Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Rivers of Power by Laurence C. Smith: Book to Launch Online April 21

In his new book, Rivers of Power, geographer Laurence C. Smith explores a sweeping natural history of the world's rivers and their ancient, complex relationship with human civilization.

Join us for a virtual book launch of Rivers of Power, to take place on YouTube on April 21, 2020 at 12:00pm (EDT).

Rivers of PowerRivers, more than any road, technology, or political leader, have shaped the course of human civilization. They have opened frontiers, founded cities, settled borders, and fed billions. They promote life, forge peace, grant power, and can capriciously destroy everything in their path. Even today, rivers remain a powerful global force — one that is more critical than ever to our future. In Rivers of Power, geographer Laurence C. Smith explores the timeless and vastly underappreciated relationship between rivers and civilization as we know it. Rivers are of course important in many practical ways (water supply, transportation, sanitation). But the full breadth of their profound influence on the way we live is less obvious. Rivers define and transcend international borders, forcing cooperation between nations. Huge volumes of river water are used to produce energy, raw commodities, and food. Wars, politics, and demography are transformed by their devastating floods. The territorial claims of nations, their cultural and economic ties to each other, and the migrations and histories of their peoples trace back to rivers, river valleys, and the topographic divides they carve upon the world. And as climate change, advancing technologies, and cities transform our relationship with nature, new opportunities are rising to preserve the waters that sustain us.

Beautifully told and expansive in scope, Rivers of Power reveals how and why rivers profoundly influence civilization and the importance this vast, arterial power holds for the future of humanity.