I have just finished reading The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time.
Douglas Adams was a very funny man. Reading the distilled contents of his various hard-drives, I was gripped. Unable to put it down, I frequently laughed nearly to the point of suffocation — and then I encountered the novel’s abrupt end. It was almost a synonym for the man’s tragically short life and career.
Once more, as when I first learned of his death, I was moved to tears. The world — indeed the Galaxy — lost something beyond my ability to explain, or perhaps even fully comprehend, those some four years ago. Having read the majority of his novels, and faced with the products of the incomplete career of a chronic procrastinator, I am painfully aware that there are a finite — and small — number of times I shall be able to enjoy the singular with of one Douglas Noel Adams.
Rest in Peace.
However, I wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t found something to complain about, and here it is: it came to my attention while reading this book that Douglas was bewildered by the human tendency to build dams. He claimed, and seemed to believe, that they never did what they were intended to and caused a great deal of damage.
I don’t find that assessment to be correct. Take, for example, Washington State’s own Grand Coulee Dam — the third largest hydroelectric facility in the world, it has served and continues to serve every purpose for which it was erected. During its construction, it fed the local and national economy, ultimately forming a critical part of this nation’s recovery from the Great Depresssion. During World War II, it provided needed power to the Pacific Northwest’s strategically vital Aluminum industry.
Today, Grand Coulee Dam produces up to 6800 megawatts of power, serves the irrigation needs of the surrounding area, and stands as a powerful testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of mankind. As to how destructive it is/has been — that’s a matter which is up for debate, and is being debated even now. I will not presume to venture an opinion on it, save to say that I believe the benefits have greatly outweighed the drawbacks, and that the same is true for most or all such dams along the Columbia.