Humans classify species into those that belong (“native”) and do not belong (“invasive”). But as the climate emergency pushes plants and animals to new locations, instead of uprooting them, CLIMAVORE incorporates them as ingredients in a more flexible diet to balance the new environment.
Since the 1950s, discussion of both human and nonhuman migration has increasingly used the figure of the “non-native” or the “alien” as a negative addition to “native” contexts. In Britain, Japanese knotweed has been stigmatised as the “plant that can sink your mortgage,” while in the Cayman Islands, lionfish is promoted as a national food to mitigate its spread and try to rebalance human damage to underwater ecosystems.
Japanese knotweed has been at the forefront of a war against nonhuman “non-native” “invaders” in the UK. But in the volcanic soils of mountainous regions in Japan, knotweed – locally known as itadori (イタドリ) – is enjoyed in savoury dishes, teas, and jam preserves. In England, knotweed has been accused of cracking foundations as it grows, threatening property prices where it is present.
CLIMAVORE moves beyond a language and approach that blames nonhuman species for human actions, instead seeking to understand the contexts that cause their appearance in unexpected places. The plate might be one place we learn to accept “non-native” species. However, it is also crucial to acknowledge that the legal definitions of “native” and “invasive” are no longer fit for purpose. How will humans respond to increasing seasons of “non-native” “invasions” by species including American crayfish, Asian crabs, Chinese arrowroot, Canadian geese and Armenian blackberries? How can we begin to understand gastronomic culture as a temporal practice with an expiry date – where we eat “invasives” for an extended season, until new predators emerge or ecologies rebalance?