This is the 26th chapter of the 32-part video series “The Montana Ethic Project.” This chapter features Timothy James LeCain, an associate professor of history and director of graduate studies at Montana State University in Bozeman, discussing the question, “An Ethical Nature?” You can watch the whole video below. Here is an edited transcript of how it begins:
“I thought I’d talk about Montana’s relationship to the land, to nature in particular, and how those issues have been brought up by the Superfund Sites in Montana.
“I’ll begin with a story.
“This story takes us back to the Deer Lodge Valley in autumn of 1902. In the 1880s there were a number of farmers and ranchers who moved into the Deer Lodge Valley. It was a high valley, a rich agricultural region, particularly well-suited for cattle, sheep, and domesticated animals. A number of ranchers, including the famous Conrad Kohrs, one of the founders of the state who eventually became a Montana legislator, moved into that area and began ranching.
“In the autumn of 1902 it was an unusually dry autumn. The rain did not fall a great deal. It was sunny and cool with cloudless nights. It was a beautiful autumn like we have come to expect in Montana. But this time something was different. One of the ranchers by the name of Nick Bielenberg, who was related to Kohrs by marriage, in the course of a couple of weeks began to lose many of his animals in large numbers.”
Here is another, edited excerpt from Lecain’s presentation:
“Missoula was what it was and is still today in large part because of places like Butte.
“What I began to realize was that we needed to get away from these ideas that we can have these pristine reserves that are cut off from the rest of the industrial technological world. Instead what we need to begin to embrace is an idea of seeing technology as part of nature, seeing humans as part of nature, and not trying to have preserves where it is nice and green and places where it is just an industrial park and the people who are harmed by those areas, well then it is just too bad for them.
“There is an ethical need for all of us to share in the damages that are done.”
PERC—the Property & Environment Research Center—is a proud sponsor of the Montana Ethic Project. To learn how PERC’s ideas can help us honor one another’s rights to land, water, and wildlife,visit perc.org.
First week: Project introduction.
Third week: Mike Gear on “The Value of Athletics.”
Fourth week: Franke Wilmer on “Gender Equity.”
Fifth week: Gordon Brittan on “The Founding Fathers.”
Eighth week: Chuck Tooley on “The Montana Character.”
Ninth week: Steve Bullock on “Citizens United v. Montana.”
11th week: Bob Rowe on Technological Development.”
13th week: Bruce Smith on “Montana’s Food Economy.”
21st week: Pat Barkey on “The Montana Wage Disparity.”
23rd week: Larry Simkins on “The Culture of Safety.”
24th week: James Shanley on “Education Reform.”
25th week: Greg Gianforte on “High Tech in Montana.”
Next week: Steve Running on “Montana Climate Change.”