Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Jared Diamond's Collapse

My father got me a copy of Collapse for my birthday, and it being reading week I've finally gotten the chance to start it. It's surprisingly poignant, for a scientific book about natural history. That's because the first chapter deals with the poetically-named Bitteroot Valley in Montana, a county of 35,000 people that once subsided on timber and agriculture, whose way of life is slowly being destroyed by a combination of environmental and economic factors - namely, the colonization of agricultural areas by near-tourists immigrating from the wealthier, urban areas of the US. In the context of Bitteroot, this means middle-class and above emigres from Los Angeles. Because of the more general problems with agriculture in Montana, farmers in Bitteroot are faced with a dramatic problem: Sell the family farm and maybe make a profit by turning over their heritage to suburban developers, or wait for the farm to fail anyway and leave with nothing. This is a deeply painful choice for many farmers across the US - leading many to commit suicide.

This isn't apropos of anything in particular. I just finished the first chapter, and was surprised by how much it bummed me out. So I decided to share.

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