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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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THE CUYAHOGA RIVER CAUGHT FIRE 50 YEARS AGO. IT INSPIRED A MOVEMENT: “In 2019, will the record rate of melting of Greenland’s glaciers at the same time as the Amazon forest is burning be the ‘Cuyahoga River moment’ for Generations X, Y and Z?” wrote Kim Stephens in the first article of a new season of Waterbucket News (September 2019)


“Throughout B.C. today, there are many ‘elders in action’ still doing good work, applying a lifetime of experience and passion to tackle local, regional and provincial matters. Now is the time to learn from their efforts and what it means to be knowledgeable, giving one’s time for the common good, working on solutions, and getting results. Elders in action are beacons of hope,” states Kim Stephens. “Elders are leading by example to bridge a demographic gap until Generations X, Y and Z take the baton. Learn from our experience. Build on it. Get the wheel rolling. Time is of the essence. It is 2 minutes to midnight. The future is here, NOW.”

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GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: “Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development” (#8 in the Watershed Case Profile Series, released September 2019)


“The Town was not willing to entertain any development in middle Brooklyn unless there was a demonstrated program that would eliminate any increased risks to the Town; be they flooding or environmental,” stated Shelley Ashfield. “When the EAP analysis then connected the creek to the concept of it being an asset of the Town, this provided Staff with one more way to link the stream to the health of the community. The concept of the stream as an asset allows the Town to include it in the plans to manage all of the Town’s assets on behalf of the community for future generations.”

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OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: British Columbia’s Green Communities Committee recognizes the City of Kimberley for its climate action commitment (September 2019)


The Green Communities Committee (GCC) was established under the Climate Action Charter to support local governments in achieving their climate goals. “By signing the Climate Action Charter, the City has made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Scott Sommerville, City Chief Administrative Officer. “This is important work and while accolades are always great to receive, we have even more work to do to meet our goals. We look forward to sharing those updates as we see more progress on climate action.”

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CARING FOR TOMORROW: Why haven’t we stopped climate change? We’re not wired to empathize with our descendants, says Dr. Jamil Zaki, director of the Stanford University Social Neuroscience Laboratory


“Human activity is now a dominant force in shaping the Earth’s environment, but humanity’s moral senses have not kept pace with this power. Our actions reverberate across the world and across time, but not enough of us feel the weight of their consequences. Empathy could be an emotional bulwark against a warming world, if our collective care produced collective action. But it evolved to respond to suffering right here, right now. Our empathic imagination is not naturally configured to stretch around the planet or toward future generations,” wrote Jamil Zaki.

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ARTICLE: Reflections on Intergenerational Learning, Or Not? – a core message is that different generations have different perspectives because of the way they grew up which formed beliefs and thinking patterns (Asset Management BC Newsletter, July 2019)


“Asset management (for sustainable service delivery) and water sustainability are both top priorities for local governments. But the primary challenge is ‘integration’ and getting every discipline or department within an organization to recognize the contributions of the others plus get the organization working together on a common path. Another major challenge is communicating and understanding the message. The work environment is changing with time as are the methods of communicating and the form of the messages,” wrote Wally Wells.

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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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