DamNation (NR)

Documentary 87 min. May 9, 2014
By Chris Packham
B-corporations, or benefit corporations, operate on a for-profit basis, which also considers society and the environment as essential parts of their corporate mandates, measured right along with the financials by shareholders. One such entity, Patagonia, is a manufacturer of high-end outdoor apparel and the official outfitter of Portland, Ore. Presumably an offshoot of its own endangered-fish-saving World Trout Initiative, Patagonia produced DamNation, a quick, smart documentary about the havoc one country can create in its native fish populations by building 75,000 dams over an 80- or 90-year span.

Inaccurately billed as "green energy," hydropower deprives shorelines and riparian zones of the vital silt washed downriver, while preventing salmon from reaching spawning zones and flooding low-lying wilderness areas. Another unfortunate-for-salmon irony is that hydropower often produces such surpluses of electricity that nearby wind farms are rendered redundant. The film includes a public meeting in which Jim Yost, a Boss Hogg–looking member of the Northwest Power & Conservation Council, who opposes wind farms, keeps saying "Beanie Babies" over and over while discussing how wind power is just a "fad." Co-director and narrator Ben Knight interviews activists, officials, social jammers and scientists, approaching the subject not with outrage but with humor and optimism. Touching on energy, hatchery operations, Western expansionism and native cultures, DamNation covers a lot of territory in its short runtime. While many enviro-docs basically lower the audience into a dark well of hopelessness and then roll the credits, DamNation concludes with a triumphant fusillade of explosions, as communities across the country decommission and demolish environmentally destructive dams.
Ben Knight, Travis Rummel Ben Knight

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