Adverse Effects: Assessing and Mitigating

Part 1: Assessing

Who knew that archaeology was gonna become a metaphor for my entire life? Just goes to show….. something or other. Beats me. But in order for you to understand how I have applied scientific methods to my own life, I’m gonna have to give you some background. Settle in for yet another reference to land management before I get into life management.

Remember when I explained about surveying and digging, and how our team goes out and finds and records sites? Well, I bet you’ve been asking yourself ever since, what do they do with those sites? My response: It depends.

It depends on what kind of site, where it is, who used it, how many similar sites exist, and a bunch of other details, unique to each site. If it’s a Really Big Deal site, like George Washington was born there, or the biggest lithic quarry in the northwest, or the venue for the Donner Party dinner party, the site gets preserved and interpreted and you should probably visit the place when you’re in the area, because it’s part of your national heritage.

If it is a site of lesser importance, say a pioneer cemetery, or the remains of a longhouse, or an abandoned mineshaft, then it may be important on a local or regional level, and tell you how people in the past used the resources, made their living, etc. And if it’s a fairly commonplace site, like where a Native American sat and knocked some rocks together to make an arrowhead, leaving behind a few scattered flakes, well it depends. On whether he used the local rock, or some imported cobble from hundreds of miles away. Because that would tell you something about early trade routes. Big bison kill site? That means there were enough buffalo around to drive over a cliff, and the locals were plentiful and organized enough to get the job done. Effigy mounds in the cornfield? Ditto – you’ve got manpower, a social hierarchy, something to haul dirt in, and a gracious plenty of dirt. If you really care, you can look up the criterion for entry into the National Register of Historic Places, and see how these things stack up on a sliding scale of relevance.

And even if a site doesn’t tell you much now, science may improve enough to figure stuff out when the technology is better. Say, for instance, your great-grandpa’s uncle saw Davy Crockett take a whiz on a bush in the wilderness. And he just happened to tell somebody where that bush was. And next thing you know, it’s a family tale, passed down for years, until some young scientist decides to research Davy Crockett’s travels. When he finds out about the bush, he mounts an expedition, and carefully excavates all around that bush. If the bush is gone, he uses pollen and soil samples to prove a bush of that species, did grow there at one time. Unless he finds the tattered remains of a coonskin cap (not likely, due to the urine speeding up deterioration, there in the piney woods) or there was a stone with “Dave Waz Here” carved into it, and the print just happened to match Mr. Crocketts’, our scientist isn’t going to prove much. But say, a few years down the road (or maybe now, seems like the folks on CSI have some pretty magical equipment), you can extract pee molecules from dirt, and then you find out that this pee had digested animal protein in it, and after careful analysis, you determine it is bear. Then you find a diary that says on a certain day, ole Davy “kilt him a b’ar” in that area. And roasted it, and made pulled bear for all the guys, using his special 11 herbs and spices. Now you are talking. What if you compare the DNA in that pee to descendents of Davy’s, and it matches? Ding, Ding, Ding. Jackpot! Science. Gotta love it.

If by this point, you are mumbling, “Who cares?”, then you can just mosey on off to some other blog. I care. If you have stuck around this long, make up your mind. You can wait it out, or you can Google “nutjob”. Or “Heinrich Schliemann”. Or “penile enlargement”. Whatever. Go on. Scat!

What I am eventually going to get at, is that you need to see the forest and the trees to get the whole picture. The microcosm and the macrocosm. Ontology recapitulates Philogeny. And probably Yoda had a pithy saying to encompass this, too.

Wow. This is getting way esoteric. Maybe I should stop here. Next time, we can get into Mitigation. Or damage assessment. Or, as it applies to me personally, “What to do when the horse is out of the barn, the bridge is burning, and your rolling stones are absolutely coated in moss”.

See you next time.


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