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Monday, November 2, 2015

Two sides of the same coin

We took the opportunity to rest after a visit to the Water Village, and before our next excursion. Although the cruise appears to be relaxing, there are still things to see. We disembarked through a line of crew who were perpetually telling us to watch our step. Then once on dry land, we're bombarded by hawkers. 

"Don't make eye contact," our guide warns us, but it's not that easy and it can be dangerous, as I learn later in the trip. 
But pressing through the market filled with everything from cold beer to Chairman Mao hats, with food so bizarre they turn your stomach. But we press through to the buses. My husband stops to buy a tee shirt. It always seems we must pass markets before we reach our bus. 

We're on our way to the Three Gorges Dam. 

Wikipedia says:
As well as producing electricity, the dam is intended to increase the Yangtze River's shipping capacity and reduce the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space. The Chinese government regards the project as a historic engineering, social and economic success,[12] with the design of state-of-the-art large turbines,[13] and a move toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions.[14] However, the dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes, including an increased risk of landslides.[15] The dam has been a controversial topic both domestically and abroad.[16]

We're told by our new guide that it's only supplying 3% of the country's power. She shows us a big map and talks about the 1.3 million who were displaced to save many more downstream. 
My friend whispers in my ear, "It's been touted as the worst ecological disaster in human history. Think of all those who have lost everything." 
I do. I think of the buildings below the water level, and the historical evidence lost. 
But wait. Important stuff would be protected, wouldn't it? We learn later that some have been.

The guide continues to speak, "I know many of you are thinking how awful it is, but it's saved farmland and people from flooding, too."

My friend whispers, "Do you think she's just singing the party song?"
Probably. But then the guide says, "It's two sides of the same coin. Saving one thing at the cost of another."

I don't know what to think. It's a marvel of engineering. It stops flooding, but at a heavy cost. It was built by a government that goes against all western ideals. In a country that still pollutes the air with coal fired plants and too many cars. Yes, there is a heavy cost. But it saves farmland and people. It gave jobs to many. It allows us and millions of others to travel upstream by way of its locks. It's amazing to see. From an engineering point of view, it's fantastic. And I have to ask myself how we in North America can condemn it. Can we? Should we? Look at how we treat some people. How our  hydro electric dams have displaced people. Is it okay to displace a few, but not 1.3 million? I don't know.

I take a break from the heavy thoughts to share a cute moment with my husband, captured by the ship's photographer. 

Still, our visit is amazing. We go up outdoor escalators several hundred feet. We have a view like no other, both of the dam and the locks. And tonight, we'll enter that set of locks that could easily be the most massive set of locks in the world. But that's for another day.

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