Everything Is Just Dandy!

River thinking: Towards a holistic approach to watery places in the human imaginary

Wiley: River Research and Applications: Table of Contents
Michael Davis
2022 01 11


‘Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf’ (Aldo Leopold. (1949/1989). A Sand county almanac, p. 129). How do we think about rivers and waterways? In this paper I meditate on the notion of ‘thinking like a river’, to ask questions about how rivers and other waterways are conceptualised in the human imaginary, and in relation to peoples, place and ecology. The paper speculates on an ontology and phenomenology of watery places; to explore alternative ways of seeing and thinking. It poses the possibility that alternative epistemologies of nature can facilitate a deeper thinking that embraces connectivity – the idea that rivers and waterways are intrinsically connected with place, peoples and landscape. I draw on three rivers and bodies of water, two in Australia and one in Aotearoa, New Zealand, to explore how these are being re-imagined in more holistic ways, embracing Indigenous First Law, cosmologies and epistemologies, and framing them in discourses of Earth laws.