The massive landslide that killed 30 people two weeks ago came without warning; happened so quickly that there was no chance for people to run for safety. It swallowed homes, businesses, cars, all holding lifeless bodies. The oozing mud continues to bubble forth artifacts; wallets, paintings, uniforms, toys, all the remnants of lives well lived.
The insurance companies call this an “act of God”, that’s the legal term to describe an event outside of human control for which no one can be held responsible. This was not an act of God, it was an act of irresponsible over logging and there were warnings for decades, the last report 15 years ago outlined, “the potential for a large, catastrophic failure” on the very hillside that just collapsed.
Oso, WA. lies in a stunningly beautiful, picture postcard valley on the banks of the Stillaguamish River. The Stilly as locals call it is world-famous for its fly-fishing whose crystal clear waters I waded almost 50 years ago. I was an intern in Seattle Washington at the time, and then these mountains were thick forests of old-growth trees. There is a powerful lumber industry here, and over the last 30 years these woods been excessively logged until no tree has been left standing.
The Stillaguamish Indians, who have lived there forever, have also issued warnings. They always knew that such large-scale manipulation of their natural world would yield serious consequences. They warned us, scientists warned us, but they were not heeded. Native Americans are still praying and warning us; the Bad River Band of Chippewa (Anishinabe) are fighting against the powerful mining industry in Wisconsin, The Anishinabe live just down river from a proposed iron ore mine that will be the world’s largest open pit mine; 4 miles long, a half-mile wide, and nearly 1000 feet deep (but it could be extended as long as 21 miles). The industrial waste from this mine will pollute the waters of this pristine wilderness because there are sulfides in the iron bearing rocks, and when exposed to air and water the sulfides oxidize and make the water acidic. The fish will die here just like they did in Kentucky and West Virginia.
The Anishinabe want to leave this land to their great grandchildren at least as well as they found it. They make all decisions on the basis of how it will impact the seventh generation. They are fighting to save their tribe, they are also fighting for the State of Wisconsin and our soul as a nation; we ought to be praying and fighting along with them.
These catastrophic disasters are not Acts of God, they are not outside of human control, and they are a tribute to our arrogance and greed.