First Peoples

Stopping a River Dead in Its Tracks

When Jonathan Schell published his anti-nuclear argument, The Fate of the Earthin 1982, one of his main arguments against nuclear proliferation was that the destruction of life on earth would render all life meaningless, back to the beginning of time, including all human history, and what you did this morning. It was a powerful argument. Here is what that looks like:

Grand Coulee Dam

The great river has been reduced to a couple tiny mountain freshets. Any water that gets through wells up from underground, after having passed through the turbine rooms to left and right of the main wall of the dam. In effect, the Columbia has been stopped dead in its tracks. It is a completely different river that begins right here, at the base of this concrete cliff.

Grand Coulee Dam is a perfect graphical representation of the Great Depression and the desire to stop history and to begin a new history right there and then (One that led directly to Nagasaki.) In other words, the dam is what politics looks like. Here is Sherman Alexie’s poem of the end of the world,that took place right here.

Imagine. Stopping a river.


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