Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Win for Salmon

When you think about a big, long, arduous environmental struggle, you are likely to picture legislation, lobbying, education, late nights spent strategizing and stuffing envelopes... but you don't typically think of art, theatre, and children.

Those elements played a big part in the twenty-year struggle of activists in southeastern Washington to get the 100-year-old Condit Dam torn down. When the dam was constructed, it blocked not only the White Salmon River, but also cut off the run of wild salmon and steelhead to their spawning grounds.

And from the start, salmon have been big players in the efforts of the activists, including Daniel Dancer, an artist (and member of the Radical Joy for Hard Times Council of Advisors). Frequently, the group held "Salmon Pageants," where children, carrying large, colorful cut-outs of the fish, would "breach" a wall. Part-ceremony, part-theatre, the pageants kept the vision of an undammed river a reality for the activists.

Repeatedly the officials in charge of the dam insisted that they would not remove it. By 2011, however, they determined that the cost of repairing the century-old structure would be higher than tearing it down, so, thanks to the persuasiveness of economics, the activists and the salmon won.

On October 26, 2011, when the children who enacted the first pageants had become young adults, the dam was exploded. Daniel Dancer has made an engrossing short (18 minutes) film, "The Art of Dam Removal". It includes footage from newscasts of the first protests, interviews with activists along the way, and the exuberant salmon pageants. The pay-off is exhilarating. When the pent-up river bursts through the breach, you can't help feeling it's a wild creature jubilantly bursting out into the world it remembers from long ago and can't wait to get back to. Even the guys in hardhats are exhilarated. "She's free!" one of them exclaims!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Pilgrims of Place"

Powers of Place Initiative is a remarkable (and gorgeous) website and cyber-meeting place for those who recognize that places and people have a vital, living, flexible connection with each other. One of the best features of Powers of Place is "The Field," a terrain of the website where you can sign up and be in communication with others doing interesting things to delve more intimately into the question of place... spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and artistically.

A recent article on the site by Maila T. Davenport describes three different ways to be a "
pilgrim of place," in this case the Love Creek area of Santa Cruz, California, which underwent a terrible mudslide that killed a child. Davenport joins two other healers, each with a different experience, approach, and perspective. Her story shows how "we live in layers of lived experience and each one operates from a particular kind of intelligence, telling a vital part of a place's Story."