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Three Gorges Dam: The Dirty Side of Clean Energy

in Archives/Bryn Mawr/City Studies/Front Page/Haverford/News/Political/Opinion by
Photo licensed for reuse
Photo licensed for reuse
Photo licensed for reuse

BY GRACE GARRETT, Staff Writer

Although China is the world’s leading clean energy producer, some of its most ambitious and, arguably, successful projects have generated large amounts of criticism both locally and abroad. The Three Gorges Dam, which spans the Yangtze River in Hubei Province, is one such project. Despite having reduced China’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 100 million tons per year, the dam has sparked negative international attention and local resistance from protesters, who point out the indirect costs of pollution, displacement, and risk of disaster.

Photo licensed for reuse. Aerial view of the Three Gorges Dam.
Photo licensed for reuse. Aerial view of the Three Gorges Dam.

The Three Gorges Dam has been many decades in the making. The location is so strategic that leaders as early as Sun Yat-sen proposed such a project in 1919. Construction for the dam began in 1994, and it was completed in 2003. Because of the bargaining system in the Chinese government, a large number of organizations had to agree to support the dam before it was able to move beyond the planning stages. As China scholar David Lampton points out, “To weld a coalition big enough to win support for the dam, [promoters of the project] must provide benefits to a vast constellation of groups”. These groups include international and domestic agencies and banks that invested heavily in its construction, the Central Government and companies that benefit from its energy production, and of course, local companies and residents, whose operations and lives are directly impacted. Each of these parties have a different estimation of the costs and benefits of the dam’s operations.

On the one hand, electricity produced by the Three Gorges Dam currently supplies over ten percent of China’s total demand. Hydropower is a natural, renewable, and clean energy resource. The greenhouse gas that hydroelectricity displaces from the atmosphere reduces air pollution, improving health conditions. The dam prevents the regular flooding of several major Chinese cities, saving lives and cutting the loss of flood damage at the same time. The economic benefits are also considerable: rising water levels improve access and safety for cargo ships on major trade routes, which has led to a measurable boost in the economy of Central China.

Photo licensed for reuse
Photo licensed for reuse. Pollution in the Three Gorges Dam, China.

Yet these successes do not give us license to ignore the many negative ways in which the dam has affected millions of people living in the Yangtze watershed, and the poor in particular. The basin created upstream has corrupted farmland and led to widespread displacement of people within the region. Some have been relocated to cities, where they struggle to transition to urban life. Widespread corruption means that money intended for those people who lost their homes often never reaches them. Additionally, while air pollution may be down because of the drop in coal use, there has been a rebound effect in the form of a rise in water pollution. According to a World Wide Fund for Nature report, “[the] Three Gorges Dam exacerbates water pollution by impounding waters, trapping sediment and increasing eutrophication”. Eutrophication is the process by which bodies of water lose oxygen because of excessive growth of algae. While raw sewage and other waste was once flushed out by the river, it is now left stagnant. World Bank reports show that 115 million rural inhabitants rely on surface water as their primary source of water, despite the fact that 70% of China’s water is now unfit for consumption.

The Three Gorges Dam is an example of the way in which the transition to clean energy does not produce exclusively positive results. The loss of people’s homes and danger to public health must be factored into an honest cost-benefit analysis of the dam. While it has produced certain environmental and economic benefits in its early days of operation, the dam is still relatively new, and the full price of its construction may not be understood for years to come.

 

 

Much Ado About Prohibition: Shakespeare Performance Troupe Puts a 20’s Spin on a Classic

in Archives/Arts/Bryn Mawr by
Image courtesy of Facebook: SPT
Image courtesy of Facebook: SPT
Image courtesy of Facebook.

By EMILY SCHALK, Staff Writer

Bryn Mawr’s Shakespeare Performance Troupe presented Much Ado About Nothing, their last show of the year, from April 7-9 in Rhoads Dining Hall. The production, which starred Marian Bechtel ‘16, Emmett Binkowski ‘16, Rachel Hampton ‘16, and Alison Robins ‘17, is set in the 1920’s and follows the stories of star-crossed couple Claudio and Hero, and ex-lovers Benedick and Beatrice, in the midst of Prohibition.

Initially, director Kathleen Kelliher ‘16 decided to set Much Ado in the 1920s on a whim, but throughout the rehearsal process, she realized it meant much more. “When you have two years to actually delve into what it means to set this show during Prohibition you raise some interesting questions,” Kelliher said. “If everyone is a criminal what then happens to ideas of morality in the show? If this show is set in a time when women were gaining more and more rights and sexual freedoms in this country, how can we make an inherently misogynistic show empowering to women?”

Alex Berndt ‘19, who played a watchman, messenger, and musician in the show, said that all of the cast “work together really well. It was just a really fun time, just working with everybody. I didn’t know many of these people very well before, and now we have a bunch of inside jokes.” Their next production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will open on May Day of 2016.

