I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about the clearing and straightening of creeks, and how that produces a wide range of negative effects, from the devastating floods that occur when stormwater that used to be absorbed by trees and wetlands and blunted by meanders and bends suddenly comes freight-training downstream, to the dry and sterile creekbeds that are left behind after the raging waters have scoured the habitat and wreaked havoc further down.
So I was fascinated when my friend Bruce Farling of Trout Unlimited sent me this old DuPont ad that celebrates the virtues of straightening creeks with dynamite. I honestly don’t think that people are much different today: we still yearn for the simplest answer, demand to make straight what nature made crooked, make flat what the world has made steep, even long after we understand the tremendous costs of those desires and the projects that make them real. What we have become better at, though, is covering up, using softer language to describe the destruction of natural places. Nobody in 2010 would make an ad like this one. And yet the destruction continues. The bald-faced honesty of the DuPont ad is almost refreshing.