/ Restoring Wild Places,

Reframing Invasive Plants Into Earth Care

By Torry Nergart, Conservation Easement Manager

Our cultural fetishization of private property often leads to the destruction of the land and water deemed “private.” When a person “owns” land in North Carolina in 2023, that person owns everything: the living soil, the life-giving water, the right to do whatever they please on it and to it.

When doing whatever you want to a seemingly unalive thing is a choice it appears that plenty of people will choose to destroy land rather than uplift it. A relative absence of external regulations makes plenty of room for the willful neglect of internal regulations like the pushing down of an inner voice that knows land is a living, breathing and giving thing. The apathy towards land acknowledgment is a sliding scale ranging from wanton surface mining of rock and living soil to create the next space for “development” to neglecting to act on treating plants that create ecosystem imbalances and instabilities. In the case of the latter, a bit of forgiveness is warranted.

How could one person look at acres of nothing but kudzu vines and say with confidence “I got this!” Daunting tasks are difficult to start. The grace that allows for forgiveness can also be applied to the energy to uplift the ecological diversity of life and land. This kind-spirited volunteerism can take form of simply neighbors helping neighbors, signing up with an organization or even going it alone and it all translates to Earth care. The damage to land is quickly done and has been done repeatedly for a couple centuries now. Healing land takes more time, care, thoughtfulness, consideration for other living things, energy, multi-generational foresight and cooperation than most individuals are seemingly capable of; when their daily pressure to generate capital for others distracts them, even paralyzes them from doing nothing but.

Living on Earth requires reciprocity to the Earth. Our planet gives us everything we need to live, taking more than that creates debt. When the debt comes due, the giving stops. Earth’s language says “I cannot support you any longer” when prime agricultural soils are depleted by not recycling nutrients back. Weedy plants brought from other continents through global trade that are unchecked and overrun natural communities of diverse plants.

That plant diversity has sustained human life for centuries from the discoveries and selection of life-giving agricultural crops to the modern syntheses of plant chemicals into life-saving medicines. The introduction of plants that are not regionally adapted to this area makes ecological imbalances and novel ecosystems are currently being created at a pace that does not appear to be sustainable to human life. Even though some of these introductions were done by well-minded individuals, we now all own the debt to the Earth created by them. We are all capable, in diverse ways, of providing Earth care. Group effort, changes in governmental policies, even daily individual actions are part of the myriad.

Focus on giving back and turn away from taking. The Earth is always asking us to do this.