Deadly currents and destructive floods—these are the means of a river’s retaliation to all the diverting, damming, and dumping in humans have done in their attempts to harness the power and resources of these waterways for their own needs. And yet, many of the world’s major cities sprang up on the banks of rivers, which sustain life and connect the world. As Peter Coates observes in A Story of Six Rivers,humans and rivers form a symbiotic—and sometimes mutually destructive—relationship. Using four European and two North American rivers as examples, A Story of Six Rivers considers the place of rivers in our world and emphasizes the inextricable links between history, culture, and ecology.
Coates explores six rivers, chosen as examples of the types of rivers found on the planet: 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 in California. Creating a series of river biographies, Coates gives voice to each of these bodies of water, exploring how rivers nurture us, provide cultural and economic opportunities, and pose threats to our everyday lives. He challenges the recent narratives that paint rivers as the victims of abuse, pollution, and damage at the hands of humans, focusing on change rather than devastation, arguing that rivers illustrate the limits of human authority and that their capacity to inspire us is as strong as our ability to pollute them.
An intimate portrait of the way these bodies of water inform our lives, A Story of Six Rivers will make us reconsider the streams and tributaries we traverse each day.