For decades, large dam projects have been undertaken by both nations and international agencies with the aim of doing good: preventing floods, bringing electricity to rural populations, producing revenues for poor countries, and more. But time after time, the social, economic, and environmental costs have outweighed the benefits of the dams, sometimes to a disastrous degree. In this volume, a diverse group of experts—involved for years with the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos—issue an urgent call for critical reassessment of the approach to, and rationale for, these kinds of large infrastructure projects in developing countries.
In the 2000s, as the World Bank was reeling from revelations of past hydropower failures, it nonetheless promoted the enormous Nam Theun 2 project. NT2, the Bank believed, offered a new, wiser model of dam development that would alleviate poverty, protect the environment, engage locally affected people in a transparent fashion, and stimulate political transformation. This was a tall order. For the first time, this book shows in detail why, despite assertions of success from the World Bank and other agencies involved in the project, the dam's true story has been one of substantial loss for affected villagers and the regional environment. Nam Theun 2 is an important case study that illustrates much broader problems of global development policy.
Oil and water, and the science and technology used to harness them, have long been at the heart of political authority in Saudi Arabia. Oil’s abundance, and the fantastic wealth it generated, has been a keystone in the political primacy of the kingdom’s ruling family. The other bedrock element was water, whose importance was measured by its dearth. Over much of the twentieth century, it was through efforts to control and manage oil and water that the modern state of Saudi Arabia emerged.
The central government’s power over water, space, and people expanded steadily over time, enabled by increasing oil revenues. The operations of the Arabian American Oil Company proved critical to expansion and to achieving power over the environment. Political authority in Saudi Arabia took shape through global networks of oil, science, and expertise. And, where oil and water were central to the forging of Saudi authoritarianism, they were also instrumental in shaping politics on the ground. Nowhere was the impact more profound than in the oil-rich Eastern Province, where the politics of oil and water led to a yearning for national belonging and to calls for revolution.
Saudi Arabia is traditionally viewed through the lenses of Islam, tribe, and the economics of oil. Desert Kingdom now provides an alternative history of environmental power and the making of the modern Saudi state. It demonstrates how vital the exploitation of nature and the roles of science and global experts were to the consolidation of political authority in the desert.
Award-winning journalist rafts down the Green River, revealing a multifaceted look at the present and future of water in the American West.
The Green River, the most significant tributary of the Colorado River, runs 730 miles from the glaciers of Wyoming to the desert canyons of Utah. Over its course, it meanders through ranches, cities, national parks, endangered fish habitats, and some of the most significant natural gas fields in the country, as it provides water for 33 million people. Stopped up by dams, slaked off by irrigation, and dried up by cities, the Green is crucial, overused, and at-risk, now more than ever.
Fights over the river’s water, and what’s going to happen to it in the future, are longstanding, intractable, and only getting worse as the West gets hotter and drier and more people depend on the river with each passing year. As a former raft guide and an environmental reporter, Heather Hansman knew these fights were happening, but she felt driven to see them from a different perspective—from the river itself. So she set out on a journey, in a one-person inflatable pack raft, to paddle the river from source to confluence and see what the experience might teach her. Mixing lyrical accounts of quiet paddling through breathtaking beauty with nights spent camping solo and lively discussions with farmers, city officials, and other people met along the way, Downriver is the story of that journey, a foray into the present—and future—of water in the West.
More than any other single characteristic, aridity defines the American West. Water scarcity and its biologically critical function have also molded the regional literature of the region. Using novels by Barbara Kingsolver, Edward Abbey, John Steinbeck and Mary Austin, Dripping Dry combines literary analysis with environmental criticism to demonstrate how the myths that have pervaded the regional literature of the West have interacted with the myths that have shaped water policy throughout the twentieth century.
The four works selected (Animal Dreams, The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Ford) present a composite portrait of reclamation, which the author argues is one of the most important cultural and ecological phenomena in the nation's history. The tensions and contradictions presented by the novels underscore the compelling need for an ecocritique of the relationship between literature and politics. David N. Cassuto deciphers the myths of reclamation and restoration and presents a third alternative--sustainability--in their stead. The challenge is a large one, because of the size and complexity of the region and because nature continues to evolve and create itself, a process involving language, ideology, and the land.
The book is designed to be an interdisciplinary contribution both to the emerging field of literature and the environment, as well as to environmental studies. It will be welcomed by scholars as well as general readers interested in new approaches to literature and environmental issues, and by those interested in the geography and literature of the western United States.
David N. Cassuto, formerly of the English Department of the University of Missouri-Rolla, is a practicing attorney in San Francisco, specializing in environmental issues.