nfpa > NF Road Anti-paving Home > Oliver Meister Letter

Too much of the earth is paved already

To the editor,

The North Fork of the Flathead is one of these special places in the world -- for its wildlife and rugged mountain peaks, its wild and scenic river, its people, and many more reasons we have for our own. There sure wouldn't be such a heated discussion over the "paving issue" if it were not so.

Too much of the earth is paved already. Life in the fast lane with all the conveniences of modern civilization -- is that all we really want? Or shouldn't we start to preserve those tiny bits of pristine wilderness that still are left for our children and their children so they will know someday what this is all about?

I grew up in Southern Germany with my great grandpa's stories of a life close to the "land" and a simple, hard but good life he called it. He showed me the Black Forest and the then still "wild" places -- not wilderness, but places where you could find solitude and pristine nature.

There are no places left here in Germany these days that can give a man the perspective on the world and his life. I took a drive through the Black forest only a few weeks ago, prime blacktop nowadays. The roads were full with bikers and Sunday tourists. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic in a recreational area that in these days is better known for acid rain than for its beautiful forests and high meadows. Fireweed was in bloom and it reminded me somewhat of Montana, only the pines and spruces are a lot smaller and the higher ones were getting brown at the top from air pollution blown in from who knows where. My route skirted "Mummelsee", a small, quiet lake in the higher elevations surrounded by gigantic spruce. Well, that's how I remembered it. What I found was a traffic jam starting a mile before the lake, busses unloading hordes of camera-armed folks, sausage stands and ice cream carts. Just the right place to enjoy a little nature? No, but the right place to spend all your money!

And that's what this is all about: $$$! One thing leads to the next, that's the nature of things, and that's why I'm against paving. This is not just a local matter; this is of global importance. Grizzlies, wolves, mountain lions, mountain goats and eagles I only knew from zoos and I don't want just another drive-through zoo! Mining, logging, paving -- this all might promise income in the short run, but wildlife can provide income in the future. Tourists will always come to get a chance to see one of these critters in the wild, especially European tourists. I run a tourism business here in Germany and many people come back from Yellowstone crying: "Never again!" Once it was the ultimate destination for every visitor to the US. Tourism is still one of the biggest growing industries in the world but you have to be very careful which step you take and which way you go. And blacktop is not it!

Oliver A. Meister
Part-time resident and landowner in Polebridge

Last update: 12 October 1999