DESIGN WITH NATURE FRAMEWORK FOR SYSTEMS APPROACH TO GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: “Our partners in provincial and local government tell us that the oral history, and the intergenerational sharing and learning that goes with it, are rapidly being lost. The ramifications of this new reality create a sense of urgency to inform and educate BC audiences,” stated Kim Stephens when the Partnership for Water Sustainability released a legacy resource introducing the ‘green infrastructure continuum’ idea as metaphor for hope (February 2022)

Note to Reader:

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. The edition published on February 15, 2022 featured a conversation with Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) initiative. Dr. Grabowski is the lead author of a nationwide survey titled What is green infrastructure? A study of definitions in US city planning.

Green Infrastructure Continuum as an organizing idea is foundational to our Oral History in British Columbia

“In January 2022 this headline in an American publication caught my attention: Cities are murky on how they define ‘green infrastructure’. The headline distilled a key takeaway from the survey by the Cary Institute. This was a call to action for Tim Pringle and me. And so, we reached out to Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski to have a conversation and compare experience.  The conversation was an eye-opener and a trigger for reflection on a larger issue,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director.

“Our partners in provincial and local government tell us that the oral history, and the intergenerational sharing and learning that goes with it, are rapidly being lost. The ramifications of this new reality create a sense of urgency to inform and educate BC audiences. First, they need to know about the green infrastructure continuum. And secondly, they need to understand why it is significant, relevant and important as a foundational idea.”

“The continuum idea is a metaphor for hope. It allows us to answer the question, how well are we doing? The green infrastructure continuum is the way we measure progress to achieve the Living Water Smart vision for creating liveable communities and protecting stream health. The lynchpin for achieving these ‘design with nature’ outcomes is intergenerational collaboration, driven by systems thinking. Hope springs from a systematic and adaptive approach that builds on a solid foundation, and consistently gets it right.”

“There is a saying, look back to move forward. When each generation of practitioners understands and cares about the oral history of green infrastructure in a Living Water Smart context, then successive generations of land development and infrastructure servicing practitioners are more likely to select the right path forward at each generational inflection point. Another saying provides a time-based perspective for the intergenerational journey, measure progress by the distance travelled rather the distance still to go.”

Generational Amnesia means
“they don’t know what they don’t know”

“The continuum idea goes to the heart of the unifying theme for our current series of Waterbucket eNews storylines, overcoming generational amnesia. As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world and what we do. An ongoing challenge is to overcome generational amnesia so that communities learn from historical experience, apply this knowledge, and achieve better policy and financial outcomes.”

“In the 2-part legacy document that the Partnership published in February 2022, the green infrastructure spotlight shines on oral history as viewed through a BC lens. Stories are essential. We learn through stories. They help us see the forest for the trees. Coupled with this, knowledge and expertise flow from a building blocks process. There is no shortcut. The process takes time, commitment, and perseverance. Touching bases with someone from another jurisdiction allows for an informed comparison of where each is at in their journey along the continuum.”

“In Part 1, Dr. Z describes his moment of insight when he uncovered a ‘a grain of systems thinking within green infrastructure planning’. His revelation is the point of departure for Part 2. It allows us to connect the dots to our milestone in 2005 when BC’s Green Infrastructure Partnership developed a ‘Design With Nature’ framework for a whole-system approach that integrates across infrastructure systems.”

“In summary, we have learned that the state-of-the-art in the United States is now close to where British Columbia was in 2005. In the meantime, we have continued to progress and evolve our systems approach, and this is why Part 2 which is about EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is an essential read.”

“Design With Nature” framework for Green Infrastructure

Formed in 2003 and co-funded by the provincial government and the Real Estate Foundation, the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership (GIP) provided provincial leadership and influenced the nature and direction of the green infrastructure conversation in British Columbia. The work of the GIP is foundational to the Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC and the Partnership for Water Sustainability is “the keeper of the GIP legacy”.

The GIP framed green infrastructure in terms of six objectives for community development. At that time, the mantra was “create liveable communities and protect stream health”. Almost two decades later, this framework mirrors what Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski and his colleagues are now urging in the United States.


To read the complete story published on February 15th 2022, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Design With Nature Framework for Integrating Across Infrastructure Systems.