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Damn the big dams

Energy is needed

  • Increased power is needed in the rapid developing world we have today.
  • The need for electric power will continue to grow with the spread of urbanization and rising population
  • Many World Organizations and the World Bank got behind the idea of hydropower as a ‘sustainable’ way of producing energy.
  • Large Scale Hydropower does not benefit the local population and environment.
Some large dams include: 
Warragamba (Australia)
Chapeton (Argentina)
There are over 450,000 dams that are over 5 stories high.
Large scale dams have been built all over the world.
Countries with large dams include; the United States, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, China, India, and Australia.
Displacement of people
  • Displaced people are often not given the appropriate housing and living conditions (their cultural beliefs are not considered).
  • Displaced people are never given the compensation they were promised.
  • Those living downstream no longer have fisheries and water to support themselves.
  • Cultural artifacts and Archeological sites are lost.
  • Building dams destroys the land nearby through earthquakes created because of the pressure of the water collected by the dam.
Habitat destruction
  • Fish are unable to migrate upstream to spawn, decreasing the amount of fish available for food.
  • Huge amounts of habitat is filled with water.
  • Animals are disoriented by the sudden amount of water in their migration path, and they drown while trying to pursue their migration paths.
  • Downstream less water is flowing, which endangers the ecosystems.
  • Ecosystems are disrupted because many animals rely on the size, timing, and other seasonal changes to the water flow survive.
  • Wildlife living downstream can go extinct.

Water quality

  • In warmer climates dams create a breading ground for diseases such as Malaria and Schistosomiasis.
  • Increase in Salinization can occur. This causes natural salt to rise to the surface. Elevated groundwater and increased salt content has killed many trees and wetlands have been eliminated.
  • Sedimentation also occurs in large dams.
  • Hypoxia, a reduced oxygen content is damaging to aquatic life.
The picture below shows what Salinization does to the land.

I would highly recommend reading Jacques Leslie’s book Deep Water it is very educational and shows the consequences of dams in different places all over the world. I would warn you that the book is dry at sometimes, but the benefit from reading it is well worth it.

China admits Three Georges Dam has ‘problems’

Large dams will affect the community living near the dam in the long-term. Take for example the Three Gorges Dam, as the above video stated, it has had a significant effect on the drought in China.

Lesson learned

World Organizations, as well as the countries themselves, need to take into account the large impact building a big dam has on wildlife, culture, people, and weather. To be clear I am not against all dams, but there has to be a balance between energy demand and environmental consequences.

Did you know of the millions of people that have been displaced by dams? Do you think there is an equivalent compensation to them? There are many large scale dams being built in China, will anything be done to help the people who live there?

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.

~Thomas Fuller

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Do you know where your e-waste is going?

What is E-waste? 

E-waste is electronic waste that makes up 5% of municipal solid waste worldwide. E-waste includes phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment, printers, DVD players, and any electronic device.Every year 25 million tons of e-waste is produced, and a large percent of it is dumped abroad.

A Consumerist Society 

In American society we have this notion that we need the newest gadget and we need it now! In each new generation there is an increasing need for instant gratification. Our society no longer purchases only their true needs, but over consumes without  considering the environmental impact. American society is materialistic, and consumers only care about their own selfish needs.

Hazards of E-waste 

E-waste being burned to salvage parts in Ghana

There are harmful elements found in electronics like PVC, mercury, solvents, flame retardants, and lead. Lead can be very disastrous to many organs and tissues (heart, bones, intestines, kidneys), as well as cardiovascular, reproductive, and nervous systems. It can cause symptoms from headaches to seizures, coma, or death. Flame retardants can cause abnormal thyroid metabolism, and poor brain development. When burned, plastic and other materials in electronic products release toxic chemicals. Plastics release dioxins such as; PVC or hydrofluoric acid, which can damage the lungs of those exposed to it. Not only are people who are actively participating in this getting exposed, but also the surrounding communities ground water and air is contaminated. The contaminated water leads to contamination of crops, animals and anyone who drinks it.

Check out the video on the right side that is titled “Toxic U.S. E-waste: Third World Problem.”

Shipped off  

The map above shows the known and suspected routes of e-waste dumping (sorry the picture is so small but it was the only one I could find that contained suspected routes). E-waste is shipped overseas to Asia, India, Africa and other developing countries. Because these people are so impoverished they work at ‘recycling facilities.’ At these facilities they do not wear any protection so their health and environment declines rapidly. These people earn about 1 meal a day while damaging their health. Many of these people are not aware of the risks involved with their work.

What can you do to ensure your e-waste does not end up overseas? 

E-waste recycling programs that have been certified by                        e-stewards have to comply with certain standards. These include waste not being disposed of in solid waste landfills or incinerators, prohibits the exports and imports of electronics and specifically prohibits export of hazardous waste to developing countries. In order for this dangerous oversea shipping to stop, it is necessary for the public to be aware of this issue, and make sure that the e-waste recycling program will not ship overseas.

How are you disposing of your e-waste? Is your e-waste recycler certified?

“Shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?”

-Richard Nixon