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On the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal runs through what was formerly the Montezuma Marsh.

It was once one of the largest freshwater marshes on the continent (12 miles by 8 miles) until it was drained in 1911. However, it was still intact when we decided to dig the Erie Canal through it about 100 years earlier. As we were planning a trip there this weekend we learned this: diggers of the canal at Montezuma hated it; in 1819 over 1,000 men died of malaria alone at Montezuma.

According to the WHO, malaria was eradicated from the United States by November 1970. But it kills over 1 million people worldwide today. Global warming is expected to double this number by 2080 (IPCC Report). Some thoughts to ponder. Why have we been able to eradicate it? Why is malaria incidence expected to get worse even as the world gets richer? How much has malaria mortality increased as the planet has warmed over the last 40 years? Where has its incidence spread and where has it decreased?

4 Responses to “On the Erie Canal”

  1. Harry says:

    As a sixteen-year-old I had a chance to navigate a Hatteras yacht, under strict supervisIon, up the Mohawk River through the locks of the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal to the Rochester Yacht Club. This was my first and only visit to Rochester. A great trip.

    By then the Erie Canal was no longer a major artery of commerce, but no matter. It was financed privately, and even in inflation-adjusted dollars did not hold a candle to what we are going to waste on the Volt.

    Had Senator Schumer been around then, the Erie Canal would be the size of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and he would be taking credit for eradicating malaria.

  2. Rod says:

    The Erie Canal would never be built today. First, it would involve the re-location of wetlands (Thou shalt not permit a net loss of Wetlands), and the hearings for the environmental impact would last 150 years. I am sure the bog turtle lives somewhere along the route.

    Was the Erie Canal a public works project or a commercial venture? I know it was Fulton’s Folly, but it came before Fulton was a county. When one went through a lock, one paid the lock keeper. Like the NY Thruway, but without union toll collectors.

    Continuing on eastward on Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence Seaway, one could observe a distinct difference between the quality of the concrete in the Eisenhower Lock and the concrete in the Canadian-built locks: as early as 1962, the concrete in the Canadian-made locks was cracked and had deteriorated severely, while the American locks looked almost new, except for slime. Oh, those were the days when American workmanship was the envy of the world.

    As for Hatteras yachts, they were the first big cabin cruisers made out of fiberglass. More American innovation, engineering and workmanship. How did they do that without a special tax break and accelerated depreciation? And what about the wooden boat builders? What happened to them?

    We owe the existence of Lake Ontario and the University of Rochester to global warming.

  3. […] Global warming, malaria, and the Erie Canal. […]

  4. John says:

    Built on the only water level route across the extended Appalachian prominence, the Erie Canal was a resounding success. It spawned imitators in the canal craze of the early 19th century. As public works projects built ahead of demand, these imitators lost money and failed.

    The railroads were built not by the state but by corporations generally (at that time) free from government and labor regulation/interference. The New York Central and its water level route superseded the Erie Canal and was a virtual conveyor belt for commerce and profit.

    The railroads became the betes noir for the Progressives. Rates, but not costs, were regulated and (surprise!) the railroads were largely broke by the second decade of the 20th century (think health care today).

    Rochester, of course, was put on the map by the Canal. The Irondequiot embankment was possibly the greatest engineering challenge of the construction.

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