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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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COVID-19 PANDEMIC / WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE WORLD’S TOP FISHERY SCIENTIST: “We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there,” states Dr. Daniel Pauly when he explains the Shifting Baselines Syndrome, a term that he coined for an essay in 1995, and that helped to start the field of historical ecology


These are challenging and life-altering times as all of us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. In a very real sense, the situation parallels how it must have felt in 1940 when WW2 changed everything. Our COVID-19 response proves British Columbians can mobilize in a common cause when confronted with a life-altering emergency that impacts all. Viewed in this context, Dr. Daniel Pauly offers timely words of wisdom for “bending the curve” in the years and decades ahead to achieve ecological restoration and, in the process, adapt to a changing climate. When there is a will, there is a way. Keep calm and carry on.

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FLASHBACK TO 2011 AND THE VANCOUVER ISLAND ECONOMIC SUMMIT: “We have moved beyond continuing education solely for the purpose of professional development. We are exploring what implementation of regional policy means on the ground,” stated Glen Westendorp at a pre-summit forum about the unfunded infrastructure liability as a driver for sustainable service delivery


Comox Valley local governments are aligning efforts, building leadership capacity and striving for consistency. “The four Comox Valley local governments and the Comox Valley Land Trust are ‘convening for action’ around a water-centric approach to land development,” stated Glenn Westendorp. “All those involved in land development have a role to play in achieving Sustainable Service Delivery. The players include land use and infrastructure professionals.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia” – rollout of the second in the Beyond the Guidebook Series of guidance documents commenced with a presentation to elected representatives at Union of BC Municipalities Convention


“We will use this coming together of BC's local leaders to share and learn from each other's experiences, and gain ideas to move our own communities forward,” said Harry Nyce. “The spirit of collaboration and newfound bonds that we have fostered in 2010 are undeniably valuable. But without action, we cannot move our communities forward. This year’s Convention will offer an opportunity to…. take our goals, and forge them into tangible outcomes….and continue to build gold medal standard communities.”

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DOWNLOAD: Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate – Vancouver Island Symposia Series At a Glance (released January 2020)


The first two symposia were held in Nanaimo (2018) and Parksville (2019), respectively. The third is in the Comox Valley (2020). “The Symposia programs are built around success stories – inspirational in nature, local in scale, and precedent-setting in scope and outcome. In short, these precedents can be replicated and/or adapted in other communities,” stated Paul Chapman. “The symposium format provides a neutral forum for local elected representatives, local government staff, stewardship groups and others to ‘convene for action’ to improve where we live.”

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LEGACY DOCUMENT: Re-Cap and Reflections on Parksville 2019, second in the Vancouver Island Symposia Series on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate (released October 2019)


Close to 200 delegates came from far and wide to participate in the Parksville 2019 Symposium, the second in the symposia series. “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.

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FLASHBACK TO 2006: “The Convening for Action initiative creates an opportunity to turn ideas into action,” stated Erik Karlsen in a magazine article about the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, and published by Construction Business


The Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia provides a partnership umbrella for an array of on-the-ground initiatives. “We are building on the successful precedent that the former Ministry of Water, Land & Air Protection established in 2002 when the Ministry published . The Guidebook set in motion a chain of outcomes that has resulted in British Columbia being recognized internationally as a leader in implementing a natural systems approach to rainwater management in the urban environment,” stated Erik Karlsen.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “A vision with a task is the hope of the world,” stated Kim Stephens in his panel presentation about Uncertain Water Supplies at the 2nd Annual Symposium on Planning for Resilience hosted by the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning


“Time and time again in my career, I have seen how we create layers of complexity around assumptions. Take any kind of an issue, drill down or peel back the layers of the onion, until you get to the simple assumption. So often, experience shows, the assumption is flawed. If you ask a different question, you may get a different answer,” stated Kim Stephens. “Too often, we seem to lose sight of the fact that the future is unpredictable. Part of that may be resulting from our increasing dependence on computers. They are great but computers are not a substitute for judgment.”

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CONVENING FOR ACTION ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “A Guide to Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley” – In December 2015, the Joint Staff Training Workshop organized by the Comox Valley Regional Team initiated an educational process for communicating ‘design with nature’ expectations in urban watersheds


“The Water-Wise Guide communicates consistent expectations for how the valley can mitigate environmental concerns,” stated Kris La Rose. “The Guide is a collaboration between all four local governments, MOTI, the stewardship sector and the private sector. It is designed to be visually engaging, easy to read, have front counter ‘branding’ consistent to all four local government planning counters, with tips for applicants on how to prepare successful plans that integrate watershed-based rainwater management strategies and minimize negative impacts on watersheds.”

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SHARING ‘DESIGN WITH NATURE’ APPROACHES, TOOLS, EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED:“Like most other areas on Vancouver Island, the Comox Valley is at a major cross-roads as to how we will develop and still maintain the natural beauty of our community,” stated Mayor Starr Winchester when Comox Valley local governments co-hosted the finale event of ‘Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series’


“Local government leaders are telling our staffs that we want to be a sustainable community tomorrow. We are not being so unrealistic as to ask for this yesterday,” stated (former) City of Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester. “We want to keep our rural areas rural, yet we are faced with many people coming into the valley, especially now that we have an international airport. We are experiencing phenomenal growth. So we are really depending on the practitioners to keep us grounded and realistic so that growth will be sustainable.”

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GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: “Primer on Integrating Natural Assets into Asset Management” (released by Asset Management BC, September 2019)


The Primer builds on foundations established by two initiatives – EAP, Ecological Accounting Process; and MNAI, Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. “It is great that we have two initiatives in British Columbia that focus on the role of natural assets in supporting quality of life and property enjoyment,” states Emanuel Machado. He is MNAI Chair. “Ecological systems play a fundamental role in a local government’s ability to deliver services to its residents and businesses.”

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