Last week, I went to see the film Damnation. It chronicles the impact that dams have had on our ecosystems, as well as the benefits that can come from removing dams that are obsolete. Our nation is covered with dams: more than 75,000 dams over 3 feet exist in the United States. That is insane. Some of these dams are well-run and provide important benefits, like low-carbon hydro-electric power and water storage. However, the vest majority of these dams are non-essential and they are having huge impacts on our environment.
I won't talk about all of the impacts of dams, but let's touch on a few big ones:
1. People. People across the globe get displaced every time a large dam gets put in. Damming a river changes the flow of the river (and oftentimes the area upstream of the dam is purposely flooded in order to create a reservoir). The people that live in that area are forced to move. To leave their homes. Their friends, family and neighbors. Their way of life. In the developing world, these displaced folks often leave their paradise and head to live in the city, without any job or skills, and end up dead or in a slum.
Damnation talked about Celilo Falls, Oregon. It was THE salmon fishing spot for the Nez Pierce tribe, and the installation of the Dalles Dam flooded out the falls, and with it, a way of life.
2. Fish. Fish can't get past dams. Yes, some dams have state-of-the-art fish ladders, which is wonderful, but some salmon have to pass through 6 or 7 dams on their migration back to their birthing grounds.. and many just are not able to do that. Because our native fish populations are dwindling, we have created hatcheries to make up the difference. Hatcheries are pretty cool, but the lack of genetic diversity is messing up wild fish populations, which is not that cool.
3. Amazing Places. Places like Glen Canyon Dam that are full of native art, historical artifacts, beautiful terrain, and surreal spirit have been flooded out and lost.
4. River Health. When rivers can't flow as they want to, they don't work correctly. Sediment builds up, aquatic life shifts, the riverbanks lose nutrient inputs and start to change. Rivers are meant to be wild.
Damnation also showed a lot of dam removal and how fast ecosystems and fish populations can recover when dams are removed. Nature is resilient and amazing. So, so amazing. This film was the kickoff for the 2014 Environmental Film Fest in Portland. It was sold out and the energy there was high. Every shot of a dam removal was filled with cheers and whoops, clapping and hollering. I felt like I was at a concert, not a movie. (In a good way)
On a sad note, the movie talked about a huge proposed dam in Alaska in the heart of the wilderness. A lot of money has already been sunk into this project, so we need our voices to be heard now. Go here to learn more.
This film was great, inspiring, and entertaining. Please watch it if you get a chance.
And, to end, a quote from the film: "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul" --Edward Abbey
Pin It Now!