In case anyone wondered, there is a very specific reason I’ve evoked cane toads as an example in the last year or so when discussing exo-relations. The cane toad originates in South and Central America. Early during the last century it was imported to Hawaii, parts of the Caribbean, and the Philippines to fight pests in sugarcane fields. Based on the success of cane toads in fighting pests in these regions, the cane toad was introduced into Queensland Australia in the 1930s. Due to a lack of natural predators in Australia, cane toad populations quickly began to explode and spread throughout Australia, killing off other indigenous species. Cane toad hatching season qualifies as what might be called a plague. To get a sense of just how big a problem the cane toad is in Australia take a look at the following video clip. Around the 2:30 mark you can see just how explosive this population is.

The cane toad does an excellent job illustrating a number of object-oriented and onticological concepts. On the one hand, it is a marvelous example of maintaining the externality of relations or the thesis that objects cannot be equated with their relations. In the context of South and Central America, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and the Philippines, the cane toad poses (to my knowledge) no particular problems. However, when the cane toad is introduced to Queensland (i.e., when its placed in a new set of exo-relations, new qualities in the cane toad population begin to emerge.

Ecology is right to emphasize the importance of relations, but wrong to conceive these relations as internal relations or to argue that relations are internal to objects such that they constitute objects. Without an account of external relations ecology is 1) unable to account for both how objects such as the cane toad can shift from one environment to another, and 2) to account for how it’s possible to intervene in environments to enact positive changes. These, I believe, are very simple and obvious ontological points so I’m really not sure what all the ruckus over relations is about.

The example of the Queensland cane toad is also a nice example of regimes of attraction. A regime of attraction is a set of exo-relations in a collective of objects that tends to produce fairly enduring local manifestations. For example, if my beloved blue coffee mug is sitting on my office desk under fluorescent lights, the shade of blue it manifests is fairly enduring. This is because it exists in a regime of attraction that evokes ongoing acts in the object. Similarly in the case of cane toads, though here the issue pertains more to population densities than qualities. In Central and South America there are enough predators immune to the poison of the cane toads skin to keep the cane toad population within certain limits. It is likely that South and Central American cane toads also tend to be smaller than Australian cane toads as they must compete with a number of other predators and don’t have “the run of the farm” allowing them to eat to their hearts content. By contrast, in Queensland the cane toad has entered a new regime of attraction where there are no predators immune to their poisonous skin. As a consequence, these predators gradually die off (species are going extinct throughout the region) and cane toad populations subsequently explode. We get a different local manifestation as a result of this different regime of attraction.

You can read more about cane toads here.