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Sierra Magazine
Natural Resources

Books | Video | Web

VIDEOS: Let It Flow

Today Glen Canyon lies buried beneath more than 25 million acre-feet of water. But what David Brower called "one of the most beautiful places on Earth" still lives in these compelling short documentaries. While quite different in approach, each makes a strong case for restoring this desert jewel.

Let the River Run
Glen Canyon Institute, $18; (520) 556-9311

It won't be long, the young narrator of Let the River Run points out, before "no one alive will have a memory of Glen Canyon." Though nothing could beat the heady thrill of being there, this 20-minute cinematic tour of the pre-dam canyon—featuring footage recently rediscovered after more than 30 years—is the next best thing.

After agreeing not to protest a Glen Canyon dam for the sake of keeping two dams out of Dinosaur National Monument, Brower, then Sierra Club executive director, decided to see the canyon for himself. He went down the Colorado River in 1963, camera in hand, just before the floodgates dropped, and realized that what he had heard was true—Glen was indeed more spectacular than Dinosaur. "We had no right to deny all future generations anything that beautiful," he laments.

Warning of "the treasures that can be destroyed when no one is looking," this film calls for restoring wilds lost. Glen Canyon is still there. And the dam's problems far outweigh any alleged benefits, the narrator says: Lake Powell loses huge amounts of water to evaporation and the Sea of Cortez estuary is stagnating because the Colorado no longer feeds it. In 1996 the Sierra Club Board voted to support Glen Canyon's restoration when it passed a resolution by Brower to drain Lake Powell.

Brower once hoped that his Sierra Club book The Place No One Knew would "[step] up the pace with which mankind preserves what is left of the world's irreplaceables." His stunning footage here is likely to do the same.

Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon Institute, $17;
(520) 556-9311

While Let the River Run strikes a largely elegiac chord, Glen Canyon is likely to inspire outrage. This video, an adaptation of a slide show produced by Phil Pennington with David Brower for the Sierra Club in 1964, gives a blow-by-blow account of what was lost.

Determined to stop the Bureau of Reclamation's plans to build other dams along the Colorado, Pennington set out to show Americans the bureau's legacy. He painstakingly cataloged the hundreds of geologic and cultural monuments, and plant and animal life through the canyon that would soon be sacrificed, then returned after the flooding to document their fate. Along the Colorado, the landscape reveals a rich history: in Hanson Creek Canyon a towering wall looms overhead, undercut by centuries of water coursing through sandstone; large cottonwoods high atop canyon cliffs house great blue herons; Indian ruins and petroglyphs dot the cliff and canyon walls.

But the serene trip downriver is abruptly shattered: "Warning," the sign reads. "Lake Powell is being filled." The wonders of the canyon would now be more accessible, the National Park Service said, and the reservoir "would have little if any effect on the great recreational resources of the region." Jarring before-and-after shots of historic treasures drowned by the deluge lay bare the agency's hollow rhetoric. "No one else will ever again know what it was like," the narrator says. "The stream alcoves are gone, the inner canyons are gone. As the waters rose...the animals fled to higher ground...many drowned. Plant life is decimated."

The beauty of the canyon as it once was speaks for itself in the film's final moments, as a striking sequence of color, form, and light offers somber tribute. "The beautiful places of this planet can be saved by those who know them," the narrator says. "No one else."

For more information on restoring Glen Canyon, contact the Glen Canyon Institute at P.O. Box 1295, Flagstaff, AZ 86002. —Liza Gross


World on the Web: Election-season savvy

by Sierra Club Webmaster John Kealy

The trees are just putting on their fall colors, yet the politicians are readying a blizzard of mailings and television ads in preparation for election day. As election advertising intensifies, the amount of useful information decreases. Fortunately, the Web is a great place to get your electoral bearings. For the lowdown on what your legislators actually do on your behalf, click on the sites offered by nonprofit watchdogs.

Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org), which bills itself as "a voter's self-defense system," is the best one-stop political information resource on the Web. Vote Smart is scrupulously nonpartisan. The site tracks the positions, voting records, and campaign finances of some 13,000 state and national officials.

The League of Conservation Voters (www.lcv.org) provides a comprehensive look at the environmental records of members of Congress, grading each legislator on key votes. The site also has a "Dirty Dozen" list of enviro-villains, an "EarthList" of green heroes, and the organization's election endorsements. California and New York LCV chapters have their own sites, www.ecovote.org and www.nylcv.org, respectively.

The Sierra Club's extensive political Web pages include state-by-state lists of federal candidates endorsed by the Club (www.sierraclub.org/politics). Many chapter Web sites also provide state and even local campaign information and endorsements. A clickable map of Club chapters is available at www.sierraclub.org/chapters.

From the Green Party (www.greens.org) to the Democrats (www.democrats.org) and the Republicans (www.rnc.org), every political party has a Web forum or two. Party sites aren't objective, of course, but you'll find more background material than you thought possible in this age of campaign-by-TV.

If you're looking for less agenda-driven information, check out the coverage at the sites of three D.C.-based political journals: Roll Call (www.rollcall.com) and The Hill (www.hillnews.com).

Since you can't win if you don't play, there's even a site for registering new voters (www.rockthevote.org). Fill out its online form, and you'll be mailed a voter-registration card with prepaid postage. The site even has an electronic "postcard" to send to your unregistered friends.

Election time can often be confusing, irritating, and disillusioning. Tap into the resources on the Web, though, and you just might also find voting enlightening—an adjective rarely associated with political campaigns.

(C) 2000 Sierra Club. Reproduction of this article is not permitted without permission. Contact sierra.magazine@sierraclub.org for more information.


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