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Ecological Accounting Process

ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROTOCOL: “To protect watershed health, engineered infrastructure ought to fit into natural systems, rather than the other way around,” stated Tim Pringle at the FLOWnGROW workshop (Nov 2016)


The Protocol is an economic tool to make real the notion of ‘watersheds as infrastructure assets’. “There are some philosophical principles that guide us,” stated Tim Pringle. “Foremost is that water is an ecosystem. It supports all of the living ecology that we treasure. The other principle is that we know that practitioners have knowledge and ability to do things on the ground in a more successful, sustainable way than we often see.”

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Ian McHarg’s “Design With Nature” vision has influenced development of the Ecological Accounting Protocol


Renowned landscape architect, writer and educator Ian L. McHarg (1920-2001) was best known for introducing environmental concerns in landscape architecture. His 1969 book Design With Nature pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!,” wrote Ian McHarg.

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FLASHBACK TO 2011: The Most Efficient Infrastructure is ‘Design with Nature’ – Start With Water Sustainability (President’s Perspective – an article by Tim Pringle foreshadowed development of the Ecological Accounting Protocol)


“Designing with nature is efficient. It amounts to using income from natural capital rather than drawing down the resource,” wrote Tim Pringle. “The key principle is that settlement and ecology are equal values. This condition is prerequisite for designing with nature and it supports better control of the life-cycle costs of providing infrastructure for the built environment.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: How does a community weigh the benefits and liabilities of change driven by demand for land use? – contextual article by Tim Pringle is a foundation piece for Ecological Accounting Protocol


The key principle is that settlement and ecology are equal values and they must be as much in balance as possible for wellbeing of human and natural systems. “If we were in fact measuring ecological values, there would be more ‘weights’ (reliable data) on the ecology side of the balance scale; thus leading to more informed conclusions and hence different decisions,” stated Tim Pringle.

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Getting the Most from Infrastructure Assets: Ecological Accounting Protocol (Part 2 of 2) (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Fall 2016)


“The Ecological Accounting Protocol (EAP) is an economic tool to make real the notion of ‘watersheds as infrastructure assets’. EAP would support four related analytical approaches to capital expenditure and life cycle costs represented in infrastructure (drainage) services drawn from natural assets. These are Substitution, Cost Avoidance, Environmental (watershed health) Benefits, and Attributed Values,” wrote Tim Pringle. “EAP would make sustainable service delivery more robust with the inclusion of the value and costs
associated with the use of services from natural assets to supply infrastructure.”

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Getting the Most from Infrastructure Assets: The idea of ecological accounting (Part 1 of 2) (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Winter 2016)


Tim Pringle coined the phrase ecological accounting protocol. “The purpose is to enable comparison of engineered infrastructure to natural systems by means of common units of measurement and value,” states Tim Pringle. “The challenge is in HOW to calculate the most effective blend of services from nature and engineered infrastructure. The need for measurement and valuation is paramount.”

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