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DamNation – The Problem With Hydropower

A film by Patagonia / Produced by Matt Stoecker & Travis Rummel / Directed by Ben Knight & Travis Rummel / April, 2020
This film explores the evolution of 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 wild rivers.

Rootedness – the lack of it in the American West, said Wallace Stegner, is what made us who we are

Although Wallace Stegner accentuates the idea of local and regional rootedness as a prerequisite for the stewardship of nature, he looks at the same time with considerable favor on the federal government’s involvement with land management throughout the region: “Half of the West is in their hands” (Where the Bluebird pg 83).

Stegner spurns and debunks the Bureau of Reclamation for its hydraulic exploitation and radical depletion of water resources in the 20th century West, but he regards most of the federal land bureaus, walking “a line somewhere between preservation and exploitation” (pg 82), as having an important protective function:

Neither state ownership nor private ownership – which state ownership would soon become – could offer anywhere near the usually disinterested stewardship that these imperfect and embattled federal bureaus do […] They have been the strongest impediments to the careless ruin of what remains of the Public Domain, and they will be necessary as far ahead as I, at least, can see. — Wallace Stegner


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