Let the Past be a Lesson

While Montana may have some of the countries most pristine and untouched land, it does face a good amount of environmental issues. To be more specific, the Bitterroot Valley faces many problems caused by the mining industry, logging, water, farming, global warming, and livestock. The mining industry created the largest problem Montana has to face nearly a century ago. Early mining companies would mine copper and other resources only to abandon the mines and leave toxic waste to be leaked into rivers and streams. The author states, “ much timber was taken out of the nearby Bitterroot Valley to provide power to the mines, to construct miners’ houses, and to shore up the mineshafts…”(Diamond p.34). This was the very start of Montana’s logging issues. Early logging companies in the Bitterroot Valley took all the lumber they could from the logging lands and are now all closed. These loggers would clear cut trees and create accidental pockets of fuel for wildfires. Trees cut near rivers took away the shade and in turn made the river water warmer. This warming of the river created an unstable habitat for some fish. All the other problems effecting Bitterroot such as soil salinization, water scarcity, and global warming are all historic in nature caused by farmers and industries a century ago. They are historic in nature because it takes time for problems like these to arise, they just don’t happen over night. They come from years of bad practices and negligence that are now affecting us today.


I do believe that Montana in general is a good model for understanding the world’s environmental issues. Montana may have its own environmental issues, but they are not as significant compared to other places in the U.S. or around the world that have ultimately developed more. One could look at Montana as a perfect subject to use history in finding ways to solve these problems before they arise and become too difficult to solve. We can look back at history and see how these environmental issues came to be in other parts of the country, and make sure we don’t make the same mistake again and again.

4 thoughts on “Let the Past be a Lesson”

  1. Matt, I do agree that Montana is a perfect example of the various environmental problems facing the world, however i do not agree that mining in Montana is the largest contributor to the socio-trophic cascade facing the state today. I believe it is people such as Diamond, who come to the Bitterroot Valley seeking refuge or relaxation, then decide to stay or buy a home and live in the valley part time. This migration adds to the argument that no where in the world is really untouched, as well as the change in ecosystems, leading to the pollution of our current water supply.

  2. Matt, excellent summary of the Diamond text. I agree with you that Montana is a good model for the world. I also agree that we should look into the past and learn from it. However, I feel like that today’s society is more focused on the future and not the past. It seems that we are focused on the benefits of the now and not worrying about the problem in the future. It’s like what Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

  3. It is certainly true that a large portion of the contemporary environmental challenges that we face today come as a direst result of historical practices that were allowed to continue for many years. In pretty much all cases, as you pointed out, the future effects that mining, logging, fishiness, etc. were entirely neglected , and instead the focus was only on money. It’s important that we recognized this later rather than never, in the hopes that we don’t become caught in a cycle of negligence. One must also hope that many of the supposedly “environmental friendly” ways we go about things today don’t cause unintended and unforeseen horror for people 150 years from now, much like people and practices from 150 years before us are causing us now.

  4. Dear Matt Muir, I could not agree more on what you said about the both modern and past damage done to the bitterroot valley’s landscape and ecosystem. The mining issues were not only a major problem fifty years ago mining is also a major issue today. Places like Butte Montana are still in a state of recovery from all the damage done to the landscape. I also love when you said “One could look at Montana as a perfect subject to use history in finding ways to solve these problems before they arise and become too difficult to solve.” I agree that Montana is a great example of noticing a problem and then fixing it. Great job!

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