Nov. 26th, 2008

heron61: (Gryphon - emphasis and strong feelings)
Yesterday anti-government protesters in Thailand took over the Bangkok airport, I have only a vague grasp of Thai politics, so I can't say anything about this beyond that reducing corruption in the Thai government definitely sounds like an excellent idea. Instead, what struck me about this protest was how different it was from anything in recent US history. Protesters closed and occupied the airport, 11 people have been injured, and the occupation of the airport was described as "The airport raid, carried out Tuesday by men wielding metal rods who pushed past riot police officers", and yet no one is dead. If someone tried this in any major metropolitan airport in the US, you'd first get tear gas and soon after the cops would be replaced or augmented by the national guard and you'd have bullets flying and lots of dead bodies. In the US, the amount of violence on both sides of the law sickens me, and it's always hopeful to learn of less violent nations. I hope the Thais can keep the protests relatively peaceful.
heron61: (Gryphon - emphasis and strong feelings)
Yesterday, [ profile] teaotter & I went to the Portland Art Museum to see this marvelous exhibit of photos of the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge is quite simply (by far) the most stunning natural location that I've ever seen and one of the few wild locations I deeply enjoy visiting. Also, the photos were amazing. The photos ranged in time from 1867 – before more than the first traces of the industrial world reached this area, until 1957, after the first large dams were placed on the river. The early photos were fascinating – the river and gorge were both very similar and in small ways, very different from how they appear today, while we could also clearly see how the technology of faster and better film changed photography. There were also some amazing photos of the waterfalls we occasionally go and see, and which have clearly not changed at all.

The progression from grainy b&w photos (from 1967 to perhaps 1905), to share b&w photos, with a small but growing number of hand-colored photos, to color photos (all appearing after 1940) was also fascinating. There were also photos of the native peoples. Over time, their appearance grew both poorer and more westernized for until the 1910s, when many of the photos suddenly had them in their traditional costumes (which notes on the photos explains were posed, since none of them dressed like that or used tools of the sort they were depicted with, at that time), with later photos largely ignoring them, except for those of Celilo Falls.

For me, some of the most troubling photos were of Celilo Fall. Unlike much of the gorge, I've never seen it, because it no longer exists. The Dalles Dam completely flooded it, turning the area where it was located to another placid stretch of river. As the wikipedia article states, "Celilo was the oldest continuously inhabited community on the North American continent until 1957, when the falls and nearby settlements were submerged by the construction of The Dalles Dam". Because of the wealth of salmon on the many gravel beds at the base of the falls, it was also a prime area for harvesting salmon – which is one of the major reasons it was inhabited for so long. The falls itself was a sacred site to the native peoples who lived there. The US government paid these peoples almost $30 million for the loss of their fishing, which was definitely a good thing. However, I'm still struck by a passage I read about how when the dam was completed and beginning to fill, flooding the falls, hundreds of the native peoples gathered to sing mourning songs for the "death" of the falls (and their way of life).

And yet, while many dams serve very little purpose and should IMHO immediately be removed, the first few dams on the Columbia River have excellent reasons for existing. I know it as a large and placid river where people can take pleasant riverboat tours or go wind surfing without worry, while massive cargoes are shipped upstream & downstream cheaply, cleanly, and efficiently. Prior to the first few dams, which includes the Dalles dam, whirlpools on the river frequently swallowed ships, the rapids made shipping impossible in some parts, and the river regularly experienced massive floods. This was not a case of heartless and pointless progress vs. native peoples, but a complex and troubling issue that was far more a question of natural beauty and a series of equally valid priorities.

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