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Dam Nation

Dam Nation (edited by Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, July Oskar Cole, Laura Allen)

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Dam Nation, once you’ve gotten deciphered the science from the pseudo-science, has a lot of advice on what the average citizen can do to curb their water supply and to encourage governments and private companies to do the same. (and a lot of really hopeless stories about regions here and abroad that have been completely fucked by polluted water and diverted/dammed rivers) not all of them are practical, in fact, most that I’ve come across are not; like installing a poop cellar Yemeni style or chaining myself to a boulder to stop a dam from being built. another plea to the eco-folks from the rest of us who do love this planet- give us the everyday things we can change. instead of suggesting we build a greywater system on the roof of our apartment why not just say, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down. think about all the water that could be saved there!
Upon further reading, this book has brought me back into its fold, so to speak. Although many chapters from section 2: Storming the Sewers: How to Disengage from the Water Grid, are rather poorly written (Permaculture Lane: Eco-living on the Outskirts of Mexico City) poorly illustrated (Greywater Bueno) and just plain silly (Plant Aquaculture) they do posses an honest and earnest charm. Dam Nation as it’s presented isn’t really supposed to be a technical DIY manual or an informative authority on the current state of water pollution, waste and conservation. Well then, you ask, just what the hell IS it about?

Inspiration. Dam Nation gives us story after story of folks who’ve made a difference, although a minute one, in today’s aqua culture. Sure, there are some hints and tips on how to conserve water (mostly centered on common sense i.e.: don’t leave the water running if you aren’t using it, don’t water you lawn during the heat of the day), but mostly this book is a patchwork of loner eco-rebels doing things their own way.

The chapter, A Great Lakes Rain Garden, relates the concept of “bioretention”, or holding and filtering storm water in plant systems, which when implemented means better drainage, higher water retention, sound ecosystem and much less water from the tap being poured on your lawn. The author, Alexis Levine, give us a brief overview of how she implemented it in her own life, but with little specifics that I hungered for- which plants absorb and hold water the best, how can you use them to keep you lawn green and your garden vibrant? Alas, these questions aren’t answered, but the inspiration to experiment with my own yard was certainly passed on.

The Poop and Pee Revolution, I knew, was going to be a great chapter. Urine, as it turns out, can be very good for plants because it contains tons of nitrogen, which plants love. Laura Allen suggested saving it and mixing it with water cut down on the salt content. I’ve taken her advice and over a three week period I watered two sections of my flower bed with equal amounts of liquid- one half is the control, it gets only water. the other half gets the pee, water mix and I must say, has more flowers and more new growth than the control half. Now maybe peeing into a bucket all day long and having your house smell like piss isn’t your idea of a good time. Fine. Kill the environment why don’t you.

Dam Nation is giving me plenty of food for thought. I’ve definitely examined more closely my use of water and thought upon how what I do affects salmon, farmers and folks downstream. As I’ve said, we on the West Coast need to be especially vigilant as the entire nation depends on our use and conservation of water, through our timber forests, vast farming regions our salmon, steelhead, trout, snapper, crab, lobster, oyster and other fisheries and the industry and technology we provide. Water flows through every aspect in our lives. Let’s respect it and keep it clean, all right?

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