A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia

A River Lost The Life and Death of the Columbia After a two decade absence Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden returned to his small town birthplace in the Pacific Northwest to follow the rise and fall of the West s most thoroughly conquered

After a two decade absence, Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden returned to his small town birthplace in the Pacific Northwest to follow the rise and fall of the West s most thoroughly conquered river.Harden s hometown, Moses Lake, Washington, could not have existed without massive irrigation schemes His father, a Depression migrant trained as a welder, helped buildAfter a two decade absence, Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden returned to his small town birthplace in the Pacific Northwest to follow the rise and fall of the West s most thoroughly conquered river.Harden s hometown, Moses Lake, Washington, could not have existed without massive irrigation schemes His father, a Depression migrant trained as a welder, helped build dams and later worked at the secret Hanford plutonium plant Now he and his neighbors, once considered patriots, stand accused of killing the river.As Blaine Harden traveled the Columbia by barge, car, and sometimes on foot his past seemed both foreign and familiar A personal narrative of rediscovery joined a narrative of exploitation of Native Americans, of endangered salmon, of nuclear waste, and of a once wild river now tamed to puddled remains.Part history, part memoir, part lament, this is a brave and precise book, according to the New York Times Book Review It must not have been easy for Blaine Harden to find himself turning his journalistic weapons against his own heritage, but he has done the conscience of his homeland a great service.

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A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia

  1. Harden is an author and journalist who worked for The Washington Post for 28 years as a correspondent in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle He was also a national correspondent for The New York Times and writer for the Times Magazine He has contributed to The Economist and PBS Frontline.Harden s newest book, King of Spies, is out in October of 2017 It s the untold story of Major Donald Nichols, an American spy in Korea who would become America s Kurtz He operated in a shadowland of executions and torture, while sending hundreds of his agents to their deaths inside North Korea His reign ended suddenly, when he was secretly removed from South Korea, locked up in a U.S military hospital in Florida and subjected to 50 rounds of memory obliterating electroshock Harden is also the author of The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot Viking Penguin, 2015 , Escape From Camp 14 Viking Penguin 2012 and A River Lost Norton, revised and updated edition 2012.

827 Reply to “A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia”

  1. Five years I lived in Wenatchee While there, I learned a bit about the Columbia, a bit about the dams, but had no idea the full history, the power plays involved.Harden s research is astounding, and he manages to present all sides without dehumanizing or failing to understand what s at stake for any of the players, while also giving clear facts For instance, he does a great job of debunking quite a few common myths re dams and dam advocates, as well as pointing out the economics of such projects [...]

  2. Do you know where your electricity comes from I often find myself wondering how often people wonder about where any of their natural or otherwise resources originate this book definitely changed the way I think about a river I grew up near my entire life If you live anywhere from Alaska to California to Oregon to Montana, and all the way southeast to Arizona and parts of Texas , your electricity likely comes from the Columbia River, via a huge dam in a tiny town in Washington State that most peo [...]

  3. First of all I am giving this book 4 stars.Not because I LOVED it well, maybe I did but because it s so very interesting to ME and I thought it very well researched and written.I grew up next to the Columbia River in Washington State and I love this river, but if you are from anywhere but Oregon, Washington, Idaho I don t think this would have any interest for you.Unless you are weird like me I do like regional history and culture and Food and people and stories The Columbia River and its histor [...]

  4. Great book The industrialization of theColumbia River is a metaphor for the misuse of all natural resources The mighty Columbia and Snake Rivers have been turned into slack water all the way to Lewiston Idaho Blaine Harden has covered this terrible destruction, from the native Americans, the lost of fish habitat , the agricultural canals, power dams, slack water barges, and Hanford Nuclear waste dump The book introduces the people involved The past idealists, greedy barons, politicians, farmers, [...]

  5. I had read this book way back in 1998 when I was living in Southern Oregon, with no connection to the Columbia This rereading, aloud to Niko, came after five plus years living just a couple of miles from the Columbia In one sense, the book suffers from the passage of time, because it is written in a very current newspapery style But the thrust of the book remains as true now as it did then that the Columbia long ago ceased to be a river but is now simply a piece of the machinery of the West One [...]

  6. This book manages to be both passionate and objective about the challenges besetting the Columbia River Little has changed in the 20 years since it was written The irrigators and shippers still call the shots and the politicians still quiver at the mention of dam breaching One difference is that there seems now to be at last some momentum on the removal of the four lower Snake River dams part of the Columbia watershed, dams that Harden traverses for they are operating at a loss It will be a mome [...]

  7. If you ve ever been on or driven alongside the Columbia River, you should read this book Meticulously researched including stories and interviews from the author s days spent floating down the river on barges and compassionately narrated, you will have a much fuller vision of this part of the planet.

  8. Harden does a great job of sharing the story of the damming of the Columbia River and its effects A complex issue, he breaks it down and shares opposing viewpoints What most impressed me was how fairly he balanced the benefits and the cost of the project.

  9. It would be easy to write book about the damming and polluting of America s mightiest river in a heavy handed and depressing way Yet author Blaine Harden wrote A River Lost like the excellent journalist he is, presenting all sides of the issues and letting the ignorant and brainwashed speak for themselves Nor does the author abstain completely from editorial comment, which he adds in small doses when the stories told don t quite reflect the facts The author gives equal voice to all who have an i [...]

  10. Having recently read Salmon, People and Place , this powerful and well written account of the politics of the Columbia River was a different perspective on the same issue the destruction of the river and its ecosystem, as well as the horrible mistreatment of the Native Americans who lived in this area for thousands of years before the coming of the white people This is a searing look into the nearly 100 year history of the government corporate collaboration in establishing priorities in favor of [...]

