Potential Approaches to Establishing Harmonious River-human
Relationships to Avoid Ugly Divorce
This paper responds to a call to address the development and building of
river-human relationships in the 21 st Century. Many
literatures have identified the historical instrumental exploitation of
natural resources underpinning urbanisation and the economic development
of industry and society as leading to the wide-spread degradation of
environments including rivers. Clearly such relationships can no longer
be considered as appropriate in the 21 st Century.
This paper intends to present a conceptual rethink to address the
following question: Are there potential approaches by which humans can
develop harmonious coexistent relationships with riverine landscapes and
associated ecosystems? In answering this question, this paper draws on
ideas from new materialism thinking. New materialism offers useful
guidance in understanding human-river relationships in which river
landscapes are not static backgrounds to the performance of the social.
River systems and environments are active participants influencing and
shaping social performances through multiple and diverse interconnected
and complex human-nonhuman relationships and co-productive partnerships.
It is concluded that new materialist perspectives provide important
guidance for developing harmonious river-human relationships.
De-centring the human as the dominant actor in relations with river
landscapes and acknowledging rivers as key stakeholders within
river-human relationships may enhance the building of harmonious
coexistent and mutually beneficial relationships in the 21
st Century. It is further concluded the Nature Futures
Framework (NFF) and Human-River Encounter Sites (HRES) frameworks in
their capacity to accommodate new materialist thinking provide an
opportunity for further exploration and examination of the possibilities
for building harmonious coexistent river-human relationships.