Competing ideas of ‘natural’ in a dam removal controversy

Water Alternatives 10, no. 3 (2017): 840-52.

ABSTRACT: In spite of general support for removal of dam structures within the ecological sciences community, local residents sometimes contest dam removals. This article examines the competing ideas of ‘natural’ and ‘nature’ that may surface in a dam removal controversy. Using the conflict of the Colliery dams of Nanaimo in northwestern Canada, the article explores how those who want the dam to stay and those who want it removed identify what is ‘natural’. Through an examination of public documents, survey data, and social media, the article shows that what is ‘natural’ is constructed differently in epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic terms by those for and against the dam removal. Because the two sides differ in their idea of what ‘nature’ is, the conflicts may be difficult to resolve. This paper stresses the role of perceptions and values in environmental issues. Understanding the complex nature valuations is where the potential for truly interdisciplinary restoration projects becomes both evident and necessary.

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