This site holds a rich compilation of pre-PDF works by Luna Leopold, one of the early luminaries of fluvial geomorphology. The site's a bit odd in that nobody takes credit for it, but it holds nearly 200 PDF files of his works.
I've always liked Leopold's writing style, and reading Sand County Almanac, written by his father Aldo, a true pioneer of ecological thinking, in a grad school soils class was something I'll never forget (see the "atom X" passage, and thanks, Gray Henderson, wherever you are.)
In scanning the PDF list I saw this one: A reverence for rivers. It's the text of a keynote speech given in 1977 (the year I graduated high school), and published in Geology. This short talk is an incredibly thoughtful and well-written treatment of water resources science, engineering, and management.
Leopold manages to weave stories of the Greek Herodotus and Persian reverence for rivers into an ongoing California drought and the rising conservation ethic of the day, and in his fashion, write beautifully about the statistics of risk and flood return intervals, engineering design, and the perils of letting raw economic forces control all use of natural resources:
The management of resources cannot be carried out successfully if it is looked upon as just another facet of economics, administration, and politics. Yet the latter view describes rather accurately our present approach to resource use (it can hardly be called management).
We haven't move forward much, have we? He finishes with this:
Man’s engineering capabilities are nearly limitless. Our economic views are too insensitive to be the only criteria for judging the health of the river organism. What is needed is a gentler basis for perceiving the effects of our engineering capabilities. This more humble view of our relation to the hydrologic system requires a modicum of reverence for rivers.
Luna died in 2006.
Labels: Aldo Leopold, conservation, engineering, fluvial geomorphology, Luna Leopold, Sand County Almanac