The collapse of the Bitterroot Valley and Montana

The Bitterroot valley in Southwestern Montana faces many environmental issues. Many people would not think of Southwestern Montana as a hotspot for environmental problems, but there are many serious issues facing this area. Montana has traditionally been heavily reliant on mining for its economy. Mining has decreased dramatically since its height in the 19th century and early 20th century, but the effects of the mining are still being felt to this day. Mining brings up harmful chemicals and materials from underground and can poison the waterways. Along with the mines, it is becoming more apparent that there is becoming a shortage of water in the area. This is because of global warming. Global Warming is being felt in the Bitterroot valley because rainfall is already scarce, now because of climate change it is even drier.  Logging and forest fires are also a large problem for the valley. Forest fires are a problem because of the intense fire suppression that occurred during the second half of the 20th century. These problems, excluding global warming and droughts, are historical in nature. We are facing the problems now because of our negligence in the past. If mining companies would have cleaned up after themselves we would not have nearly as many problems with polluted water. If citizens could agree on a fire suppression strategy there would not be nearly as many large out of control fires. These problems are historical in nature and if we do not come up with a strategy to combat these problems it will become very apparent on why Jared Diamond uses the Bitterroot valley as an example of collapse.

The Bitterroot valley is a good example of the worlds environmental issues because it is a vast area where the effects of our changing environment are easy to see. It is also a good example because it shows the differing opinions and values of people living in the area. There are the people who favor mining and logging due to its economic upside and there are the people who favor the environment completely over the economic values. This area shows the impact of human carelessness with mines and global warming. I believe Jared Diamond uses this as his first example of collapse because it is an area that people would not expect, but it shows all the signs of these great dangers.

One thought on “The collapse of the Bitterroot Valley and Montana”

  1. I see what you are saying in that most of our issues with environmental collapse stem from a place in the past and, while I don’t necessarily disagree with you, I think you might also want to pay attention to the here and now, as in situations, not necessarily in Montana, that are occurring and creating much of these similar effects. I agree that we must do something to change the way that we fight fires and I too wish we could agree on ways to save Montana. I think you do a very good job of getting both sides of the argument presented in the second paragraph because you are right, there are people who value culture over nature when in reality, as we’ve discussed in class, we have to realize that it’s much more of a two-way street.

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