Damn Dams

I’m a big proponent of hydroelectric and solar power over some of the more invasive energy sources (coal, nuclear, drill-baby-drill fossil fuels) but any energy source can overstay it’s welcome and pursuing it further would be irresponsible. Remember when this photo made the rounds? Chief Raoni of the Xingu people of Brazil crying when Brazil’s president approved a dam that would destroy indigenous lands, flood a million acres of rainforest, and displace 400,000 people of his community. Nature got a reprieve and that particular dam is on hold, but it was a poignant pointing up of the potential harm of stopping the world’s flow (how’s that for alliteration?)

In America, nobody really knows how many dams block or redirect our waterways. How crazy is that? Even the Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t have an accurate count, but guesses put the number at around two million. Two million places we have tried to bend water to suit our needs. Of those 2 million dams, estimates are that as many as 26,000 are obsolete, hazardous, or derelict. There are even dams in place where nobody knows who owns them, they have been abandoned so nobody takes responsibility for maintenance, and they no longer serve any viable purpose–yet they remain, destroying habitat and breaking rivers. American Rivers is pledging to put pressure on the government to remove 100 obsolete dams in 2012. Just 100, out of 2 million (and just a hundred out of 26,000 that no longer function in the way they were meant to). Sign a petition here to add your voice advocating making crucial steps toward restoring balance. It isn’t even a particularly politicized issue–those 26 thousand dams are classified as significant hazards–meaning if they fail, it would cause loss of human life and/or serious economic harm–so they have to go. It is economically advantageous to remove them, and only neglect keeps them in place.

Let the rivers flow! Then click here to find ways to volunteer with American Rivers for waterway cleanup and restoration projects around the country.

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