The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River

by Richard White

Hardcover, 1995




Hill & Wang Pub (1995), Edition: First Edition, First Printing, 130 pages


The Hill and Wang Critical Issues Series: concise, affordable works on pivotal topics in American history, society, and politics. In this pioneering study, White explores the relationship between the natural history of the Columbia River and the human history of the Pacific Northwest for both whites and Native Americans. He concentrates on what brings humans and the river together: not only the physical space of the region but also, and primarily, energy and work. For working with the river has been central to Pacific Northwesterners' competing ways of life. It is in this way that White comes to view the Columbia Riveras an organic machine--with conflicting human and natural claims--and to show that whatever separation exists between humans and nature exists to be crossed.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member waterarchives
Richard White has an ability to describe in easy prose the interconnectivity of humans and nature that causes his readers to stop and think, "Of course, but why didn't I see that before." This tight book is a great read, with its focus on the Columbia River and the seemingly unending attempts to change, harness, capture, exploit, etc., its flow. White gives readers a reason to reassess their thoughts on the Columbia River Basin's social and environmental history. His apt desciptions, like dams as a kind of "ghost technology " (x), and, "In a democracy boredom works for bureaucracies and corporations as smell works for a skunk. It keeps danger away" (64), kept me reading. A worthy book in nearly every way.… (more)
LibraryThing member srfbluemama
This book is fascinating and really makes you think about the myriad ways that humans have changed the environment that they live in. This book is especially relevant today, as salmon populations on the West Coast are lower than ever. It's short and well-written.


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