Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World

Books on Tape. May 2023. 9:15 hrs. ISBN 9780593748268. $76. POL SCI
From ancient Romans to robber barons, generations have demonstrated a “lust for water control,” environmental journalist and filmmaker Hawley (Recovering a Lost River) writes in this in-depth analysis of the obsession with making rivers productive and profitable by building dams. At best, dams have a negligible, often negative economic impact; at worst, they create ecological devastation, destroying entire aquatic populations and generating pollution that will outlast humankind. Hawley also examines the colonialism and cultural invasiveness associated with dams, focusing on how the United States’ hydropower infatuation has impacted Indigenous peoples. As the primary narrator, Hawley lacks the expressiveness necessary to make nonfiction audio engaging. Paired with an excess of acronyms and architectural jargon, this yields a sometimes-stodgy listening experience. Casual listeners may wish to skip “Dam Removal 101,” which veers from the thought-provoking narrative and instead provides detailed advice on how to prepare proposals and permits for dam-removal projects. A brief foreword is narrated by Danny Campbell, and an accompanying PDF includes definitions and illustrations.
VERDICT This audio will interest listeners seeking well-researched, issue-oriented nature nonfiction. A worthwhile purchase for most libraries, but the appeal is more niche than universal.
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