From Stockholm to Rio II: The Natural and Institutional Landscapes Through Which Rivers Flow

Peter Bridgewater, Lei Guangchun, Lu Cai

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Ecclesiastes 1:7 (King James Version): All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. Through the centuries writers, poets and visual artists - not to mention indigenous peoples, have set their stories and visual imagery against the majesty and power of rivers. And the rivers have flowed on, powerfully and quietly through landscapes increasingly transformed by human action, and flowed through institutional landscapes, creating and modelling our approach to environmental management. Looking at river flows through institutional landscapes we go from the first world environmental gathering in Stockholm in 1972 to the UN General Assembly in 2000 which adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals, Goal 7 being on environmental sustainability. Much of the last 20 years has been focused on integrated management of various kinds and under various names, much guided by discussion among the group of agencies now known as UN-Water. At the same time Europe was regionally addressing these issues through directives of the European Union, and some Conventions established under the Council of Europe. There are now new concepts to grasp and understand - for example, ecological flows, catchment models, integrated water resources management. Two centuries ago the idea that a proportion of a river's flow should be allocated to other environmental functions - the so-called ecological or environmental flow - would have seemed incomprehensible. It has now become commonplace to talk of ecosystem services and use this as shorthand to value ecosystems. So a new paradigm is needed for thinking about rivers; recognizing them as 4-dimensional, anastomosing features that connect, rather than divide, landscapes, linking alpine lakes to coral reefs. As the beaver is an ecosystem engineer in river systems, rivers are great landscape engineers, something our puny attempts at environmental engineering often suffer by. All the rivers run....

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRiver Conservation and Management
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780470682081
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2012


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