through coughing, flea bites, or contact with contaminated bodily fluids.

Like today, conspiracy theories were common back then. People blamed the Jewish population for poisoning the wells or bringing on the disease, when they did not. People thought it was pagans or witches casting spells on them. So, it wasn’t uncommon for Jewish and pagan persecution back then, due largely to ignorance.

Now the Gods Speak with the Pandemic

Some people think their god will save them from this disease. That is hubris, and they’re fucking wrong. People have been either ignorant of, or ignoring the science behind the pandemic and vaccinations. Time and time again, doctors have proven vaccinations save lives. Did you live in fear of smallpox while growing up? Did you worry about getting measles or mumps? How about polio? All these diseases are relegated to the history books (or are outbreaks in unvaccinated communities) because of vaccines. Rabies is a small concern unless you get bitten by a wild animal (bat, skunk, or raccoon, for example), largely because we vaccinate our pets against rabies. And what do they give you to save your life? A course of vaccines to amp up your immune system to fight the disease.

But now, people refuse to be vaccinated. And yeah, the disease is still around, and more powerful with the Delta variant. So, when the CDC said it’s okay to go without masks if you’re vaccinated, people read the first part of the statement without the last part. (How stupid can they be?) The gods do not suffer fools, and those who decided it is their god given right to infect themselves and spread it to others are tempting a big smack down. And now, we have rising cases.

Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution. Get a vaccination. You can get COVID-19 Vaccination Information HERE.

What About the Fires? Mega-drought? Excessive Heat?

I know you’ve probably heard politicians and scientists talk about climate change. In fact, I was a big climate change denier, but the more I look at the data, the more I think that spewing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere isn’t a good idea. Furthermore, we need to reduce pollution. The US is a contributor, but China is easily the worst. And yeah, when people buy the newest gizmo instead of using the old one until it breaks or is incompatible with modern technology, they fuel even more pollution. We’re seeing it as fires, heat domes, and droughts. Not to mention disappearing coast lines and melting glaciers.

What You Can Do About It

Get vaccinated. Wear masks and practice social distancing because the pandemic isn’t over by a long shot. With those who are unvaccinated, they’re causing SARS-CoV-2 to mutated into variants. Already some people are getting breakthrough COVID-19 which can still spread, even if the vaccine makes it less dangerous, if you catch it.

I’m not saying go live in a yurt and forgo your computers, smartphones, and latest gizmos. (Unless you really want to. But those Mongolians in the picture even have solar energy.) I’m not saying ditch your car. What I am saying is be smart about what you buy, where you go, and what you do. If you can, invest in renewable energy for your home such as solar, wind, or geothermal energy. If that can’t happen, then consider purchasing the best energy saving devices when your old ones need to be replaced. Go LED bulbs because the twisty bulbs (mini-fluorescent types) still have mercury, plus they’re brighter and a lot more energy efficient. Switch to power companies that don’t use fossil fuels, if you can.

Buy from local farms that use organic and bio-sensitive methods of producing food, whether it’s produce, meat, or dairy. Hunt and fish if you live in an area that supports that. (Learn how to do it right, seriously.) You can get several months of excellent meat that doesn’t impact the environment. And send a message to your legislators. Tell them you want the town, city, county, state, and country to use non-polluting, renewable energy. Yeah, you can’t fix what’s going on alone. But you will have an impact.

My point is that these are wake up calls for humanity. Listen to the gods.

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