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Turning Ideas Into Action

CONTEXT AND HISTORY REALLY DO MATTER: “In the moment, extreme events can be overwhelming. But the big picture situation is by no means hopeless. My key message is to view climate change as another variable, not a driver. Understand the system context because climate adaptation is about water, whereas climate mitigation is about carbon,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC (Sept 2021)


“The risks are real. Droughts affect all of us. BC is on fire and streams are drying up. We do not have the luxury of time to implement solutions. And we certainly cannot afford to reinvent the wheel due to generational and/or corporate amnesia. Context and history really do matter because it takes a career to develop perspective and understanding of what works and what does not. Because there is no silver bullet, communities need to do many little things to adapt to the new climate reality,” stated Kim Stephens.

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HIDDEN VALUE OF INTERGENERATIONAL COLLABORATION: “My experience is that collaboration between the generations is easier than most people think and the generational differences are not that wide. Also, intergenerational teams are much more innovative,” stated Kate Rushton, UK-based community strategist


“Two years ago I attended my first intergenerational innovation challenge. It was not my last. Afterwards, I occasionally thought about this new way of working. It sparked my interest in intergenerational co-creation. Not only as a way to build bridges between generations but as a way to innovate in general. By using an older adult’s experience-based knowledge, which is known also known as deep smarts, and the younger generation’s fresh eyes and new perspectives intergenerational co-creation can help create more rounded solutions,” stated Kate Rushton.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: What was the genesis of the phrase ‘sustainable service delivery’ a decade ago? What was the process for mainstreaming the approach in British Columbia? How did it become an ‘actionable vision’ for local governments? As an outcome of the Worth Every Penny Workshop, Glen Brown synthesized four ideas into a single easy to remember phrase that became a game-changer!


The 20/80 Rule refers to the initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure being about 20% of the ultimate total cost, with the other 80% being an unfunded liability. This is a driver for doing business differently. “Tackling the unfunded infrastructure liability involves a life-cycle way of thinking about infrastructure needs and how to pay for those needs over time. This holistic approach is described as Sustainable Service Delivery. The link between infrastructure asset management and the protection of a community’s natural resources is an important piece in Sustainable Service Delivery,” stated Glen Brown.

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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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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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TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION: “Getting to restorative development depends on finding a balance between short-term and long-term thinking,” stated Kim Stephens in his presentation at the Engineers & Geoscientists BC Annual Conference (October 2018)


Kim Stephens quoted from the work of Eva Kras – visionary, scholar and author. “Our present global and societal problem is that short-term thinking governs much of what we do,” says Eva Kras. “We need to re-learn basically ‘how we think’, using both the right and left hemispheres of our brain. Both ways of thinking are important, but the sad part is that we have convinced ourselves that the Left Hemisphere can do EVERYTHING.”

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Waterbucket eNews: Partnership for Water Sustainability launches a new season of “Celebrating the Champions” (September 2018 – June 2019)


“Local governments are implementers. This means they can be change leaders. They can integrate climate adaptation into the activities and actions of engineered and natural asset management – or flipping it around, integrate asset management into the activities and actions of climate adaptation. ‘Getting it right’ starts with recognition that hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services,” stated Kim Stephens. “Getting it right depends on provincial and local government alignment to require ‘design with nature’ standards of practice for servicing of land – so that communities decrease their ‘destructive footprint’ while at the same time increasing their ‘restoration footprint’.”

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“Released in March 2018, ‘Our Story’ provides a comprehensive picture of the integrated program that the Partnership is delivering under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan,” stated Mike Tanner, a founding Director of British Columbia’s Partnership for Water Sustainability


“The purpose of the Water Sustainability Action Plan is to build practitioner capacity to explore new ideas so that those in the local government setting whose decisions influence community and infrastructure design can build greener and more water resilient communities in British Columbia,” stated Mike Tanner. “While the Action Plan program has ongoing since 2004, the focus since 2012 has been on an initiative branded as ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems through Asset Management’. The desired outcome is to achieve settlement, economy and ecology in balance.”

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Reflections on Inter-Generational Learning: “Today, how does any young professional truly learn his or her trade when so much of daily life revolves around the use of ‘apps’ for instant answers or solutions?” pondered Wally Wells when reflecting on what it means to be a professional engineer


“The reality today is a very different work environment then what we ‘old guys’ grew up in,” stated Wally Wells. “That leads to a required dialogue of what communicating really means and how the message is received and interpreted by different generations. Maybe, just maybe, we take too much for granted based on what we individually know in trying to communicate asset management. We need to think very hard about the way we carry the message – with, I would suggest, more thought to the perception of the listener.”

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TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION: Sustainable Watershed Systems – a decade long journey has its genesis in the seminar that launched the Beyond the Guidebook Initiative (November 2007)


“The Stormwater Guidebook set in motion a chain of outcomes that has resulted in BC being recognized internationally as a leader in implementing a natural systems approach to rainwater management in the urban environment,” stated Minister of Environment Barry Penner in 2007. “The Convening for Action initiative creates an opportunity to move beyond rainwater management to embrace all components of the water cycle through integrated water management.”

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