An Environmental History of Progress: Damming the Peace and Columbia Rivers

TitleAn Environmental History of Progress: Damming the Peace and Columbia Rivers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsLoo, T, Stanley, M
JournalCANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW
Volume92
Pagination399-427
ISBN Number0008-3755
KeywordsBritish Columbia, Dams, Design and construction, high modernism, Historical analysis, History, hydroelectricity, Knowledge, local knowledge, Modernism, Social aspects, Social change, Water-power
Abstract

This paper explores the spurt of dam-building in British Columbia from the 1960s to the 1980s, offering a different interpretation of high modernism and the changes it caused. It does so by focusing on the agents of high modernity: the engineers, geologists, and construction workers who designed, built, and drove the machinery of progress. By taking the synoptic seriously, we make three related arguments. First, dam-building was characterized by an intense engagement with place that generated a particular kind of knowledge, something we call ’high modernist local knowledge.’ Second, the environmental and social changes that ensued from dam-building were a result of the presence, not the absence, of this local knowledge. Moreover, and finally, those changes were more than destructive. Big dams did not just destroy locales, they displaced and globalized them, and in so doing created new ones.