The Nature of Things: Not all beauty is in nature

The Nature of Things: There's more than one kind of SPAM

When it comes to protecting the environment, do people count for anything anymore? Sure, everyone likes to see unspoiled scenery, wildlife, open spaces filled with wild flowers and free flowing, clear streams. But what about "amber waves of grain?" By that I mean, is the only real beauty on this planet to be found on natural landscapes where mankind has not yet intruded?

There is an environmental confrontation brewing in the Palouse country between the Idaho Transportation Department and local Sierra Club members over the straightening of US Hwy. 95 between Moscow and Lewiston. Not that we have to go out of state to find these kinds of battles over the environment; after all, we have been plagued with our own Andy Kerrs and Ric Baileys here in Oregon for a long time. But this problem over in Idaho is so typical of the mentality of the green movement that it needs to be exposed as an example of how little these people care about the well-being of humanity.

That 24 mile stretch of U.S. Hwy. 95 that the Highway Deptartment wants to straighten is so full of dangerous curves that officials say that if it is relocated and widened it will cut accidents in half. Imagine that ... it will save human lives. But that doesn't count for much with the greens because it involves paving over some of the last part of the Palouse Prairie that has never come under the plow. So this means if they have to choose between human life and wild flowers ... they'll take the flowers. I realize that is a rather crass accusation, but how else can you interpret it?

What these people are saying is that there is only one percent of the original 18,000 square miles of the Palouse Prairie remaining in its natural state. So? What happened to the rest of it? Because it was changed does not mean it has been destroyed. The deep topsoil of these rolling hills has brought enormous prosperity to Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Why else would there be two of the best universities in the West (U of I and WSU) at this location?

If you drive from Lewiston to Spokane, you see nothing but prosperity. The little towns of Colton and Colfax have the most beautiful well-funded school systems in the state of Washington. The entire landscape, while thinly populated, is dotted with nearly weed-free productive farms with many well-kept brick homes. This rural landscape is very pleasing to the eye and is a compliment to the stewardship of the farmers who live there.

Sure, the Palouse River is muddy the year around, but it was also muddy before the white settlers came, as are most all sluggish prairie streams. However, this is offset by the productive wheat, barley, and lentil fields, hence my above reference to the "amber waves of grain."

I think it is time for environmentalists to recognize there is beauty and pleasure to be found in man-made and human managed objects and landscapes as well as natural areas. Nor are all of mankind's intrusions on nature detrimental to wildlife and scenic beauty. Many species of birds and animals have thrived in close proximity to the bounty of America's farms and ranches.

And not all beauty is located in rural areas and national parks. There is much beauty in the architecture of our cities and the many monuments in Washington, D.C. You don't have to go to India to see the Taj Mahal when we have the Washington Monument right here in America that has a far deeper meaning.

Nor do you need to go to Sequoia National Park to see stately trees when we have the beauty of so many well-managed, man-planted apple and cherry orchards right here in Oregon and Washington.

So I say to the greens of America: "stop and smell the roses," even they, too, were planted by humans.

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