The Dam Debate

Satisfactory Essays
The Dam Debate

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, John Muir, a naturalist, and Marsden Manson, an engineer for the city of San Francisco, engaged in a heated debate over the construction of a dam in Hetchy Hetchy Valley. Muir wanted to preserve nature for the future, so he objected to the dam because he felt it would destroy the beauty of the area. On the other hand, Manson believed building a dam would provide water and electricity to the thousands of people who lived in the city of San Francisco, and this would preserve the well being of the human race for the future. Both men had good points and arguments to support their views; however, in the end you have to look out for your own kind. If there is a choice about the well being of the human race or nature, I believe there is only once choice to be made – the future support of the human race.

John Muir supported saving Hetchy Hetchy Valley for several reasons. He believed building a dam would close the area to the public and restrict access for people to enjoy the outdoors through camping, hiking, or just getting in touch with nature (Muir). Manson, however, believed that there was more need to provide a future source of water and electricity to the tens of thousands of people who lived in the city during that time (Manson). It is possible that Manson saw the influx of people moving to San Francisco and knew the population would explode over the years and thus, saw the need for preserving some basic essential needs for human survival. He felt that preserving nature for a few hundred people who might go hiking or camping was far less important than preserving the human race. We all know that electricity is not an essential need to survive, because people have lived by fire and candlelight for centuries, but water is essential to survival.

Another argument that was discussed was building a dam would exclude the public to the watershed above the dam. This was only partially true because it would only be closed for about three and a half months of the year. Yosemite Valley had been doing this for decades to keep Tuolumne Meadows clean. Closing the area for a brief time as Yosemite Valley does would be for the same reason – to keep the watershed clean.
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