Rivers, more than any road, technology, or political leader, have shaped the course of civilization. They have opened frontiers, founded cities, settled borders, and fed billions. They promote life, forge peace, grant power, and capriciously destroy everything in their path. And even as they have become increasingly domesticated, rivers remain a powerful global force, one that is more critical than ever to our future.
In Rivers of Power, geographer Laurence Smith takes a deep dive into the timeless and vastly underappreciated relationship between rivers and civilization as we know it. Rivers are of course important to us in all the obvious ways (like water supply, sanitation, transport, etc.). But they also shape us in less obvious ways. Massive amounts of river water support the global food trade; huge volumes are consumed to provide the world's electricity – not just by hydropower, but by coal, nuclear, and natural gas power plants too; most of our globally important cities are positioned on the banks of rivers or river deltas. The territories of nations, their cultural and economic ties to one another, and the migrations of people trace to rivers and the topographic divides they carve on the world.
Beautifully told and expansive in scope, Rivers of Power, reveals how and why rivers have so profoundly shaped civilization, and examines the importance this vast, arterial power holds for our present, past, and future.
Laurence C. Smith, PhD is Professor and Chair of Geography and Professor of Earth, Planetary & Space Sciences at UCLA. He is frequently invited to give keynote speeches, and in 2012, 2014, 2016, he was an invited speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He is the author of The World in 2050, winner of the Walter P. Kistler Book Award and a Nature Editor's Pick of 2012. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, the Financial Times, Discover Magazine, NPR, CBC Radio, BBC, and others.