Ruth Mostern (马瑞诗) is Associate Professor of History and Director of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern: The Spatial Organization of the Song State (960-1276 CE) (Harvard Asia Center, 2011) and the co-editor of Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers (Indiana University Press , 2016). Her current book, Following the Tracks of Yu: The Imperial and Ecological Worlds of the Yellow River is in contract at Yale University Press. She is currently Pl on two NEH grants: one to develop content and infrastructure for an ecosystem of digital historical gazetteers, and one to design and launch an interdisciplinary curriculum about water in Central Asia.
From Neolithic times to the present day, the Yellow River and its watershed have both shaped and been shaped by human society. Using the Yellow River to illustrate the long-term effects of environmentally significant human activity, Ruth Mostern unravels the long history of the human relationship with water and soil and the consequences, at times disastrous, of ecological transformations that resulted from human decisions. As Mostern follows the Yellow River through three millennia of history, she underlines how governments consistently ignored the dynamic interrelationships of the river’s varied ecosystems—grasslands, riparian forests, wetlands, and deserts—and the ecological and cultural impacts of their policies. With an interdisciplinary approach informed by archival research and GIS (geographical information system) records, this groundbreaking volume provides unique insight into patterns, transformations, and devastating ruptures throughout ecological history and offers profound conclusions about the way we continue to affect the natural systems upon which we depend.