Monday, January 26, 2009

Invasive Species

Danger Room reports that Israel has imported elands from Africa, in order to defoliate its border with Lebanon:

The antelope have been stationed on Israel's border with Lebanon, to eat up the "problematic foliage that distorts views of the Lebanese side and within which Hezbollah guerrillas could hide," Ha'Aretz reports....

There are now "between 500 and 700 elands" at military bases throughout Israel, according to the paper.
DuPont and Monsanto must be furious over this new harbinger of our dark green future. Look for Steven Milloy to take a sudden interest in the dangers of invasive wildlife later this week.

Now that Israel has pressed this exotic animal into military service, how will its enemies respond? If the countries surrounding Israel suddenly start stocking up on spotted hyenas, this might suggest that a new biological arms race is underway. It'd probably be wise to classify zoos as dual-use facilities, just in case.

In Algeria, meanwhile, 40 alleged terrorists have died of a disease alleged to be bubonic plague. Guess what this proves?
Dr Igor Khrupinov, a biological weapons expert at Georgia University, told The Sun..."Contagious diseases, like ebola and anthrax, occur in northern Africa. It makes sense that people are trying to use them against Western governments."
Well, sure. Plague occurs in northern Africa, and Algeria is in northern Africa, so if terrorists hiding in the wilds of Algeria are dying of must logically be a failed bioterror plot. Assuming otherwise would be like assuming that an eland just happened to wander over to the Israel/Lebanon border.

The natural world is increasingly implicated in our conflicts, it seems; perhaps we'll end up with a new natural order in which species are geographically distributed according to their wartime (i.e., everyday) usefulness, and a plague epizootic among ground squirrels will be all the excuse one needs to launch a preemptive strike against a foreign government.

Which raises an important question: In an era when cameras and transmitters can easily be implanted in a springbok's horns, and rats can be controlled by radio, can we afford the luxury of cross-border animal migration any longer? Obviously, we need to deploy a reliable microbe-herding system wherever possible. But how much good will this do when hummingbirds and bar-tailed godwits are allowed to flit across the borders of sovereign nations as though they didn't exist?

"Joking" aside, no sooner did I write this than I stumbled upon a like-minded quote from Jena Osman at Subtopia:
By definition, a refuge is a safe place for those in danger: a nature refuge shelters wildlife from over-hunting and habitat loss, a refugee camp protects innocent civilians from perilous warring forces. But the closer one looks at these spaces of protection, the more permeable their borders, the more complex the acts of isolation they require....

In this climate, a place of refuge (be it for birds, for natural resources, or for people) seems less possible than ever.
(Image at top from "Scrap Happy Daffy" 1943.)


chris said...

So, where are the sharks with frickin' laser beams?
In development, no doubt.

(OT, might be something here for Friday Hope. Pictures of abandoned places,

boba said...

Dr Khrupinov... added: "Instead of using bombs, people with infectious diseases could be walking through cities."
Why not just sell them fur coats? That was a winning tactic in 1346. Or the Justinian solution of shipping unsecured grain supplies worked wonders in 536.