Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Fun Evolution Trip, Part Twelve: Surprises in the Heartland

Announcement: New Darwin video as of September 26--Darwin at Devil's Tower.

This is the last entry about my summer 2014 trip. Starting tomorrow (Friday, September 25) I will be live-blogging from the Climate Education Workshop for teachers, sponsored by Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.

After the Botany Conference, I drove back to Oklahoma by an indirect route. They were some of the least interesting days of the trip, but even on these “off” days there is something worth noticing, some of them planned, some of them surprising.

First, I went to Two Buttes, Colorado. Two buttes rise from the flat agricultural landscape of extreme southeastern Colorado, a landscape that was barren at the best of times and has been damaged by human activity. Humans seem to have bled it dry, mostly for irrigation water from the Ogalalla Aquifer. The buttes arise like breasts of Mother Earth attempting to desperately nourish her dying children.

But there is a little bit of hope. From this dying landscape arise wind turbines!

Then I visited an abandoned World War Two internment camp for Japanese American citizens: Camp Amache in southeastern Colorado. In 1942, Congress passed and FDR signed the War Relocation Act that required all American citizens of Japanese ancestry to dispose of their property and move into dozens of internment camps. It was not a concentration camp; they were well treated—the survivors of Camp Manzanar I knew as a kid were not resentful of the experience. But they did have to sell their property in a market that paid very little. And no such internment was required for American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. Most people now consider this period of American history to be an embarrassing time of racism.

The internees made the best of everything, even investing their own money to start up a co-op store, and publishing their own newspaper that was the opposite of the cynicism that they must have been tempted to feel.

The camp is a designated historical site but, unlike Manzanar, has not been rebuilt. All that remains of the old high school is a cement slab, and the water cistern is now overgrown by an elm and filled with garbage.

And I never knew what surprises awaited me on rural highways in Kansas. I discovered that I was running for the legislature in Kansas, and that Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, was born in rural Kansas.

I realize some of these things seem unrelated to evolution—except that everything relates to evolution. Human relationships with the environment, with humans of other races and cultures, and with the universe are all part of evolution. No wonder I enjoy teaching the class so much—it’s about everything! And with this, I close my account of my summer evolution trip.

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