Whether you like to fish, garden, or just dig in the dirt, you’ve undoubtedly bumped into the nightcrawler. This worm seems like a ubiquitous part of life for us, but it is not native to North America. The nightcrawler was a passenger on European ships that landed in Virginia, packed along with the all-important tobacco cargo. Like the earthworm, much of what makes up our ecology today is not native. 17th-century European settlers in Virginia, for instance, found that the land and ecology were completely unfit for their styles of agriculture and settlement. But over time, invasive and native blended to create a new ecology.
Invasive species from Europe, including the earthworm, European tobacco, and hundreds of plant species were integrated into the landscape. Farm animals, including cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, and hogs, were introduced. Over time, these species began to take hold; and the ecology that sustained natives slowly changed to ecology that sustained settlers.
The same process will continue to evolve. In urban environments, introduced species will find their way, just as native species will continue to evolve. All of the flora and fauna integrate to create a new ecology with greater human character than would exist outside of the urban environment. In other words, humans become part of the ecology as it evolves, and they evolve with it.
We cannot unsettle North America or keep the earthworm from digging its way into the soil. What we can do is acknowledge that change occurs, and, even if human-caused, it does not have to have negative impacts. Good can come from a continually evolving ecology. Protecting the environment does not have to demonize development or change. We evolve; we adapt.