Monday, March 23, 2009

Our Manufactured Landscapes

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

Sometimes I forget as I go about my daily routines just how much of an impact I have on the Earth. The number of physical and material products I consume and utilize in order to survive is massive. Its not often that I consider how, collectively, humans as a species are phenomenal changers. We can build and change our planet so drastically that the changes can be seen from outer space. The Three Gorges Dam in China is one such project.

This week, among the many incredible women I read about in Women Pioneers for the Environment, I learned about Dai Qing. Dai, a journalist working for a Beijing newspaper, was sent to prison for ten months (six of them in solitary confinement) for publicly opposing the massive Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze River in China. In 1989, she organized and published a collection of essays, interviews, and statements by Chinese intellectuals, scientists, and writers who disagreed with the Chinese government's decision to build what is to be the biggest dam on the planet. For Dai it was more than just an environmental issue, it was a human rights issue "involving freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and a more democratic decision-making process." The dam will cost more than $24 billion dollars and will "flood 100,000 acres of fertile farmland, submerge 13 towns and cities 657 factories, displace over 1 million people, obstruct navigation, cause extensive damage to wildlife and the environment, destroy Paleolithic archaeological relics, and obliterate what has been called the most beautiful river gorge in the world." Although Dai Qing's efforts have not stopped the Chinese government's plans for the dam she did help raise opposition of the project at the risk of her own livelihood and safety and since 1989 has written multiple books and articles about the environment disaster of the Three Gorges Dam as well as received numerous environmental awards from organizations around the world.

Last year I saw a movie called Manufactured Landscapes (click on the link to watch the trailer) and was struck by the realization of just how much humans can impact the surface of the Earth. This week I rented the movie again and am going to watch it with my roommates. Learning is an act of love and I would like those in my community to have a better understanding of the toll industrialization and globalization is taking on the Earth. One segment in the film looks specifically at the Three Gorges Dam project. I was amazed and horrified as I watched footage of this monstrous human endeavor. We are called to care for all creation and often I am reminded of the Tower of Babel when I hear about construction projects around the world that push aside God's creation in favor of fame, power, and recognition. If any of you get the chance to watch or rent Manufactured Landscapes I would recommend it. It is a quiet yet powerful movie and provides stunning visuals of the impact we have on creation.

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