The Bitterroot Valley is facing a number of environmental challenges as a result of historical decisions, current changes in the culture, and global pressures. Poor decisions in the exploitation of natural resources, from mining (Diamond, p. 33-37) to timber management (Diamond, p. 41-42) and agriculture (Diamond. P 47-49) combined with climate change (Diamond, p. 49) have created toxic environments, water shortages, and threats to biodiversity (Diamond, p.54-55). Additionally, the area is facing economic struggles as a ‘rich vs poor’ scenario plays out with the dramatic rise of land value based on beauty instead of production (Diamond, p60-61). Though part of one of the richest countries, the Bitterroot Valley is facing many of the same challenges as some of the poorest countries. (Diamond, p. 32), largely due the fact of past motives and the current results.
Montana offers a microcosm of issues faced by almost any culture or inhabited region, because like those place, we are human driven. “American businesses exist to make money for their owners;….’ (Diamond, p.37), and in most ‘civilized’ cultures, the argument could be made the people are the ‘business’ and the ‘money’ is our own concerns. Though we struggle with the current state of affairs, we continue to contribute to it. We complain about the water shortages, yet build expansive developments which pull from endangered aquifers. We bemoan the loss of agriculture, but opt for cheaper imported food over expensive locally grown items. In Montana, as in other places, we are complicit because we too often make decisions on a personal level, not a societal one. We did not oppose development until it became unaffordable to us. “Whenever I have actually been able to talk with Montanans, I have found their actions to be consistent with their values, even if those values clash with …other Montanans” (Diamond, p, 57).