Many of the world's major cities sprang up on the banks of rivers. Used for water, food, irrigation, transportation and power, rivers sustain life and connect places and countries, but most of us think of them simply as waterways that must be crossed on the way to somewhere else. Relating the biographies of four European and two North American rivers, A Story of Six Rivers considers the place of rivers in our world and emphasizes the inextricable links between their history, culture and ecology.
A Story of Six Rivers gives voice to six bodies of water: the Danube, the second-longest river in Europe; the Spree, which flows through Berlin; the Po, which cuts eastward across northern Italy; the Mersey in northwest England; the Yukon, which runs through Canada and Alaska; and the Los Angeles River in California. Rivers nurture us, provide cultural and economic opportunities and pose threats to our everyday lives. Though recent narratives paint rivers as the victims of abuse, pollution and damage at the hands of humans, A Story of Six Rivers focuses on change rather than devastation.
Though humans and rivers form a symbiotic – and sometimes mutually destructive – relationship, rivers also illustrate the limits of human authority, and their capacity to inspire us is as strong as our ability to pollute them. An intimate portrait of the way these watercourses inform our lives, A Story of Six Rivers will make us reconsider the liquid ribbons we traverse each day.
6 Los Angeles River
Peter Coates is Professor of American and Environmental History at the University of Bristol and the author of many books. His previous books include Salmon (Reaktion, 2006).