By Christopher Sneddon
Water could seem harmless, yet as a common necessity, it unavoidably intersects with politics by way of acquisition, keep watch over, and linked applied sciences. whereas we all know very much concerning the socioecological bills and advantages of recent dams, we all know a long way much less approximately their political origins and ramifications. In Concrete Revolution, Christopher Sneddon bargains a corrective: a compelling ancient account of the USA Bureau of Reclamation’s contributions to block know-how, chilly battle politics, and the social and environmental adversity perpetuated by means of the USA executive in its pursuit of monetary development and geopolitical power.
Founded in 1902, the Bureau turned enmeshed within the US kingdom Department’s push for geopolitical energy following international warfare II, a reaction to the Soviet Union’s expanding international sway. via delivering technical and water source administration recommendation to the world’s underdeveloped areas, the Bureau discovered that it might probably not just supply them with monetary information and the USA with funding possibilities, but in addition forge alliances and shore up a country’s international status within the face of burgeoning communist impact. Drawing on a couple of overseas case studies—from the Bureau’s early forays into abroad improvement and the release of its overseas actions place of work in 1950 to the Blue Nile research in Ethiopia—Concrete Revolution deals insights into this ancient damming growth, with important implications for the current. If, Sneddon argues, we will be able to comprehend dams as either technical and political gadgets instead of tools of neutral technological know-how, we will be able to higher perform present debates approximately huge dams and river basin making plans.
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Additional resources for Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation
Yet certain key individuals presaged the Bureau’s later activities and provided a blueprint, however embryonic, of much more intensive overseas engagements in the future. The Bureau’s overseas work in this period is exemplified by John L. ”3 As this epithet suggests, Savage had a remarkable influence on the evolution of water resource development within the United States, having been the lead designer of dozens of major dams and associated power plants in the American West, including the Hoover (Boulder), Grand Coulee, Parker, and Shasta Dams and the All American Canal system.
It will bring widespread employment. It will bring high standards of living. It will change China from a weak to a strong nation. The reference to industrialization is an important one, since this issue eventually became a prominent part of the undoing of the entire project. It was at this point that Savage’s vision for developing the Yangtze—and the Bureau’s role in this development—encountered resistance. The internal debate among Savage, staff of the Bureau of Reclamation, and State Department officials over continuing US involvement in the Yangtze Gorge initiative reveals many of the vagaries of technical assistance as a geopolitical tool that were to characterize later efforts of the Bureau’s foreign operations program during the Cold War era.
Most of these debates revolved around the Bureau’s (and Savage’s) desire to put its prodigious technical capabilities to work on a once-in-a-lifetime project and the State Department’s more cautious approach to negotiating a diplomatic minefield and steering global geopolitical events. In September 1944 Savage cabled the commissioner of reclamation that the NRC desired American technical assistance for preparation of plans for the Yangtze Gorge project. Savage had discussed the matter with several key US officials in China, who expressed enthusiasm about the project.