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The Organic Machine The Remaking of the Columbia River By Richard White New York Hill and Wang 1995 ix 130 pp Paperback 1200 ISBN 0-8090-1583-8 In a close examination of the history and development of the Columbia River The Organic Machine The Remaking of the Columbia River connects the elements of natural and artificial energy in order to reveal both the beauty and the danger of the Columbia today In his book Richard White does a brilliant job of uniting humans and human ingenuity with the growth of the Columbia River and its region His argument that human history cannot be known without natural history and vice versa is clearly and poignantly developed through his writing and his work does an excellent job of linking relationships between man the river and salmon The title itself is an oxymoron that displays Whites idea that the Columbia River has been capitalized and made into a profitable venture for man whereas its natural aspects have been underappreciated forgotten and overlooked In this riveting study White carefully outlines the history of the river beginning with its discovery in the early nineteenth century The one characteristic most commonly noted in all early accounts was that of the rivers extreme power and force and is detailed by account after account of failed attempts to sail the river With attempts to travel along the river came the increased encounters with various tribes of the Pacific Northwest White writes that passage along the river was not just physical it was social and political 14 It was factors like this that forced racial interaction growth and the spread of ideas to the region Originally the most beneficial aspect of the river was salmon which were abundant in many areas of the river The salmon itself is a bundle of energy through it ability to store fat only to be burned as energy as it swims upstream to spawn White in his study reveals
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