How would you feel if someone called you a pest or garden weed?
I would certainly feel offended, put down, denigrated. But such name calling might be more sinister than just that. These labels can also indicate serious threat. Totalitarian regimes are known for using these kinds of expressions and metaphors to single out individuals and groups of people they do not like and consider enemies. These kinds of horrid farming metaphors have facilitated and justified ostracism, persecution, and even genocide, just remember the Nazi or the Balkan ethnic cleansing and its vocabulary of weeding out those they considered heterogeneous. We can also consider the very local Committee on Un-American Activities, somehow milder but with quite strange aftertaste!
But wait a moment. Pest and weed are considered abusive labels only because we all have accepted and internalized a narrow and self-serving perspective of farmers. Ask pre-agricultural hunter gatherers about pests and weeds and they would not know what we are talking about. Ask modern biologists and environmental scientists about the weeds and pests and they will be in seven heaven. They like least of all monocultures - those miles upon miles of identical (often genetically modified!) crops of industrialized farming.
Our agro-industry became so effective in suppressing all the pests and weeds that it threatens to exterminate them all while simultaneously polluting water, soil, air, and even the very food it produces. It seriously compromises biodiversity of our countryside and harms our environment and subsequently all of us. For biologists and environmentalists pests and weeds are not swear words, but sweet words. They are positive signs of nature fighting back, trying to preserve and expand natural biodiversity.
This importance, beauty and deep significance of biodiversity is only slowly being discovered and appreciated by modern science. Thousands of years ago Jesus pointed it out to his disciples and followers. This Earth Day Sunday we will uncover and celebrate the deep and conjoined roots of social and eco-justice and celebrate a (bio)diversity festival.