Snake river dams and human nature

The Snake River dam issue is heating up arguments for their removal (“save the salmon and our totemic southern resident killer whales”) or retention (“our ability to reduce fossil fuel usage requires an assured generation capacity to convert our lifestyle and economy from fossil fuels because global warming with its consequences is The Big One”).

Not surprisingly, the Snake River dam discussion has omitted the underlying cause of the conflict. OPALCO’s fundamental mission is to provide reliable electric power in an increasingly uncertain climate to support whatever lifestyle we choose. How we live isn’t their idea, it’s ours.

We have an energy-intensive lifestyle, and view that as our right. Any material alteration is likely to be viewed as an infringement on that right. Moreover, our economy is based on the mindset that even after life’s necessities have been provided for, a further increase in the Western standard of living guarantees a better quality of life. The fact that this might possibly not be true maintains the quest for more, seeking better.

We make our choices, one at a time, as individuals. There is no “they.” It takes a certain courage to make choices that seem to benefit only others who decline to make them. These are issues of individual integrity. This is not OPALCO’s issue to solve. It is each of ours.

Bill Appel

Friday Harbor