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Environmental Science Writing Prompt
The Hetch Hetchy Decision

The decision to dam the Hetch Hetchy valley was one of the first debates of environmental ethics to occur in the United States. The city of San Francisco was experiencing a water shortage near the time of the gold rush due to a rapidly increasing population. The city wanted to dam the Tolumne River at the Hetch Hetchy Valley to create a reservoir. However, the land is within Yosemite National Park and is thus federal land. An act of Congress would be needed to allow construction to begin.

This writing prompt places students in the role of Teddy Roosevelt, the president at the time of this controversy. They are to consider each side of the issue and make a decision whether or not to build the dam. They will relate the decision they make to the different environmental ethics philosopies.

Essential concepts: Environmental ethics, environmental history, pragmatic resource conservationism, aesthetic nature preservationism, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Hetch Hetchy valley, dam construction, water resources

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