Dams are more common than you think. Author Steven Hawley reports that 58,500 large dams worldwide have trapped 3,155 gigatons of sediment, meaning they are rapidly filling up and will eventually become useless for storing water or generating electricity. Steven’s new book, Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World, was published by Patagonia. A wide-ranging study of the many impacts of damming rivers, Cracked explores the social displacement and economic harm dams do to people and the environment, including climate warming methane emissions and direct harm to wildlife, especially fish and migratory birds.

Steven Hawley, author of Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World, is our guest on Sustainability In Your Ear.

In 2022, the Bonneville Power Administration, the largest dam management agency’s electricity prices ranged between $0.0349 and $0.0788 per kilowatt hour. By comparison, the global average cost of the same kilowatt hour of solar power was $0.48, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. When you add in the dire environmental consequence of dams, like the 99% decline in salmon runs over the past 100 years, the era of dams needs to end. Yet, dam projects are still being built in other countries, like China and Vietnam. Perhaps the United States can help other nations avoid the long-term consequences of dams by leading the dambusting movement.

Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World is available at Amazon, Powell’s Books, and local bookstores.

Originally aired Sep 22, 2023

By Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch is the publisher at Earth911.com and Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Intentional Futures, an insight-to-impact consultancy in Seattle. A veteran tech journalist, Mitch is passionate about helping people understand sustainability and the impact of their decisions on the planet.