Dancing on the Ruins

The phrase “dam busters” originally applied to RAF flyers who attacked German hydroelectric dams during WWII. Now, the term is being applied to individuals who advocate the destruction of American dams, for what they claim are environmental reasons.

I was aware that there was much hostility toward dams among the “progressives”…see my post frankly my dear, I do need a dam…however, Ed Driscoll’s post yesterday makes it clear what levels this hostility has now reached. In a 2007 WSJ article that Ed quotes, the author observes that anti-dam forces are seeking the destruction of the Klamath River dams, the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley, the Elwha River dam in Washington state, and the Matilija Dam in Southern California. (See this post by Bookworm about the lobbying to destroy the Hetch Hetchy dam, which provides San Francisco with about 85% of its water.) And I’m sure it doesn’t end there.

We have come a long way from the days when the liberals and leftists viewed the TVA as a major national accomplishment and celebrated the Columbia River dams with Woody Guthrie’s song:

Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
So roll on, Columbia, roll on

While 1930s liberalism/leftism was a child of the Enlightenment…often a bastard child…today’s “progressivism” has a distinct reactionary, counter-Enlightenment flavor.

I’m reminded, as I often am, of a post by a now-defunct Italian blogger who called herself Joy of Knitting:

Cupio dissolvi…These words have been going through my mind for quite a long time now. It’s Latin. They mean “I (deeply) wish to be annihilated/to annihilate myself”, the passive form signifying that the action can be carried out both by an external agent or by the subject himself…Cupio dissolvi… Through all the screaming and the shouting and the wailing and the waving of the rainbow cloth by those who invoke peace but want appeasement, I hear these terrible words ringing in my ears. These people have had this precious gift, this civilization, and they have got bored with it. They take all the advantages it offers them for granted, and despise the ideals that have powered it. They wish for annihilation, the next new thing, as if it was a wonderful party. Won’t it be great, dancing on the ruins?

10 thoughts on “Dancing on the Ruins”

  1. Hydro is of course not perfect. But one of the things that “progressives” refuse to admit is that there is no such thing as a perfect energy source. They will fall in love with solar or wind, for example, when these things are still in the theoretical stages, but once they become deployable, and their downsides…huge amounts of land, bird kills, intrustive transmission lines, etc…become visible, “progressives” will be in the forefront of those attempting to stop the projects.

    See also my post “oil addiction”

  2. Sometime in 1978 or 1979, when I was still in college at UT Austin, I went to a lecture by Amory Lovins, who was not as notoriously famous back then. I did sit through it without leaving, even though I did want to several times. It was very disturbing vision he laid out, totally at odds with the American viewpoint.

    He wanted to radically re-build society back into a feudal style serf-aristocrat society. Everyone, except the high overlords (he did not call them that of course), would live in small villages and be subsistence farmers, creating small surpluses to feed the upper class, but not much more. Education for the serfs would be what was appropriate to keep them in this state, i.e. barely functional literacy (sound familiar). There would be electricity, but each house would have only one or two lights, no TV, maybe a radio, No AC or any other modern appliance except for a small gas range. Of course, the local elites and their enforcers would have a modern home with all the comforts, but not everyone. For this village, a small combined cyle gas fired power plant would suffice. No national grid but a few national pipelines to move natural gas.

    Technical education would be strictly controlled and available only to those who have been ideologically conditioned. He viewed engineers, doctors and scientists as dangerous individuals to Mother Earth (Gaia had not been invented yet). Population control would be strictly practiced upon the lines of the Chicoms, whom he admired for this, and speaking of population, this vision also required that at least 90% of the world’s population be eliminated, and quickly.

  3. BTW….I posted the above comment, I just noticed I did not have my name posted…..

    Also it is disturbing the complete lack of knowledge of industrial technology that Lovins and those types have. You still have to have factories and mines to produce the gas turbines and equipment postulated in the above vision for society. Hell, even the overlords’ enforcers will need guns and ammo. The people required to man the factories will have to be better educated than the peasants and will be much harder to control.

  4. Tom Clancy wrote a novel about the extreme enviros called “Rainbow Six.” It wasn’t one of his best but his premise was interesting and, apparently, based on some real people’s ideas. I wasn’t aware of that individual.

  5. I found it particularly disturbing that American Express chose to run a TV commercial celebrating a “dam buster”…of the modern not the RAF variety. Apparently someone there believe that these attitudes are widespread that there was no danger of antagonizing very many customers and/or shareholders. I am both, and find this behavior on AXP’s part to be pretty obnoxious.

  6. The Amex ad features the Patagonia sportswear entrepreneur Yvon Chouinard, who is well known as an enviro-crank. The ad comes across as benign if you aren’t familiar with the dam issue, as I was not when I first saw the ad. In the ad, Chouinard says he’s involved in tearing down dams, then talks about the specific dam that’s shown in the ad, behind which he says is a silted-up lake that is too hot for fish to live in. It’s a slick, clever non sequitur, implying that all dams are useless like the one in the ad, and eliding entirely the issue of power generation.

  7. I do not support removal of the Columbia River damns. However it should be noted that the existance of these damns is killing the Salmon fishing industry in the Pacific North West. Depending on the value of the fishing, decrease in other fish stock, etc, it may be a long term cost benefit to replace the Columbia River damns with coal plants in an effort to save the fishing industry.

  8. It may indeed be worth replacing dams with other types of power generators. The problem is that it’s difficult to get permission to build power plants, so taking dams offline probably causes a net loss in generating capacity. Do Chouinard and his allies want us to build coal/nuke/gas plants to replace dams? I doubt it.

  9. Also important to remember that dams are used for purposes other than power generation: water supply and flood control, in particular.

    In many locations, the artificial lakes created by dams also provide boating opportunities to people in areas where they would otherwise be lacking. I feel pretty sure that the neo-puritans of the “progressive” movement mostly disapprove of such things, though.

  10. Cupio Dissolvi – that is a nice name to give to the movement of liberals towards American self-destruction. I propose we name it that. It could apply to everything from environuts to the NYT publishing national security secrets. Do they not understand that if this boat goes down, they are going with it? And that their lives will be a lot harder as a result? No more hemp-flavored venti-grande tofuccinos from Birkenbucks? It is a phenomenon that needs an insidious-sounding name.

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