Note to Reader:
The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC mainstreams big ideas in a pragmatic way. Michael Blackstock’s vision for interweaving First Nations cultural knowledge and Western science – Blue Ecology – is especially powerful.
Five years ago, on World Water Day, Michael Blackstock was presenting his Blue Ecology theory at a water conference hosted by Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
Fast forward to the eve of World Water Day 2017, the date of record for launching a book titled “downstream: reimagining water”. It documents Michael’s presentation in a chapter. The book’s cover was also painted by Michael; the painting is entitled “Adams River Sockeye Run”.
World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
“Blue Ecology is just a starting point in this new era of interweaving,” states Michael Blackstock – an independent scholar, professional forester and chartered mediator of European and Gitxsan descent
“The book ‘downstream: reimagining water’ is an anthology,” explains Michael Blackstock. “It brings together the perspectives of artists, writers, scientists, scholars, environmentalists, and activists. It does this by exploring the key roles that culture, arts, and the humanities play in supporting healthy water-based ecology.”
Getting from Sovereign to Collaborative!
“My chapter is titled Interweaving Water,” states Michael Blackstock. “It outlines four steps toward transforming sovereign knowledge into collaborative knowledge: (1) humility, (2) transcending, (3) interweaving, and finally (4) transformation. I illustrate this process using the theory of Blue Ecology.”
“Our children’s children will be faced with daunting, complex, and urgent environmental problems. The impending crisis requires us to begin to lay a foundation for our children’s children to have a starting point, and some options to grasp in the urgent moment. We owe them hope.”
“I view Western science and Indigenous ways of knowing as sovereign entities. A great deal of energy goes into rationalizing, promoting, and protecting an epistemology. However, now we need to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.”
“We can build a collaborative epistemological framework if we transcend sovereign contemporary narrative’s boundaries, and literally mine each epistemology for gems that can be interwoven in a collaborative manner.”
NOTE: Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief.
“Curiosity about other cultures draws us into a better understanding, and allows us to contrast and compare two worlds. The product of curiosity is an analysis whereby comparison and contrast enable the interweaving process.”
“Once I understood the strengths and contrasts of each perspective on water, I was ready for the interweaving process and published papers that showed how interweaving could happen.
“Interweaving is about creating a new form of knowledge through collaboration by interweaving useful threads from each way of knowing into a more robust way.”
“Interweaving is not integration, just as equality is not about assimilation and creativity is not empirical. Interweaving is collaborative and incremental rather than a revolutionary process. Collaborators identify packets of knowledge that would benefit from the interweaving process.”
“Blue Ecology is an ecological philosophy, which emerged from interweaving First Nations and Western thought. It is meant to be a companion because it augments existing Western science hydrology rather than displacing this knowledge.”
NOTE: Blue Ecology aligns with the whole-system, water balance approach that the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC champions for restoration of watershed function within the built environment.
“The main axiom of transformation is: It costs you nothing to change your attitude. A new collaborative knowledge attitude will open up new worlds of possibility.”
“The Blue Ecology vision is collaborative, not competitive,” emphasizes Michael Blackstock.
A New Way of Looking at Water
“Hope is not a passive desire but an active attitude.”
“I really see the value of each culture being genuinely curious about each other and willing to interweave to resolve disputes: This is my action.”
“Now is the time to act on the belief that if we interweave our strengths as traditional knowledge keepers, scientists, poets, artists, and architects in a collaborative manner, we can make a difference.”
“Blue Ecology is an incremental example of how we can interweave cultural perspectives on water, but that is just a starting point in this new era of interweaving.”
“The shared vision of the book contributors is that ‘downstream: reimagining water’ will contribute to the formation of an intergenerational, culturally inclusive, participatory water ethic,” concludes Michael Blackstock.