The artificially two-sided debates rage on


Souther Salazar

It increasingly seems that the US is fast becoming the epicenter of artificially two-sided debates where no grey areas exist. Taxes vs. cuts, native vs. non-native, private vs. public, “productive” landscapes vs. ornamental ones, urban design vs. gentrification, red vs. blue. It is as if we as a nation have become completely and wholly incapable of thinking for ourselves and of drawing our own conclusions about the reality we live in. We decide on an “agenda,” and then we pick and choose what we want to hear so as to reinforce that agenda, grey areas be damned. The latest and greatest is an article in the NYTimes that extolls the virtues of non-native plants and draws comparisons between the native plant movement, and nativism with regards to race and immigration.

What could have been a tonic to the dogma of the native-plant movement instead reads like the same but in reverse, a dogmatic manifesto of the non-native, invasive movement. Instead of writing about, say, ‘blue glow’ agave and how it, while not native to California, is a lovely, drought-tolerant plant that won’t run amuk in the wild, the author picks the most invasive non-natives he can think of, eucalyptus, and ice plant, and writes about how great they are, despite the fact that they choke out all other native vegetation within their reach. As such, the essay reads more as provocation than invitation. It ruffles the feathers of the native plant purists, while making those on the fence ask themselves why they would plant ice plant in their garden if it’s just going to take over. No new converts to a cause, just fodder for each side to further polarize an already artificially two-sided debate.

We need to come up with a a name for these artificial debates: Twinkie debates? Aspartame debates? Vanallin debates? Velour debates? Chime in with suggestions.