Mining for Problems

The Bitterroot Valley is dealing with “toxic wastes, forests, soils, water (and sometimes air), climate change, biodiversity losses, and introduced pests” (Diamond, p.35). The toxic waste problem in Montana have both a modern and historical component in nature. Toxic waste also affects most of the other problems in Montana. The more modern form of toxic waste is from fertilizer and herbicides found in agricultural uses. The more historical problem is wastes from metal mining. Toxic waste is such an issue because there are thousands of mines in Montana that are either still in operation or closed, and many families in Montana have farms and ranches. Mining started the problem when there were no restrictions or regulations on mining wastes. The waste product was freely allowed to move into water supply and soil. With mines still not wanting to clean up their mess, mine tailing are still an issue. On top of the mines and people resorting to agricultural work to live off of, fertilizers and herbicides adds pollutants to the water and soil as well. This leads to plants and animals dying and people getting sick.

I believe that the Bitterroot Valley does offer a good model for understanding issues. The Bitterroot Valley is in a relatively secluded spot that is not affected as much by other environmental issues in other areas. The valley has a history of mining and farming that has changed the landscape from logging trees to changing the flow of water with irrigation systems (Diamond, p.34). With this unique area, scientists can learn how people have affected an area based on its history and current situation. From there scientists could predict how humans can affect other areas based on their interactions.

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