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by Trevor Turpin
Reaktion Books, 2008
Paper: 978-1-86189-328-4 | eISBN: 978-1-86189-470-0


Rivers are one of nature’s most vital energy sources, and their power can be efficiently harnessed through the construction of dams. But now dams have become a controversial engine in the race toward technological advancement, so much so that the World Commission on Dams convened in 1998 to debate the issue. Are dams a help to society or an agent of environmental destruction? Trevor Turpin explores the answers to that question here in his comprehensive historical chronicle.

Among the most amazing feats of human engineering, a dam can sustain societies in a multitude of ways, as 40,000 of them around the world provide such things as electricity, water for farms and cities, and canals for boat navigation. Turpin traces their development, design, and consequences from the Industrial Revolution to now, examining edifices in China, Las Vegas, and places in between. The often contentious debate between environmentalists, architects, and engineers, Dam shows, is a complex one that pits the benefits of dams against the long-term ecological health of nations.

Neither a polemic against dams nor a defense of their proliferation, Dam offers a judicious and in-depth account of this cornerstone of our modern age.

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