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

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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.
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Keywords: Australian Aboriginal Peoples; discourse; environmental health; invasive species; natural and cultural resource management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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