Montana’s metal problem

Maxwell Alvord

September 3, 2018

Under Montana’s big Sky

During  Jared Diamonds interludes from New Guinea he spends time in Bitterroot Valley Montana. His observations particular to the environment have a negative slant that explains the ability for a modern state to fall. In the case of Montana Diamond explains that the due to low rainfall the food production is extremely limited. Rather than having the ability to grow multiple crops in a season the high latitude and high altitude cause the plant growth to be minimal and the growing season to be short. The economic impact this has is the inefficiency makes buying crops much more ideal when coming from a location that can grow larger yields and export them faster for cheaper. Diamond also goes on to tell us how toxics wastes have plague the land, in particular he looks at metal mining and its effect on the environment. The problem lies in the process, when miners export they ore it is only a small part of the overall digging that has been done. When the extra metals like copper, arsenic, and zinc are trailing off the main ore it starts to flow into the groundwater, rivers, and soil. Most of these ores have high contents of sulfuric acid from the rich cavities of iron sulfide located in the desired Montana ores. The toxicity is not only a problem to humans but as well to the environment and the animals that live in it. These problems are specifically driven from industrialization and are the cause of all the problems that Montana is presented with today. With the economy depending materials it was a lack of well organized programs that led to the failure.

Bitterroot Valley Montana poses a great model for the environmental problems that are widespread across the United States. Diamond himself states that Montana provides the vision on a microcosm that has problems that are relevant throughout the US. Looking at Montana we have usable data and historical records that can be used to help explain the reasons for environmental decline across the nation, conversely to places like Polynesia or Maya which lack the details needed to find cause and effect for their outcomes. 

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