The Big Sky State and Bigger Problems

As Jared Diamond thoroughly explained in Under Montana’s Big Sky, Montana, and more specifically the Bitterroot valley faces many environmental problems. Some of the major problems Diamond points out include those that are historical and those that are not. For example, “Montana’s relatively low rainfall [results] in low rates of plant growth” and it’s “high latitude and high altitude [results] in a short growing season and [limits] crops to once a year rather than two”, illustrating historical environmental problems that have plagued Montana agriculture for centuries (Diamond, p.33). While these factors are historical, Diamond also touches on more problems that have been brought on in recent decades and are not historical, such as humans activities like strip mining that resultes in toxic waste plaguing many parts of Montana’s ecosystem, and clear cut logging that not only caused more frequent and intense wildfires, but also for “sediment runoff [to] increase and water quality [to] decrease” (Diamond, p. 41). More concretely, Diamond’s shows these problems as both historical and non-historical.

Even though the Bitterroot valley is a unique place and you would be hard pressed to find another area like it, after Diamond’s analysis I do feel as though the Bitterroot valley and Montana offer good explanatory models for understanding the worlds environmental issues. Not only does it contain historical and georgical problems seen in many other parts of the world, but the combination of that and the damage done to Montana’s environment by the mining and logging industries along side the other impacts from human interference, make Montana’s environmental issues so widespread they can certainly be applied worldwide as reference. In other words, the Bitterroot valley and Montana in general have already seen so many environment issues, and this part of its history will help to understand the world’s environmental issues.