A very local article I read this weekend reminded me of how every single time we build anything, it alters our landscape and has a cumulative, cascading effect far beyond what the eye can see. I know this is a simple observation, but it is so crucial that we cannot recognize it enough.
The article is about the alewife, a type of herring that lives out in ocean waters but, like salmon, migrates to freshwater streams for spawning. The article talks about a lengthy project to build a rock ramp over a small five-foot dam in one of our local downtowns. The dam has prevented alewife from using that river to spawn (the Peconic) since Colonial times... yes, Colonial times.
You see, even before the Industrial Revolution, humans were having minor impacts on the species with whom they coexist. Of course, humans are like any other animal; they impact their ecosystem, occupy a certain niche, and affect their physical environment.
The problem is that now, our impacts have accumulated to huge levels, and they continue to escalate day by day. A dam or two in the 1800s has become ten or twenty dams today. A turnpike that divided a forest habitat in the 1920s has become four arterials, two superhighways, and three local roads criscrossing that habitat today. Even when we don't develop land for buildings, we are impacting the environment with the runoff from our roads, the fumes from our vehicles, the overfishing from our recreation, and the waste from our lives.
Every choice we make has an affect on dozens upon dozens of others in the world wide web of life. Yes, there are many consequences to driving the extra mile, adding the extra lane, and loweirng the thermostat another degree. We just have to convince people of the truth.