DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Know Your History and Context to Offset Generational Amnesia” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“SHARE INFORMATION. INFORM DECISIONS.” This soundbite lines up nicely with the mission of Waterbucket eNews which is to help its readers make sense of a complicated world. 

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes.

The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on November 9, 2021 featured Daniel Pauly’s Shifting Baselines Syndrome. It comprised two stories in one, with the second one being brought forward from 2014. It provided historical context regarding a vision for re-setting the baseline through implementation of a whole-system approach that integrates the site with the stream, watershed, and groundwater aquifer.

The latter is an essay that connected the dots between Daniel Pauly’s work and the goals of Resilient Rainwater Management. It served to inform audiences across Canada when the Partnership for Water Sustainability delivered a National Rainwater Management Workshop Series.

Generational Amnesia: Reflections on the Memory Loss that Harms the Planet

“In 1995, UBC’s Daniel Pauly coined the term Shifting Baseline Syndrome to explain why and how ecological decline is incremental and imperceptible over multiple generations. In a 2003 interview, the NY Times described Daniel Pauly as ‘an iconoclastic fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia who is so decidedly global in his life and outlook that he is nearly a man without a country’,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.

“Daniel Pauly has had a profound influence on the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. He has been a source of inspiration for the past decade. While communities cannot restore lost diversity, the Partnership believes that communities can halt ecological decline and consciously direct efforts into bending the trend-line in an upward direction.”

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:  This graphic is from Daniel Pauly’s TED Talk in 2010 when he told the story behind The Shifting Baseline.

There are consequences when
“They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know”

“Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact. One of the first times this particular type of generational amnesia was observed was back in the 1990s,” stated Richard Fisher, a journalist with BBC Future.

“What this blindspot meant, Daniel Pauly argued in a short-but-influential paper, was that the scientists were failing to account fully for the slow creep of disappearing species, and each generation accepted the depleted ocean biodiversity they inherited as normal. He dubbed the effect ‘shifting baseline syndrome’.”

“Since then, the shifting baseline effect has been observed far more widely than the fisheries community – it takes place in any realm of society where a baseline creeps imperceptibly over generations.”


To read the complete story published on November 9th 2021, download a PDF copy of  Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Know Your History and Context to Offset Generational Amnesia.