Far reaching Consequences

The neighborhood I live in is beautiful…rolling hills, lots of trees, and several small rivers running through it that lead (eventually) to the Chattahoochee River, one of the largest in Georgia. One of the reasons we chose this neighborhood was because of this natural setting. Luckily, our home sits on a huge hill because a couple years ago, those tiny little tributaries flooded in a storm that brought so much rain that I started looking for an ark! People who were not even living in a known flood zone lost their entire house, (up to the roof line in some towns) to the flood waters. Mother Nature is a powerful force and when she is angry, there is no stopping her!

Floodgates and levees are often built to protect low lying areas from flooding in the case of extreme rainfall and runoff. This allows people to build homes in areas that would otherwise not be build-able. The most obvious and well know levee system is probably New Orleans…unfortunately it wasn’t quite strong enough to hold up to Katrina’s wrath.
This past May, the people living in the delta of the Mississippi River had to deal with the worst flooding in recorded history. Thousands of home were ordered evacuated, people died, and floodgates were opened to help save threatened neighborhoods from the deluge. The flood waters headed downstream is a huge rush, and ended up in the Gulf of Mexico. Homes were saved, the waters receded, and eventually everything went back to normal.
It is just in the last few weeks that an unanticipated consequence has been discovered…Apparently all that fresh water rushing into the Gulf has effected the water’s salinity (how salty the water is) and as a result, oysters are dieing off in record numbers. Oysters (unlike shrimp and other types of sea critters) are not mobile…they are stuck living wherever they happen to be so they can’t just up and move to saltier waters. The oyster harvest may be cancelled altogether to give the population a chance to bounce back. The fishermen on the Gulf that rely on that money for their financial survival are not sure how they are going to pay their bills.
Ecological Engineering gained popularity in the 60’s. Basically, it is the act of trying to fit human populations where nature really didn’t intend them to be but without too much damage to the environment. People really seem to want to live in places like mountainous cliffs, beautiful beaches, and the edges of rivers. Unfortunately, this often results in mud slides, flooding and major erosion issues when humans start building without thought to how their actions will effect the ecosystem.
Think About This: According to the United Nations, the world population is growing by nearly 74 million people per year. They predict that the world population will reach 9.0 billion around 2050. We have to put those people somewhere, right? Those people need houses to live in, roads to drive on, and food to eat. And each one of those humans uses the earth’s resources for their continued survival.
What we have to stop and think about is how our actions, as humans, effect our environment as a whole. I bet no one thought that opening the levees to save the Mississippi delta would put oyster fishermen out of business 6 months later. (and I am not saying the oysters are more important than the Mississippi people….just that our action of opening the levees had uninteded consequences!)
Or that building a beautiful neighborhood on the slopes of the mountains in California results in excess erosion, causing a major landslide.


Or that DDT would have such far reaching effects on both humans and wildlife.
As humans, we have the intelligence and physical ability to engineer our environment to our exact specifications. We can build hills where valleys once stood and control the path a river takes as it heads to the sea. We can introduce a new species where it has never lived before or genetically alter a new food so that it contains a vaccine for Polio. The real question is: Should we?

10 thoughts on “Far reaching Consequences”

  1. I guarantee the Army Corp of Engineers consulted with a number of agencies and research facilities prior to releasing all that fresh water into the gulf. They knew it wold dilute its salinity. All I ever heard on the news was how it was going to save property and potentially save entire towns, but I never once heard any mention of the effect all that fresh water would have on the gulf once it hit the sea.

    As for tinkering with nature, I think we should do it but with a constant eye on balance. Any messing around with anything in nature always has repercussions somewhere, and to not consider those is a huge mistake.

  2. I believe that every action causes a reaction somewhere. It’s not always equal and not always opposite, but you need to expect something. Humans probably should all live in big, combined buildings to save open land for parks and agriculture. But we’re selfish and want our own little chunk of open space. Of course, not everyone can afford that space, and eventually we’ll run out of it. But we all think we’ll be dead by that point so we don’t worry about it.
    I’m glad people like you bring up these topics. I tend to avoid thinking about them!

  3. What a very interesting post! Flooding is so scary! There was a major flood in Nashville a while ago. It was like 4 hours from me! SCARY!!

    -Jennifer’s Deals

  4. I didn’t know about the water salinity issue in the gulf. That is really too bad. There are always consequences for our actions. When I used to live in the mountains of Arizona I would see people religiously watering their lawns to have them nice and green and lush……..and all I could think of “What a waste!!” They moved to Arizona for the climate but they are destroying the environment!! There is so much more we could do to make less of an ecological impact. Thanks for the post!!


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