Review: Celtic Festival

in Archives/Arts/Bryn Mawr by
Photo licensed for reuse
Photo licensed for reuse
Photo licensed for reuse

By KATE HAWTHORNE, Staff Writer

“Rince na Mawr,” Bryn Mawr’s Irish Dance group, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a performance that married traditional dance with pop culture.  This is their fourth annual Celtic Festival. In honor of the Irish holiday,  Lindsey Foster,  Bridget Murray, and Erin Saladin – performed a flash mob in front of the Campus Center to advertise the performance taking place the following two nights.

In the first act of their show, the troupe performed an interpretation of the beautiful tale of Merida as told in Brave, the 2012 Disney/Pixar film about a Scottish princess who wishes to be free to live her own life. The performers all showed great skill in their dance and put the storyline together beautifully. Their acting was consistent, a quality rarely  found in these kinds of interpretations. In particular, the acting of Merida’s family (Jo Dutilloy as Fergus, Sophie Rehrig as Elinor, and Bridget Murray and Hannah Symonds as Merida’s younger twin brothers) melded well with their  dancing.

The costumes were also beautiful and, on occasion, hilarious. There was a two-person horse that was held together by a hula hoop and the bears wore “hooded scarves,”  and a furry animal hat that can also act as a scarf and mittens. One particularly compelling dance was the, “The Suitors’ Interruption,” where two members of the Scottish Country Dance group (Julia Whittle and Tirsana Paudel) and a member of Rince na Mawr (Veronica Benson-Moore) tried to out-dance each other to win the affections of Merida (Laney Harrington), before Merida  out-shined them both.

The following dance, “Mother/Daughter Dance-Off,” was a playful duet.  Harrington and Rehrig competed in a dance-off to different types of music in order to exemplify the differences between mother and daughter.  Harrington danced to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Rehrig danced a traditional light jig. The act was beautifully choreographed by  members of “Rince na Mawr” (with help from Paudel and Whittle).

In the second act, the costumes were much more simplistic and rather than stories, the troupe performed vignettes. There was an interesting mixture of soft shoe and hard shoe acts, as well as modern and more traditional acts. The highlight of this number was “The Empire Strikes… The Floor?” which was set to The Piano Guys’ “Cello Wars.”  Needless to say, a Darth Vader’s mask made an appearance. The choreography in this piece was outstanding and overall, the celtic festival was a success.

Greasepaint Production Performs Urinetown

in Archives/Arts/Haverford by
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Image courtesy of Greasepaint Productions

By ISABELLA NUGENT, Staff Writer

Under kaleidoscope lights in the high-ceiled tomb that is Erdman common room, Greasepaint Productions performed Urinetown to the Bi-Co campus. Urinetown turns a satirical lens on issues of human rights and revolution through grand musical numbers and plunger-wielding fight scenes. Imagine Les Misérables but with less blood and more toilet jokes. I’ll admit, walking into a show with a self-proclaimed terrible title, I didn’t know what to expect. But as soon as the lights dimmed, I was quickly won over by the hilarious dialogue and exuberant performers. I will never under-appreciate my ability to pee for free again.

Directed by Ellen Cohn, Bryn Mawr ’17, Urinetown ran from April 7-10. I attended their final performance on Sunday night, squeezing my way into a room overflowing with buzzing Bryn Mawr and Haverford students. Even with essays due and readings unread for Monday’s classes, so many people poured out to show their support for this small production. The play opens with the two narrators Office Lockstock (played by Brittany Steele) and Little Sally (played by Dylan Hoffman) immediately breaking the fourth wall, setting the tone that this play is not only parodying other musicals but that it means to act as a very direct metaphor for corrupt, capitalistic systems.

Urinetown is about a small, dystopic town where people must pay a fee in order to go to the bathroom after a drought dangerously flattened their water supply. The proletariat underclass must struggle everyday, eagerly counting pennies to go to the bathroom while the upper class (politicians and workers with the corporation “Urine Good Company”) plan luxurious trips to Rio. Water is the coveted commodity controlled by corporations and enjoyed only by the elite few. After “Urine Good Company” heightens the fee even farther, the play’s protagonist, Bobby Strong, stages a revolution and demands that all citizens deserve the right to pee for free. Kidnappings, elaborate fight scenes, and duets between star-crossed lovers ensue with the looming threat of being sent to Urinetown hanging over each character’s head.

The musical is aggressively self-aware of its political satire, rehashing revolutionary rhetoric and openly spoiling plot twists for the audience. The entire play is an endearing juxtaposition of knowingly immature, goofy humor and depressing critique of power and oppression. Perhaps the ugly truth of our inherently unequal society must be sugarcoated in melodramatic gasps and flashy dance numbers about needing to urinate. Or maybe the privatization of the most basic needs in our society is so ridiculous that it can only talked about in a way that is silly and self-deprecating. However deep you delve into the meaning of this musical, Urinetown was an  eye-opening performance that revealed the talent of Bi-Co’s Greasepaint Productions team.

 

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