This post is adapted from my comments on the latest installment of the Archdruid Report.
Lately I am musing (no, really obsessing) about
geography, hydrology, cultural, and political boundaries within the
American empire. More details will ensue as I delve into the
history of border skirmishes, rivalries, and canal-building schemes in
the Susquehanna Basin.
If you look at a map of the eastern US,
you see some organic boundaries, which generally follow either river
courses or watershed divides, representing natural patterns of human
settlement, or at least reasonable attempts to foster the same. Other boundaries are arrow-straight survey lines,
representing hasty arbitration, either because the land was previously unclaimed or
had rival claims. If the republic ever breaks apart again, these may
have to be revisited.
An interesting artifact of the
age of hasty surveys is that the biggest river system on the Eastern
Seaboard, the Susquehanna, is neither a state border nor a central
feature of a single state. Also because of the way it is politically
divided, the non-tidal and tidal (i.e. Chesapeake Bay) portions are
usually thought of as separate entities. This has had interesting
political, economic, and ecological results over nearly three centuries,
and may prove more interesting again in the future.
is just one example of what I am calling the fractal nature of empires.
Colonial America, even as it was part of the British Empire, was made
of little empires pumping wealth from their hinterlands, coming into
conflict with neighboring empires, reaching some level of hierarchy or
parity and uniting against the next common rival. New York -vs-
Philadelphia becomes North -vs- South, etc. Maybe more fancifully it is
like the NCAA tournament, but once you get to the final that's the
beginning of the end of a civilization. But in the case of empires in
decline the process goes somewhat in reverse, with long-dormant
conflicts likely to reappear. Balkanization anyone? True, differences in
history and society will mean differences in how things play out...