“It was her fault she was raped.”
“They suffered an earthquake/tsunami/tornado/insert-your-natural disaster because god was unhappy with them!”
“They’re houses are sliding off the buff now because they were idiots for building where they did!”
That last one is about my own neighborhood, part of which is sinking. I was looking for developing news on it since, obviously this is too close to home not to be personal, and comments like the above were what I found the most of.
We happen to live in a safe part of the neighborhood, but our older neighbors are no longer safe. They used to be. What’s happening now is nearly uncomprehesible to all of us and a truly painful thing to witness. Let me explain…
A lot of those houses were built in the 1950s and inhabited by the same families since. Those houses are downhill of us and an easy walk from our house. The whole neighborhood is kind of isolated on a hilltop. There’s old growth forest and gullies all the way around it and it has a view of the Snohomish River valley on one side. There’s the I-5 corridor downhill from us on the other side with more trees and one of those cement walls to keep people from getting too close to the highway on the other side. The only way to enter the neighborhood is to cross a bridge over the highway.
Despite all this, or maybe because of it, it has seemed one of the safest neighboods around up until now. Frequently we see the valley below flooded out like an inland sea safe from our hillside perch. Two things have changed recently:
One is that the I-5 corridor beside our hill was recently widened within the last 3 years, including the addend of new on ramps and the deletion of some others. This meant water table changes. It was a pretty well planned and executed operation however and did not obstensibly cause any real problems. Not by itself anyway.
Secondly, a new land owner in the valley decided to build his own log cabin and clear cut the trees on his property, the very same hillside that abuts the now sinking neighborhood. This addend appears to be the real culprit in the damage to my neighborhood.
Let me explain something about trees. Dessiduous trees like maple, oak, and fruit trees tend to grow deep roots and can easily stand by themselves without the support of other trees. Evergreens on the other hand have widespread but relatively shallow root systems compared to the height and weight of the bole itself. Without at least two or three other evergreens around them, they will start falling and dying when there’s too much wind or rain, which we get a LOT of around here.
If you leave just one pine in your yard and cut down all the rest, you will eventully end up with it falling on your car or roof or somewhere equally tramatizing and inconvenient as hell.
In forest format, however, they make some of the best watersheds in the world. Without them, our hills would litterally roll over the years (and anything that got in their way) like ocean waves. Geology students who have done longevity studies on hill movements will know exactly what I’m talking about. You mess with these trees on hillsides in wet windy climates and the hillsides will roll… or landslide, whatever you want to call it.
Our neighborhood hasn’t been the only bit of land to suffer from this. A nearby span of Burlington Northern railway has recently been covered by a goodish bit of denuded hillside on the roll. It’s what happens when you cut down two many trees in the wrong place.
The original home builders were not the idiots in this equation. People who OVERdevelop the land are idots. You can’t rape the earth without there being consequences for someone. It could easily happen to you as well through no fault of your own. So have some sympathy for the victims and tread a little easier on the earth.