Skip to main content

News & events

Daniel L. and Irma Evans Lecture

The Daniel L. and Irma Evans Endowed Lectureship provides an opportunity to deepen the understanding of engineering by exposing students and practicing engineers to the concepts, challenges, concerns and methods they will interact with throughout their careers.

Dan, Roger and Robert Evans established the endowed lecture in 1983 to memorialize and honor the human and broad societal outlook of their parents.

2024 lecturer

Rivers of Power: How an ancient force rules us still

Thursday, May 9, 3:30 p.m.
Alder Hall Auditorium

Reception with light food and drinks in the Alder Hall Commons following the lecture.
The lecture will be in-person and the recording will be saved on this page.

Dr. Laurence C. Smith

Featuring Dr. Laurence C. Smith

John Atwater and Diana Nelson
University Professor of Environmental Studies 
Institute at Brown for Environment & Society (IBES)
Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University


This talk will explore some of the many ways that humans have used rivers over time, and how we continue to do so today. Since our earliest cities established along the Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, Nile, and Yellow Rivers, anthropogenic use of rivers has changed over time and varied by region. Yet their critical importance has persisted because they provide five fundamental benefits: access, natural capital, territory, well-being, and a means of projecting power. The manifestations of these benefits have changed, but societal demands for them have not.


Laurence C. Smith is the John Atwater and Diana Nelson University Professor of Environmental Studies in the Institute at Brown for Environment & Society (IBES) and Earth, Department of Environmental and Planetary Sciences (DEEPS) at Brown University. Previously, he was Professor and Chair of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he also held a joint appointment in the Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences. His research interests include the Arctic, water resources, and satellite remote sensing technologies. He is a Guggenheim Fellow of the John S. Guggenheim Foundation and an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). His work has appeared prominently in Assessment Reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is currently assisting NASA with a new satellite mission to monitor global water resources, and the World Economic Forum with social science issues of Arctic development.

His general-audience book THE WORLD IN 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future (Plume: New York, 2011; U.K. edition titled THE NEW NORTH, Profile: London, 2011 with translations in 14 languages) synthesizing cross-cutting trends in natural resource demand, demographics, globalization, and climate change with emphasis on northern countries was winner of the Walter P. Kistler Book Award and a NATURE Editor’s Pick of 2012. His second book RIVERS OF POWER, about rivers and society (Hachette Group USA/Canada; Penguin Press U.K; plus overseas translation editions), was a GEOGRAPHICAL Best Book of 2020. His research has received coverage in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, The Financial Times, Discover Magazine, NPR, CBC Radio, BBC and others.

This lecture is open to the public. No RSVP required.

View Past Lecturers