The Earth Viability Center

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A Viable Earth: A Book of River Stories

The story of the viable Earth is a book filled with river stories. Life may have started in the ocean, but it spread along rivers into the depth of the continents.

The story of humanity is a book filled with river stories. Even when crossing the oceans to find new land, the landing point was at the mouth of a river. It was the river that provided a path into the new land.

A Viable Future: Healthy Rivers are the Arteries in a Viable Earth.

The story of the (un)viable Earth we are writing in the Anthropocene is a book filled with river stories that tell tales of destruction, pollution, engineering, and dying ecosystems. The time to start a new book of regeneration and giving back to rivers the freedom to regenerate the free flow of rich live they once faciliated.

Polluting Rivers is Destroying Earth's Lifeline

Human Activities have Affected Half of all Rivers Heavily

The article “Human impacts on global freshwater fish biodiversity” by Su et al. published on February 19, 2021 shows that “No waters left untouched: We are increasingly aware of human impacts on biodiversity across our planet, especially in terrestrial and marine systems. We know less about fresh waters, including large rivers. Su et al. looked across such systems globally, focusing on several key measures of fish biodiversity. They found that half of all river systems have been heavily affected by human activities, with only very large tropical river basins receiving the lowest levels of change. Fragmentation and non-native species have also led to the homogenization of rivers, with many now containing similar species and fewer specialized lineages.

Plastic and other rubbish on the Iskar River near the Svoge hydroelectric dam in Bulgaria in January. Photograph: Hristo Rusev/Getty Images. From Carrington (2021)

Growing Anthropocene Risks Threaten Rivers

Anthropocene risks are those complex risks caused by modern society resulting from a combination of degradation, reengineering, pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. Rivers are increasingly exposed to these risks and are experiencing mounting consequences. The article by Nina Lakhani published on April 13, 2021 points out that many US rivers are at grave risk from dams, mining and global heating. This article is based on the America's Most Endangered Rivers 2021 report.

America'a most endangered rivers in 2021. From Lakhani (2021)

Rivers are Part of Solutions to Humanity's In-World Crisis

As emphasized in a Commentary by Michele Thieme published by MongaBay, the solutions we try to find for the crises we have created in the Earth's life-support system do not include rivers as part of the solution. But they are the network that connects everything and provides the flows all part need to function. Solutions without the rivers are no solutions.

Rivers are also telling the story of the great changes that are happening in our time. They tell of the impacts of exploitation, pollution, and climate change (see, e.g., this article). If we want to restore the reciprocal relationship humans have had with their rivers in the past, we need to listen to the rivers and engage in their stories.

Opening a New Story Book of Earth: Regenerating the Health of the Riverine Systems

We at the Earth Viability Center work to bring together humanity in an understanding of the reciprocity between us and the rivers we live with and live off of.

Your Comments and Questions

Please, send us comments you might have on the dashboard for the Earth's life-support system. Let us know if you have any questions.
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