I talk a lot in this blog about nature, and since I live in the state of Iowa in the United States of America, I thought I would talk about the impact of human infrastructure on nature in Iowa.
Some of the impacts are unique to Iowa, and some are universal.
Infrastructure is a system set up to accommodate some particular goal. It can be physical, social, or economic. Infrastructure supports other infrastructures, and has a tendency to perpetuate itself. Infrastructure has intended consequences and a large number of unintended consequences. Finally, I would make the observation that while rare, infrastructure is capable of failing catastrophically.
So in this photo you can see weeds in the foreground—I have planted some prairie plants there, in an attempt to “reconstruct” a prairie. What you don’t see is that the land (which was too sandy to be good crop land) has been row-cropped in the past. Also, a certain amount of dirt was removed from the area—it was a “borrow site” for construction of a farm shed.
Of course, you can see the power lines in the background, a water tower (for rural water) and a cell phone tower. There is a fence line, and a horizontal line about in the center of the picture is a gravel road.
If you look at an overhead shot, you can see that Iowa is divided into lots of little squares. Generally speaking, there is a grid of east-west roads and north-south roads laid out every mile. Most are gravel—crushed limestone in most cases, but I am fortunate enough to live along a gravel road that contains more river rock. The limestone roads are extremely dusty.
Notice how straight the creek in the north-east corner of the Google maps runs? That is because of a political structure called “drainage districts,” and a past practice of “channelizing” Iowa’s rivers.
I would argue that there is no place in Iowa where the nature is not impacted at least in some way by infrastructure.