Rivers: Currents of Change

April 5 – May 5, 2018

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Rivers are old geography rich with mythology. They are the highways of history that have floated canoes, scows and steamboats across prairies and through mountains. We have built bridges over them, disgorged our waste into them, dammed them and done our best to change rivers – at our peril.

Rivers are our past and our future – how much have we mortgaged that future?

Dams miles wide hold back the Mekong while ancient sampans drift downstream; the stench of sewage in the Thames closed the Houses of Parliament and led to modern sewage treatment; the Jordan, a tiny trickle of a river, has the political power to start wars.

5 Thursday Evening Talks
7:30 - 9:30 pm

Columbus Community Centre, 232 Spencer Street E., Cobourg

Sponsored by


5 Friday Morning Discussions
9:00 -11:00 am
Port Hope Public Library, 31 Queen Street, Port Hope


5 Special Event Sundays
$20 each
Walking, talking, singing about rivers.
See details below.



Week 1

April 5 Talk
Mekong Dams: Old Dreams, New Nightmares

Melting ice caps and rising sea levels threaten all of the world's river basins, but on the Lower Mekong River, where governments relentlessly pursue the unsustainable dream of endless hydroelectricity, the future is now.

Richard Cronin – Stimson Center, Washington D.C.

April 6 Discussion
The Jordan River: Source or Peace or Source of Conflict?

The Jordan River is modest in scale, yet it forms borders with Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Agreement on how to share the river is critical to peace.

David Brooks – University of Victoria

April 8 Special Event
River Song: Sailing the History of the St. Lawrence

Writer and musician Phil Jenkins sings and talks about his journeys on the St. Lawrence and its place in Canadian history. His talk will be illuminated by his collection of old St. Lawrence postcards.

2:00 pm – The Loft, 201 Division Street

Week 2

April 12 Talk
The Thames: Engineering Sewage -  From Public Health to Climate Change

England’s historic Thames River has played a social and environmental role of international significance from 19th century public health reform to 21st century climate change responses. We learn why some four letter words really matter.

Jamie Benidickson – University of Ottawa


April 13 Discussion
Rivers, Canoes and Canadian Stories

Can you think of any aspect of life in Canada – from politics to banking and drinking beer – that hasn’t been illuminated by images of rivers? A reflection on the place of canoes in Canadian life.

Jamie Benidickson – University of Ottawa


Week 3

April 19 Talk
The Saskatchewan Delta: Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge

The Saskatchewan Delta is a massive wetland and the source of life for Swampy Cree and Métis peoples. But it is threatened by fifty years of river regulation. Can we work together, bringing different knowledges and methods, to help this special place?

Tim Jardine – University of Saskatchewan
and Solomon Carriere, Cree Métis


April 20 Discussion
Do Rivers Need Floods?

Floods can mean death and destruction, yet they replenish wetlands and bring new life. A global look at how floods can promote biodiversity and productivity.

Tim Jardine – University of Saskatchewan and
Solomon Carriere, Cree Métis


April 22 Special Event
The Canadian Canoe Museum Tour

Celebrate Earth Day at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough with exclusive access to the warehouse collection of Canada’s historic canoes and a preview of the new museum – a building that looks like a river! Board the bus or meet us there.

1:00 – 5:00 pm
Bus stop – Port Hope Water Tower, Toronto Road and 401. 
Bus ride included in ticket price.

Week 4

April 26 Talk
The Amazon: An Eco System as Complex as it is Huge

The Amazon moves more water than any other river on earth. Its floods last for months and maintain the thousands of fish species that feed the river people. But this ecosystem is threatened by over fishing, cattle on the floodplain, and damming.

Michel Lapointe – McGill University


April 27 Discussion
How the Glacial Eras Fashioned Modern Rivers - Even in the Tropics

Over millions of years, rivers are affected by geological and climatic cycles. Today’s “fluvial geomorphologists” must read the effects on the landscape of these past events.

Michel Lapointe – McGill University


April 29 Special Event
Rivers - Their Words, Their Music

Readings From River Literature

Paul Kennedy - CBC IDEAS
Peter Delanty - former Mayor of Cobourg
Kate Story - writer and actor
Judy Maddren - past voice of CBC, Radio News

Music by David Newland and Uncharted Waters

Come and hear the poems and the stories of Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Margaret Atwood and more about the innocence and timelessness of rivers, the fear, the force and the pull of liquid history.

2:30 pm – Sculthorpe Theatre at the Cameco Capitol Theatre
20 Queen Street, Port Hope

Sponsored by


Week 5

May 3 Talk
Ganges and Spirituality

With its meandering mythological origins in the celestial Himalayan peaks, the Ganges River has become a goddess in the consciousness of India. Ram Murty looks at the role of the Ganges in Hinduism and the Indian ethos.

M. Ram Murty – Queen’s University


May 4 Discussion
The People of the Mekong River: Resiliency Through Change

Southeast Asia’s Mekong supports over 70 million people. Those who live on the Delta and rely on the river have created new lifestyles despite dams, commercialization and climate change.

Sarah Allen – York University


May 6 Special Event
Where the Water Flows: A Guided Walk Along the Ganaraska River

An ecological and historical journey down the Ganaraska from the Port Hope Conservation Area to the river’s mouth at Lake Ontario with Alison Elliott, Trinity College School Environmental Coordinator, and Ben Walters, Fleming College, Forestry.

Starts at 2:00 pm for 2–2.5 hours
Sturdy footwear required.
Dress for the weather.
More details will be provided closer to the date.


May 13 Special Event (Originally scheduled for April 15th)
Three Rivers: Wild Waters, Sacred Places

Artist Ron Bolt shares his perilous and soul searching Yukon journey down one of the last wild rivers in North America. Ron will show images of the work of eight artists, including his own, that came out of this journey and became a national touring exhibition.

1:00 pm – The Loft, 201 Division Street



This series is dedicated to Michael Mackenzie, 1926-2018, NLC founding board member.

Andrew J. Ryther