Let’s remove unnecessary dams. That’s most of ’em. Trout will create food, jobs, and tourism.
Tonight, across the country, Patagonia stores hosted a free community screening of DamNation, a new documentary about the impact of dams, our past, and our future. I just attended one, late, when a former intern told me about it at a Hub networking and market event. I biked over, walked in…and saw hundreds of people, the place overflowing, but rapt, silent.
I watched–I’m not a big fan of documentaries, finding them boring, or a downer, when I’m in need of some R&R after a long day–and was touched, inspired…the film was even funny.
Here’s the trailer. Chills at three minutes in:
Quotes via Yvon Chouinard’s Op-Ed in the New York Times. Read the full bit here.
1. “Of the more than 80,000 dams listed by the federal government, more than 26,000 pose high or significant safety hazards.”
2. “Only about 1,750 produce hydropower, according to the National Hydropower Association.”
3. “Dams degrade water quality, block the movement of nutrients and sediment…”
4. “Destroy fish and wildlife habitats…”…And solutions are expensive failures: “Interventions like fish elevators and trap-and-haul programs that truck fish around impoundments don’t lead to true recovery for wild fish populations or reverse the other environmental problems caused by blocking a river’s flow.”
5. “…damage coastal estuaries…”
6. “…and in some cases rob surrounding forests of nitrogen.”
7. “Reservoirs can also be significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”
8. Economic: “The River Alliance of Wisconsin estimates that removing dams in that state is three to five times less expensive than repairing them.” Also, a healthy salmon fishery creates sustainable jobs, tourism, and food.
9. In some areas, wind and hydroelectric energy is generated, but wasted because there’s too much supply all at once.
10. Many dams violate treaties the US made with Native Americans.
This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move us through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.”