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The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment

“Dams are, of course, loaded weapons aimed downstream, pointed at ourselves; they’re proof of the gambling nature of the societies that build them.”

                -from the Epilogue

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— Winner of the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award

— Named one of the top science books of the year by Discover Magazine

— Northern California Book Award finalist

From the Lukas Award citation:


"Jacques Leslie’s work in progress about dams around the world persuasively argues that water will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th: an increasingly scarce but crucial natural resource that is ‘the prize’ on a global battlefield. It’s a struggle that involves every possible issue— economic globalization, international politics, the clash of cultures, global warming, agricultural policy and conservation. Through the personal and professional experiences of an Indian activist, an American anthropologist, and [an Australian river manager], Leslie explores and elucidates this complex  material and makes it intelligible in elegant, beautiful prose."




“Leslie has written a volume that is heir, both in organization and in power, to Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee’s classic profile of David Brower and his fight against dam-nation…. Superb.”


                — Bill McKibben, OnEarth Magazine


“Leslie delivers scene and mood with the economy and precision of a good novelist. His profiles are so well-observed one forgets that the characters have not sprung from his own imagination.”


                —Tom Vanderbilt, Columbia Journalism Review


“Leslie’s edgy, potent, and in-depth inquiry unveils the drastic, unintentional consequences of dams and exposes yet more evidence of the catastrophic results of allowing greed and politics to trump science and justice.”


                — Donna Seaman, Booklist

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