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The Damnation of a Canyon. A Response to Edward Abbey

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The Damnation of a Canyon. A Response to Edward Abbey

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  • April 8, 2004
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In "The Damnation of a Canyon" published in Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside, Abbey explains reasons why the Glen Canyon in Arizona should be restored back to how it was before the dam was put in. He explains three reasons why Glen Canyon should be restored. First, he explains how the animals, scenery, and the history of the canyon are being covered up, when the dam was added and a reservoir filled the canyon. Second, he explains how the driftwood, silt, and other pollutants are being washed upon the beaches and making an ugly shoreline. Finally, Abbey argues the adventure of making a trip down the canyon has been lost. Before the dam, people would float down the clam river, but now the reservoir is busy with motorized boats. Abbey concludes by suggesting draining the reservoir and then "The wilderness will again belong to God, the people and the wild things that call it home." (137) Although Abbey's piece has many good examples and his relationship to the canyon, he doesn't give influential examples of why the canyon was much better before the dam.

Some of Abbey's points are relevant and realistic. I agree that reservoirs are dirty and can destroy some habitats. Living near a reservoir myself, I also see the build up of driftwood and garbage along the shores and dam. I avoid driving a boat on the reservoir for fear of hitting large, submerged driftwood. Few people even swim in the reservoir because of the dirtiness of the water. Also, every few years, the county drains much of the reservoir, leaving only a small channel. By doing this, much of the fish, plants and other wildlife die.

Abbey tends to overlook the advantages the dam has. For example, the dam offers a constant source of energy for the town and surrounding areas. Also, he explains how motorized boats are on the waters. Maybe, the reservoir has actually brought more citizens, tourists, etc, to the town. Rather than be limited to camping and rafting down the river, more people may be...