Economic Justice

The Snake River Dams: Why They Matter

We recently watched this amazing video from National Geographic and had to tell the world about it!

Four dams built along the Lower Snake River in the pacific northwest no longer produce the economic value that they were originally designed to generate, and by removing these four dams, we can free one of the most important “circulatory systems” in all of North America. 5,500 miles of stream habitat would begin the long road to ecological recovery, and every stage of the recovery process would generate ripple effects that would impact every ecosystem in the United States. The effects would reach all of North America and even remote parts of the world within just a few years, and the entire process would begin with the simple decision to remove four dams that are no longer economically viable.

The dams drain at least 150 million dollars a year from the national economy, since their operation requires so much labor and energy. But if they’re removed, wildlife populations will begin restoring the pacific northwest to a state of health and balance. The salmon, one of the essential threads in this complex tapestry, will once again freely migrate down the river to build body mass in the open ocean before returning inland. As salmon populations regain their footing, they bring this body mass back to inland environments, returning energy, nitrogen, and biomass to inland species and habitats.

As you watch the short video from National Geographic, recognize that the rivers represent an essential pathway—a circulatory channel—to environmental health, but they also give us something more: a living chart that can help us understand some of the complicated intersections that mark our shared destiny and the flow of resources that connect us. The river draws vital lines for us geographically and ecologically, but it also reveals economic, scientific, chemical, and even spiritual intersections that can be opened, changed, and restored with a single decision.

One small move can begin a process of unprecedented growth and recovery. The lessons and implications of this story can guide us as we move toward a better world.  Contact Just Atonement to learn more about the Snake River dams and how they impact our efforts to support global justice.

Drought-Damaged Rice Farms and Difficult Choices

Rice crops of almost every variety require almost continual amounts of soil moisture, and as a drought- sensitive crop, rice can serve as a harbinger of certain climate-related trends that are poised to impact food supplies around the world. Rice feeds the planet, with wheat, corn and soybeans following close behind, and when areas known for the production of staple grains begin to feel the impact of rising temperatures, these impacts are soon reflected in other ways. Populations in these areas begin to thin as farmers and residents choose whether to stay or leave. And as populations and economies shift, cultures shift as well.

What will become of the individuals, families, and societies that depend on drought-stricken rice fields? And down the road, how will these shifts affect the larger populations that depend on what these societies produce?

If families leave drought stricken areas, where will they go and what new cultures and populations will absorb them? If they stay, how will their customs, relationships and lifestyles change in order to account for a disappearing source of income?

The area of southern India documented in this short photo essay published by The New York Times presents these questions for examination without answering any of them. Only one conclusion is clear: As farmers and their families are pushed to the brink by drought and other effects of a shifting climate, the choices they make on the path to survival will contain lessons and predictions for other cultures that may soon feel similar pressures. Their decisions and the outcome of those decisions will be felt around the world. 

As we prepare for changes in global food production and distribution, we must also be prepared for cultural and economic shifts as human beings under pressure strive to adapt. Those who have been displaced will require access to vital resources like food, shelter, healthcare, and safety. Just as important, they will require justice and protection from exploitation. Let’s learn from their experience. Ideally, we can apply the lessons as stories like these become increasingly common.