By Ellen Wohl
The author, a professor of geosciences, is distinctly more objective and even hopeful than many of her environmentalist contemporaries would be in her approach to this wide-ranging subject.
She has chosen to examine ten of the world’s major river systems to learn how they are bearing up under the onslaught of human development. They are the Amazon; the Ob in Siberia; the Nile; the Danube; the Ganges; the Mississippi; the Murray-Darling in Australia; the Congo; the Chang Jiang (Yangtze); and, the Mackenzie.
All have been assaulted in various ways and degrees by humans. Mining, hydro-electricity, forestry, farming, fishing and industrial and domestic waste have all contributed to their degradation. While enormous damage has been done, the author explains that not all hope is lost. Reforms are being made and many more are possible.
Hers is a fascinating geo-social approach to environmental history. She is rational and reasonable, so the reforms she urges are far more likely to come about than they otherwise would. She certainly does not shy away from exposing the problems but her approach is positive.
Available from The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.