Forests, rivers, farming and a lack of public civil discourse.

Currently the Bitter Root Valley faces issues of low quantity and quality of water, depleting profitability of agriculture, environmental damage from past toxic mining sites, invasive species, and logging issues resulting in rampant, uncontrollable wildfires. The source of all these problems seems to be a mix of disagreement and ignorance about the proper allocation of resources between native Montanans and outsiders. The prime example being logging, in which foreign business inquiries into the enterprise has caused clearcutting, a practice in logging in which a large portion of trees are cut down, rather than marking the most valuable trees and cutting them down individually. Clear cutting has since proven to be a major source of uncontrollable wildfires as the small branches left behind by the loggers provides an excellent dry kindling. Fittingly so, local Montanans reacted negatively to logging industries, and with the passing of many laws and regulations attempting to preserve Montana forestry, logging has become a very unprofitable business in Montana. But the utter dismissal of logging by Montana’s population has also created problems.  “The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.” (Diamond p.14) as the public in Montana now rejects all suggestions of logging, even those that could aid in the prevention of forest fires. While forestry use and wildfires have been a problem for any number of past societies, ignorance and a lack of understanding within public discourse will always be a problem that will mar human societies.


I think Montana in recent years, and certainly the Bitter Root Valley, represent a petri dish of our own American cultural environment and of other past societies in terms of widening class divisions and the problems it creates. The objections to the influx of rich foreigners that many of the residents of Hamilton raise can be echoed in the greater cultural plane of Montana, and certainly in Bozeman. Recently, I’ve heard many Bozemanites in objection to the growing population of our once quaint little mountain town. In addition, folks in Bozeman share a similar sentiment to those in Hamilton about the effect of foreigners warping established Montana values. I think these issues of shifting class divisions and traditional values are not only prevalent in Hamilton and Bozeman, but across the country as well, and can be found very clearly in societies of the past. In fact it amazes me that diamond’s book, written 14 years ago, seems to relate to the issues of traditionalism vs. progress that is so rampant in our political climate today. Indeed, The Bitter Root Valley’s disconnect between classes, immigrants and values is shockingly relevant to many of the controversies surrounding our rather uncivil discourse today.

1 thought on “Forests, rivers, farming and a lack of public civil discourse.”

  1. I definitely agree with your opinion on this text. The notion that the greatest threat to our environment is often disagreement and ignorance is spot on. It is true that these sentiments often cause the “pendulum” to swing too far and cause dramatic effects, namely in the example of logging and forest fires. I found it interesting that you brought up the widening class divide as a cause of environmental problems. This has too often been true in the way large companies, especially those in the mining industry, put profits in front of the damages their businesses can cause to the public at large. I also appreciated your application to Bozeman, as I too can see the similarities between what we are seeing here today and what took place in the Bitterroot Valley.

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