The Environmental-Societal Cycle

When discussing the environmental issues facing the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, Jared Diamond begins by highlighting the toxic wastes produced by bankrupt or irresponsible mining companies (Diamond, p. 35-40). Diamond then focuses on the damages caused by the logging industry, most notably the clear-cutting of beautiful mountainsides, which become prime areas for fires that decimate thousands of acres of land each year (Diamond, p. 42-44). Soils represent yet another environmental issue, specifically the erosion of precious farmland and salinization of farming soil and groundwater that destroys yearly crops (Diamond, p. 47-49). Diamond continues by discussing the pressing issue of water, especially concerns regarding decreasing levels of water caused by climate change and reduced water quality caused by runoff of crop fertilizer (Diamond, p. 49-53). Diamond finishes by noting other environmental impacts related to the introduction of non-native plant and animal species to the native ecosystems. These issues are historical not necessarily because they have always been issues in the Bitterroot Valley, but more so because they are rooted in historical causes, and we are only now seeing the full effect of the consequences.

The preceding fact perfectly emphasizes why the Bitterroot Valley and Montana acts as a great model to explain the world’s environmental issues. We can often trace worldwide environmental issues to some historical root cause and thus use that context to help understand and solve the issues in the present. Every general characteristic of the valley matches well with other global scenarios involving environmental problems, such as the economic impacts caused by the problem or the political attitudes of the people close to the scenario. Therefore, the Bitterroot Valley acts as a framework to study to provide a broader view of how the aforementioned environmental issues historically affected society, and how society thus had their own effect on the environment.

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