The FLOW Bookshelf

Each issue of the Monitor includes summaries of recently released water books written by FLOW members and other Canadian water experts.

 February 2020

The First Century of the International Joint Commission

Edited by Murray Clamen and Daniel Macfarlane

University of Calgary Press (2019)

The International Joint Commission (IJC), created by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, is one of the world’s oldest international environmental bodies. As a pioneering piece of transborder water governance, it has been integral to the modern Canada-United States relationship, as well as the many border waters these two nations share.

This new book seeks to separate myths from reality, uncovering the historical evolution of the IJC from its inception to the present. The First Century of the International Joint Commission, edited by FLOW member Murray Clamen and Daniel Macfarlane, an associate professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at Western Michigan University, features an impressive interdisciplinary group of contributors, including FLOW members Ralph Pentland and Ted Yuzyk. The book examines different aspects of the many border environments from east to west, with contributions focusing on water quality and quantity as well as air quality and Indigenous issues.

This edited collection addresses questions such as: How successful has the IJC historically been? How important is the Commission to the larger Canadian-American relationship? Why has the history of the Commission received little focused and sustained scholarly attention? How can the experiences of the IJC inform present and future policy as governments grapple with complicated water quantity, water quality, and climate change problems?

This book is available through University of Calgary Press. A free open access version will be available shortly.

The Anthropocene Disruption

By Bob Sandford

Rocky Mountain Books (2019)

In The Anthropocene Disruption, Bob Sanford explores the role and impact of human agency on Earth’s system function and its ability to support life. This exploration starts with a single transformative idea: in what is now being heralded as the Second Copernican Revolution, Earth scientists have discovered that our self-regulating planetary life support system is a single, dynamic integrated system, and not a collection of ecosystems as we once thought.

The view that the planet needs to be understood as unified, complex, evolving system that is more than the sum of its parts has led to a reconceptualization of Earth system science. We now understand ourselves to be in the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch defined by human influence on Earth system function. The upshot, says Sanford, is that the Earth’s history has now become so entwined with the history of humanity that the fate of one now determines the fate of the other.

This important and timely book addresses some of the most challenging questions of our time. How alarmed should we be by the conditions we see emerging as we advance into the Anthropocene? If alarm is a reasonable response, what should we do about it? Is the concept of an Anthropocene Epoch valid enough to force humanity to create a new species narrative? If so, how do we define that narrative and how do we share it first where we live and then around the world?


This book is available through Rocky Mountain Books.

Rain Comin' Down

By Bob Sandford

Rocky Mountain Books (2019)

As one of the world’s foremost authorities on the connections between water, landscape, and our changing climate, Bob Sandford has spent a lot of time watching and thinking about water. In Rain Comin’ Down, Sanford provides a series of essays that explore the countless ways in which water defines the very fabric of our existence.

As this book demonstrates, one cannot but be surprised when one takes up the study of water seriously where that interest can take you. It takes you from the very origins of the cosmos right down to the unique structure and remarkable qualities of water as a molecule. It takes you to the depths of the ocean, to the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere; to the centres of storms; you fall with raindrops to Earth; you travel tiny streams and great rivers, go round and round in lakes; it takes you into the roots of trees, into soil, along the dark, dank banks of underground rivers. It takes you from one person’s thirst to the thirst of nations; from the demographics of the past to how they may change in the absence of water in decades to come. Following water takes one back and forth in time, linking us to what the Earth was like in the past; what it is now; and how water will shape what it will be in the future.

Pull on any thread in the fluid fabric that holds our world together and you will see that thread connected somehow to every other. This book is about those liquid threads.


This book is available through Rocky Mountain Books.

Levelling the Lake

By Jamie Benidickson

University of British Columbia Press (2019)

Jamie Benidickson’s Leveling the Lake: Transboundary Resource Management in the Lake of the Woods Watershed is a very thoughtful and objective presentation of historical facts. As Benidickson clearly shows, laws can be very blunt instruments that don`t always protect all. Readers of this book will better understand how the settler culture not only disregarded Treaty 3, to which all in the basin remain signatory, but disrespected and cheated the Indigenous signatories to that treaty. Parts of this story are actually painful to read.

While subdued in tone, the book carefully and valuably analyzes how ecosystems and relations between people can decline from one generation to the next to the point at which they become toxic not just to the people who live in the basin but to all life. It is also a book that quietly but forcibly puts into relief how long-term economic and social security can only be assured through mutual trust among peoples and the maintenance and reestablishment of ecological balance.

As Benidickson makes alarmingly clear, we are all in this together, occupying shared places and common ground. And we must continue lumbering, as Jamie Benidickson puts it, toward sustainability.


This book is available through University of British Columbia Press.

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