Most Victorians who give a fig about the environment have been involved in some form of invasive species removal. Scotch broom is a common culprit. When I worked with The Land Conservancy two summers past, broom was introduced to me as a nemesis that ate up any disturbed areas. Broom follows in the footsteps of other, more overt forms of colonizing a landscape, like clearing land for power lines and roads. Where development passes, broom follows and takes root.
Broom is a cheerful plant, bright yellow in bloom and in the summer the seed pods buzz in the hot sun, soon ready to burst apart, propagating a new generation that concerned citizens will curse and tear from the earth. Forgetting in that moment that we brought it here.
All the Scotch broom in BC stems from a handful of seeds given to the wife of a Captain who had settled a farm near Sooke in the 1850’s. These bright yellow roadside plants are a visual reminder of colonization. Both plants and people have flourished since the time of their transplant and there is no going back to a fully native landscape. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try.
In October, I spent a day at Fort Rodd Hill with an environmental studies class doing invasive species removal and learning about native plants.
In some ways, decolonizing a landscape seems easier than decolonizing a society. There is a tangible, if challenging, goal. We can grasp the root, tear it from the ground. Our tools work against this problem. In society, colonization seems to be horribly overgrown and entangled and we don’t always know what the root is that we’re trying to pull up. More often than not, we end up clearing the whole space out of frustration, felling broom and native species alike.
Invasive species removal can be a symbol for what we’re trying to do more broadly. We’re recognizing that broom is taking space away from native species, choking them out of their traditional habitats. We’re trying to help clear that space even though we know that we might never get rid of broom completely. Decolonization isn’t a solution or an ending, it is a process, an ongoing negotiation.
When we pull invasive species we are often exercising a great deal of patience and perseverance, recognizing that the work is important even when it is not immediately successful. That is the mentality that we need when approaching decolonization in other ways. We might not get there, but we might create more space than there was last year.