Nothing New Under the Big Sky

Jared Diamond argues in his chapter, Under the Montana’s Big Sky, that all of the environmental issues facing the Bitterroot Valley today are not new and did not happen by chance. He instead explains that they formed over decades of ignorance, poor practice, and mismanagement by many of the states leading industries. Mining was one of the first industries in Montana and the one that posed the greatest threat to the Bitterroot Valley. Toxic chemicals used in the mining process were often inadvertently released into groundwater, rivers and soil causing damage to water that continues today. Another problem that concerns the valley today are those surrounding its forests. In the past, poor logging practices lead to the destruction of native environments, which today has created a perfect storm for forest fires. Due to the unnatural condition of the forests today, fires often times are uncontainable and pose a great threat to both those inhabiting the valley and the environment itself. The agricultural community has also played its part in impacting the environment in the valley. Again due to poor practice and mismanagement, much of the soil has been impacted negatively, which has left large amount of land unusable. They also use substantial amounts of water for irrigation that has slowly created a water shortage for those in the valley today.

Jared Diamond has shown through his examples in the Bitterroot Valley, that what took place in the past has dramatic effects, often negative, for us in modern times. We can trace the environmental issues facing us today, back to the decisions of those who came before us. As Diamond stated, “Montana’s environmental problems today included almost all of the dozen types of problems that have undermined pre-industrial societies in the past, or that threaten societies elsewhere in the world as well.” (Diamond, pg. 35) What has taken place in Montana is nothing new. It is the same process of cause and effect that has taken place throughout history. Montana in essence is a case study in environmental change and is why I would argue that Montana is a accurate model to explain the world’s environmental issues.