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Convening for Action in British Columbia

What happens on the land matters. Apply ‘cathedral thinking’ – a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to inter-generational implementation – to create a lasting water sustainability legacy. Convening for Action is a British Columbia process that is about moving from defining the problems (the ‘what’), to determining options (the ‘so what’), to taking action to achieve results (the ‘now what’), and after that, to replicating in other communities (the ‘then what’).

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia – Our Story (March 2018)


“Future planners, engineers, scientists, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism, working as a team towards consensus, commitment and collaboration for the common good. Such collaboration is essential and must cross all political and community boundaries given that climate change is no respecter of such creations. The Partnership has accepted this challenge and its implementation,” stated Eric Bonham.

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Green, Heal and Restore the Earth: Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” vision has influenced implementation of British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan


In his 1969 book, Design With Nature, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “So, I commend Design with Nature to your sympathetic consideration. 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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Convening for Action in British Columbia


“Convening for Action is a provincial initiative that supports innovation on-the-ground. From the perspective of those leading and/or participating in regional programs, having this community-of-interest provides the opportunity to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” states Ray Fung. “It will turn ideas into action by building capacity and understanding regarding integration of long-term, strategic planning and the implementation of physical infrastructure.”

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DRINKING WATER & WATERSHED PROTECTION IN THE NANAIMO REGION: “We engage with volunteers in the Englishman River watershed and other watersheds across our region,” stated Julie Pisani, Regional District of Nanaimo, when she explained the region’s partnership-based water quality monitoring program in a panel session on ‘Watershed Health and You’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (watch on YouTube)


“Through the efforts of stewardship volunteers, the RDN’s Community Watershed Monitoring Network has successfully completed 7+ years of monitoring surface water quality. A recent study has analyzed the data region-wide, modelling land use factors and their connection to water quality results, including for the Englishman River,” explained Julie Pisani. “We have worked very closely with Ministry of Environment staff who helped us to decide what the key parameters are to monitor in order to get a baseline understanding of watershed health.”

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: “An Introduction to the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP)”, released at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (April 2019)


“The Ecological Accounting Process offers some insights on the importance of considering the natural commons as systems that residents, property owners and local governments rely on, but understand only to a limited extent,” stated Tim Pringle. “The commons are those resources in the community that are shared by and available to all residents and property owners. From a human settlement point of view, the reality of the commons provides a way to understand the social realities of managing ecological systems. EAP helps communities calculate what ecological services are worth.”

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: “Man is that uniquely conscious creature who can perceive and express. He must become the steward of the biosphere. To do this, he must design with nature,” wrote Ian McHarg in Chapter 1 of his landmark book that is his enduring legacy (published in 1969)


More manifesto than scholarly text, Ian McHarg’s now-canonical book arrived amidst the tumult of an ascendant, leftist environmental movement—one that delivered a series of landmark political victories in the 1970s, a period that would become known as “the environmental decade.” It remains one of the best-selling books ever written by a designer, has been translated into Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, and remains in print today.

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IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: Maybe we are not doomed after all. We have the brains. Do we have the will?


In 1995, acclaimed marine biologist Daniel Pauly coined the term “shifting baselines” to describe a phenomenon of lowered expectations. This is a foundation piece for implementing restorative development, reconnecting hydrology and ecology, and bending the curve to restore stream systems. Accepted ‘standards of practice’ – especially those for engineering, planning and finance – influence the form and function of the Built Environment. The goal of shifting to an ecologically functioning and resilient baseline and creating a creekshed legacy will ultimately depend on the nature of change to standards of practice.

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WETLANDS – KIDNEYS OF THE EARTH: “Past land developers did not realize the importance of wetlands, so over 85% of Okanagan wetlands have been filled in or drained. This loss has reduced our ability to manage seasonal floods,”stated Alison Peatt, co-author of Building Climate Resilience in the Okanagan


The guide summarizes climate challenges, and introduces solutions to support Okanagan homeowners in their efforts to protect and enhance their real estate investment from the ongoing challenges of climate change. “The task for the multiple guide authors was how to synthesise all these complex issues into key messages that would help the homeowner connect the dots. Hence the resource guide helps the reader link concepts such as the loss of wetlands to increased flood risk,” stated Alison Peatt. Interwoven throughout the booklet are Syilx Okanagan Peoples perspectives.

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HOW WILL BRITISH COLUMBIA ADAPT TO FIRE WEATHER: “Hope is active leadership. The Indigenous rooted theory of Blue Ecology, or a water-first approach to understanding and dealing with climate change, is a well-spring of hope,” states Michael Blackstock, author


“The signs of climate change are all around us. Earth mother’s lifeblood (i.e. water) is becoming sparse in the Pacific Northwest, and some Indigenous Elders say this is happening because humans are not showing respect to water,” said Michael Blackstock. “Water withdraws itself from the disrespectful. Water is transforming from ice, to sea and river water, and then to traversing atmospheric rivers. Water was sleeping as ice, but now it is moving rapidly and unpredictably around our planet. Some places are deluged, while others lay tongue-parched.”

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2019 SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP CONGRESS IN VANCOUVER: “Implementing sustainable solutions demands leaders who are more emotionally aware and open to learn from those on the leading-edge paving the way,” says Connie Linder, Founder and CEO of Intengine and the Global Change Foundation


“The Intengine Global Change Foundation is making sustainability as a lifestyle and strategy more accessible by providing funding, access, tools and education for sustainability advocates and leaders so they can expand their knowledge and bring this awareness into their profession – whatever that may be,” stated Connie Linder. “Our vision for the future is one that we all likely share, in which economic prosperity needn’t come at the cost of irreplaceable natural resources or violated human rights.”

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YOUTUBE VIDEO > Reflections on the 2015 Drought: “Southwest British Columbia dodged a bullet,” stated Kim Stephens in an interview published by The Province newspaper (Dec 2015)


On a positive note, Kim Stephens said the water issue is gaining a prominence in the public’s mind which it has never had. “People in general have not appreciated how vulnerable we’ve always been. They’re beginning to see how essential it is,” he said. Stephens advises the public to stay positive and not succumb to a negative state of mind. “Drought is not the end of the world. Australia survived a seven-year drought. People get through it,” he said. “The clock is ticking. Communities need to leverage this teachable year and seize opportunities to change how the water resource is viewed and managed,”

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PARKSVILLE 2019 SYMPOSIUM: The right players were present, the urgency for meaningful collaboration was recognized, and ‘can do’ success stories were shared in order to explain why and how restorative land development would result in sustainable stream restoration on Vancouver Island and beyond


“Thank you so much for the immense amount of work you do to protect ecosystem services and teach us all about taking responsibility. The Vancouver Island symposium on water stewardship was so inspiring and informative. It was a wonderful experience. I left Parksville feeling hopeful,” stated Councillor Laura Dupont, City of Port Coquitlam. This article provides a re-cap and a synopsis of the modules comprising the symposium program, and features three “stories behind the stories”.

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CITIZEN SCIENCE IN ACTION, PROTECTING BC HABITAT: “Annual workshops provide an opportunity for stakeholders to learn about topics of local interest and plan ways that they can make a difference,” states Glen Parker, North Shore Streamkeepers


“Throughout BC, there is an amazing network of volunteer groups working to protect riparian habitat, monitor salmonid health and support hatcheries to enhance local salmonid populations. Each group has stories to share about how their members participate as citizen scientists in efforts to support this iconic species,” states Glen Parker. “Other projects focus on education and awareness-building. About once a year we host a 1-day workshop for Streamkeepers and other related groups.”

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