  11. Great history of the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the multiple dams that harness them Good reporting of how the dams effect those who live in that region and beyond After reading this book, I feel like it may be time to dismantle all the dams even the Grand Coulee and let the river return to as natural a state as possible It seems there is a lot of waste happening This isn t the 1950s any, we have new and different technologies It s time to move into the future for power and commerce and give t [...]

  12. I ve lived next to the Columbia River for almost 3 years now I learned so much about this area and the river reading this book I learned about Dam building, irrigation, farming, plutonium, salmon, barges, Native Americans, the federal government and so much It was interesting to hear different people s opinions about these things.

  13. Another interesting non fiction book, and one that hit closer to home I will say that working in the engineering field helped me to understand the technical aspects of damming the river better than had I read the book without the background riprap, aggregate, and the giant pain that is the U.S Army Corps of Engineers would otherwise have been Greek to me My job also made it difficult for me to pick a side Although his language is sometimes biases, Harden does not take sides between the environ [...]

  14. The addition of dams on the Columbia River flooded the region with the country s cheapest electricity, followed by industry, and jobs in the tens of thousands Dams that gave farmers irrigation rights as well as consumers the luxury of cheap power, also sent once abundant salmon species into present day near extinction levels, displaced local Natives and led to nuclear waste The book starts off with memoir styled descriptions of the author s childhood near Moses Lake, WA, as well as the work his [...]

  15. This should be required reading for everyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest, especially those who think of themselves as pioneers and think government subsidies are the devil This book is about the destruction of the great river of the West by well intentioned Americans whose lives embodied a pernicious contradiction They prided themselves on self reliance, yet depended on subsidies They distrusted the federal government, yet allowed it to do as it pleased with the river and the land through [...]

  16. One of the best nonfiction books I have read Blaine Harden interviews barge workers, farmers, activists, dam engineers, Native Americans, Hanford engineers and others, giving a fair voice to each of them And who better to tell their stories than Harden, a product of the engineered west himself Though it was written 20 years ago, it s well worth the read to learn about the river s history and deepen your understanding of the way things are today Some particular highlights for me were the history [...]

  17. The author lays out a history based on themes, of the Columbia River since the 1930s when dams began being built on the river There are a lot of players in the river machine that make the hydropower system very complex Salmon recovery is one theme discussed throughout the book and an issue that can be resolved Electricity and salmon can live harmoniously If the government can subsidize those who live and work on the river, then it can certainly do the same for the fish that live in the river.

  18. A troubling but fascinating blend of reportage, memoir, and history that dissects the state of the Columbia River since New Deal programs turned it from the wildest big river in North America to the world s largest bathtub Harden grew up in the engineered area of Eastern Washington, but moved on to work for the Washington Post as a foreign correspondent before coming back to look into the strife that mars his home territory A little out of date the book is 15 years old now but still relevant, an [...]

  19. A very interesting look at the Columbia River and the history of the US government turning it into a powerful machine for industry Harden spends a serious amount of time with all of the groups who have a hand in use of the Columbia, from those who helped build the Grand Coulee Dam to barge captains to farmers using land irrigated from the Columbia to the Native Americans that all of these projects displaced How the Columbia River should be used is complicated, and this book dives right into this [...]

  20. Must read about the environmental history of the Columbia Basin from pre european but mostly through the New Deal to the end of salmon The author grew up in Moses Lake and the arc of his family s history and prosperity is interwoven with the New Deal If you live in the North West it will give you new eyes with which to view the Columbia Basin and indeed much of the West And he can really write

  21. I loved this book I grew up in cities on the banks of the Columbia River, so I was very familiar with the places, but not as familiar as I wish I had been with the history and the stories of these places and people who shaped destiny of this River I loved journeying with the author as he saw the River and captured the sentiments and the recollections of those who knew her well or thought they did I ll never see or think of the River in the same way again and that s a good thing.

  22. As a lifelong Washingtonian who s lived on both sides of the Cascades, this was a wonderful primer on a huge number of environmental and cultural issues that are still relevant Harden has a pretty clear point of view throughout the book, but also treats his subjects with compassion as he addresses tribal dispossession, salmon on the Columbia, Hanford, federal irrigation projects, river barges and dam building.

  23. I really learned so much about the Columbia and Snake river histories I m disheartened that efforts made to save salmon or to even preserve salmon were almost completely ignored and dismissed by the federal government and large power companies I also heard a lot about the WOOPS bond scandal at work so reading about it in this book gave me some context.

  24. I grew up along side the banks of the Columbia River This book demonstrates the changes that have affected the mightiest river of the West It was a real eye opening for me as I thought I was pretty well versed on my river Some good things were done, but LOTS of things with unintended consequences that few people care to change at this point This one is a keeper in my library.

  25. This should be required reading material for PNW centric history courses do they still teach those in high school.Fantastically written and reasearched, I m actually curious about some follow up on some of the information presented here.

  26. Really great read I had to read than half of it for class but read the rest on my own A really great book to give you a foundation of the conflicting results of damning rivers like the Columbia.

  27. Good book Not a book for anyone to read if you re either pro hydropower or pro farmer This changed my understanding of eastern Washington economic policy and farm subsidies The section on Hanford Nuclear reservation was thinner than it should have been Read this book and hug a salmon

  28. All Columbia River Gorge lovers must read this You ll wonder why you didn t already know its story How come you never asked Here s a tip go hike the new Washington side Cape Horn trail and stand under a perfect waterfall while you read Stand in awe

  29. This is a must for anyone living in the Pacific Northwest But the stories of the damming of the Columbia also tell us much about America in the 20th century.

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