Case Study: Rivers and Dams

Ice Harbor Dam on the Lower Snake River

Biblical principles of taking dominion accomplish what the prevailing paradigms that drive the building and removal of dams are unable to do. In the public square, there are two mainstream paradigms, two ways of thinking about dams.

So starts the senior thesis of a recent college graduate in his Toward A Christian Ethic of Dams: Taking Dominion of the Rivers. I  had the good fortune a year or two ago, of spending time with Collin McGee, a farmer and father, who raises hogs, and chickens, and children in the southeastern U.S. Collin has a passion for tending Creation. And I believe he has produced a valuable work that needs to be read. 

This work serves as a case study for how we need to frame, analyze, and develop large scale infrastructure projects on the landscape. McGee’s work provides helpful historical context and a balanced (man’s needs versus the needs of those in our care) approach. If applied, I believe this framework could significantly reduce Creation’s groaning on river systems in the Western U.S. and beyond. 

This is the first of what I hope to be many more case studies, followed by opportunities for testing on the ground, and eventually implementation.

Case Study Continues 

The first focuses on the benefits dams provide like cheap hydropower, irrigation water, withholding flood waters, etc. The second focuses on the caustic effects of dams, including stopping fish runs, ruining animal habitat, harming water quality, etc. Both paradigms are founded firmly in a wrong understanding of the natural order God created. The first places man completely outside of nature, able to do with it however he please; the second  places man completely inside of nature, on equal moral footing with the land. Because both paradigms are grounded in flawed understandings of man’s relation to creation, they both lead to faulty end-goals.

Read the full paper: TowardAChristianEthicOfDamsMcGee2018

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