The River Returns - Background, TOC and Questions for Authors


Published on

A revealing biography of Canada's iconic river, from its wild youth, through its hard-working past, to its contemporary reconstruction.

Cloth (0773535845) 9780773535848
Release date: 2009-10-10
CA $49.95 | US $49.95
published by McGill-Queens University Press

Published in: News & Politics, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The River Returns - Background, TOC and Questions for Authors

  1. 1. The Bow River, one of the most iconic and well known Canadian waterways, flows from high up in the Canadian Rockies, through Banff National Park, meanders down through Calgary and flows out on to the open prairie. It is the water source for both the City of Calgary and much of the surrounding farmland; the Bow watershed is the most densely populated in Alberta. So it’s particularly worrying that those in the Bow River Basin, not to mention the river itself, have been hit — to use an appropriately environmental metaphor — by a perfect storm of massive population growth, liberal water licensing, climate change, and a free market on the water itself. These issues were explored by a recent episode of The Current on the CBC, but they’ve been visible by Alberta’s citizens for a while. As they tell it, the massive growth (both economically and in terms of population) Southern Alberta has experienced over the last few decades has led to larger and larger development projects, including mega malls, race tracks, and massive entertainment complexes, all of which require equally large water licenses. And until 2006, water licenses were more or less available for all, leading to situations like that of 2001, when there was more water allocated than was actually available. Thus, when the licensing was stopped in 2006, most environmentalists hailed the move as simultaneously commendable and too little, too late. The water licensing restrictions also created Canada’s first free market for water. The people who held existing licenses started selling them to the new developers, and water — that indispensable resource— was given a price. The result, many argue, is that farmers and Albertans are priced out of the water market by casinos and shopping centers. If that wasn’t bad enough, this summer may be the driest on record- the second to make this mark in the last decade. So far, it has forced 9 counties to declare states of emergency and countless farmers to give up their crops. Though tourists in Banff might see the river as a singular force of nature, the history of the Bow has been intensely influenced by the actions, regulations, and attitudes we can attribute to a combination of government, industry, and individual citizens. In a book by Christopher Armstrong, Matthew Evenden, and H.V. Nelles, set to release in November 2009, the history of the Bow is painted in similar strokes — not so much a geological history as a social one, illuminating the ways in which humans, both inadvertently and consciously, have interacted with nature to make the Bow. As they put it, “Rivers have a history. They change under human intervention; they change on their own. However much a river has been used and abused, it is still very much a river, doing river things, which humans ignore or underestimate at their peril…The history of humanity along the river is so bound up with the history of the river as to make the two inseparable”. If there’s something for us to learn about the Bow, it’s something we’ve had to learn many times: learn from how we made that history and do a better job of making the future.
  2. 2. For more information on the river and it’s story, check out the piece on The Current by the CBC, this report on the state of the river by ecojustice, this website on Alberta’s watersheds, the work done by the Bow River Basin Council, this article from the Globe and Mail on the drought on the Prairies, or the comments of some who have travelled the length of the Bow. The River Returns Christopher Armstrong, Matthew Evenden, H.V. Nelles TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface ix Abbreviations xiii 1 Discovery 3 2 Homeland and Margin 24 3 Home on the Range and River 45 4 The Wooden River 86 5 Power and Flow 119 6 Watering a Dry Country 152 7 The Sanitary Imperative 187 8 The Fishing River 218 9 Overflow 242 10 Building Banff 271 11Greening Alberta 297 12 Water Powers 325 13 Who Has Seen the River? 358 Conclusion 386 Appendix: Calgary Power-Generating 395 Capability in the Bow Watershed, 1911–1960 Notes 397
  3. 3. Acknowledgments 473 Index 477
  4. 4. POSSIBLE QUESTIONS FOR THE AUTHORS •You retell the 1989 incident of the “Discovery of the Blob” (page 358). The Blob was composed of dinner-plate-sized, tar-like globules that were a mixture of toxic creosote and chemicals that were released into the Bow from a long-abandoned wood-preserving plant and spread a 165 mile plume of carcinogens down the river. Did this event launch a local environmental protection movement? •Pollution and carbon emissions continue to dominate discussion of the environment, but you also show how water use for sanitation and irrigation have radically affected the Bow. Why have we not paid as much attention to water use? •What is the biggest threat to the Bow River today? •After studying the history of the Bow and peoples’ interactions with it, what do you think the river says about us? •In your book you show how as early as the 1880s efforts were made to conserve the environment around the Bow River. Why is it that we tend to think of environmental awareness and conservation as recent issues? •Before the railroads and highways, rivers used to be Canada’s easiest way to travel. Have we neglected Canada’s rivers because we use them in less direct ways? •The book highlights two ways of looking at rivers: as a tool that can be engineered; and as the origin of local myths and legends of a romantic past. Do you think the Bow is thought of in one way more than the other? •To what extent has concern for our rivers helped environmentalism gain prominence as a political issue? •What do you think has been the strangest use of the Bow River? •You write that the creation of Canada’s first national park – Rocky Mountains National Park in 1887 – was founded in large part in order to make a spa (page 274). To what extent are commerce and recreation still involved in preservation?