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INVENTING NIAGARA by Ginger Strand

“With wit and passion, Strand (Flight: A Novel) explores the history of Niagara Falls and shows that the famous natural wonder is in reality a prime example of man’s manipulation of nature, constantly exploited to attract tourists. In the 19th century, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, appalled by the crass commercialism of souvenir shops, ugly signs and cheap attractions, pledged to restore Niagara to its natural beauty; instead, he created a fake wilderness. In the 20th century, humans learned to control the falls by harnessing them for electric power, and this led to what is for Strand the most shocking fakery: the water going over the falls is manipulated for greater output in the daytime—to impress visitors—and turned down at night to generate more power. In addition, the capacity to generate large amounts of hydroelectricity has made Niagara Falls a prime spot for industries that manufacture electrochemical products and for nuclear weapons facilities; the author paints a vivid picture of a region awash today in toxic waste and radioactive contaminants. Strand’s provocative and iconoclastic book says much about how America has dominated nature, despoiled it and shrouded the offense in myth.” Publishers Weekly(May)
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