HYDRATING LANDSCAPES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE: “It was 20 years ago when we realized that soil is the cornerstone for water sustainability. Restoring the ‘balance’ to the ‘water balance’ starts with soil,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, in his panel presentation at the virtual Living Soils Symposium hosted by Regeneration Canada (February 2021)
Note to Reader:
In February 2021, Regeneration Canada hosted the week-long Living Soils Symposium 2021. The final day had a British Columbia flavour because Kim Stephens and Michael Blackstock were panel members for a session titled Landscape-level Change. Click on the image below to watch the 14-minute presentation by Kim Stephens.
Hydrating Landscapes to Mitigate Climate Change
Regeneration Canada is a non-profit which is committed to taking action to regenerate land and water while acknowledging and respecting Indigenous knowledge that ensures thriving for all beings.
Context for the Living Soils Symposium: “Water cycles regulate our planet’s temperature. Yet, disruptions caused by deforestation, agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and urbanization have amplified global warming and led us to face a water scarcity crisis. Rehydrating our landscapes by regenerating soil will cool the planet and have ripple effects on human health, climate resilience, social inequities and biodiversity restoration.”
The Living Soils Symposium comprised one week of solution-focused and action-oriented discussions. The organizers framed their vision and desired outcome in these terms: “Bringing together a diversity of people from across sectors with one same goal: Regenerate soil. Restore water cycles. Cool the climate. For a thriving and resilient planet.”
Reconnect People, Fish, Land and People
“The title of my presentation – reconnect, people, fish, land and people – describes the mission of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. It is a whole-system approach because everything is connected. We bring stakeholders together to take the actions that achieve whole-system outcomes,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.
“To adapt to a changing water cycle, soil depth as an ‘absorbent sponge’ is a primary water management tool, during both dry-weather and wet-weather periods. When the soil sponge has sufficient depth, the water holding capacity means that less water would be needed during dry-weather to irrigate gardens. This contributes to sustainability of water supply. And in wet-weather, an effective sponge would slowly release runoff and contribute to sustainability of aquatic habitat.”
To Learn More:
Download a copy of the PowerPoint storyline that guided the 14-minute presentation by Kim Stephens.
The Time Continuum
The unifying idea that Kim Stephens weaved into his presentation was the notion of a time continuum to characterize short-term versus long-term thinking. He set the tone when he quoted the inscription etched into a headstone that dates back to 1786 in an English church graveyard: “A vision without a task is but a dream. A vision with a task is but drudgery. A vision with a task is the hope of the world.”
“Decisions ripple through time. So it is imperative that we replace short-term thinking with a long-term view that extends out 50, 100 or more years. Instant gratification and quarterly reports are examples of the worst kinds of short-term thinking. That is what we have to replace with a career perspective. It takes a career to figure things out. And then we have to pass that understanding and wisdom on to the next generation.”
Panel on Landscape-level Change
Watersheds provide a myriad of vital services such as aquifer recharge, clean drinking water, cultural value, wildlife habitat, and recreation. To meet, maintain, and restore these services, we need to work together. Water knows no borders. It flows freely in and out of jurisdictions and connects us all. Advancing policies, laws, and decisions that protect our watersheds requires us to acknowledge this.
An engineer-planner, Kim Stephens has more than four decades of experience. This covers the continuum of water resource and infrastructure engineering issues and applications, from master planning and modelling to implementation of capital projects. He specializes in public policy and professional development, and has played a leadership role in a series of initiatives in British Columbia related to water sustainability, watershed health, rainwater management and green infrastructure.
In 2003, Kim was asked by the provincial government to develop the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in 2004. Ever since, Kim has been responsible for Action Plan program delivery and evolution. This program includes leading the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative. Five regions representing 75% of BC’s population are partners in the initiative.
Michael Blackstock (Gitxsan name: Ama Goodim Gyet) is a writer and visual artist. He has written over 20 publications and produced over a dozen limited-edition northwest coast art prints. Blackstock has a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies and he has served as a member of the UNESCO-IHP Expert Advisory Group on Water and Cultural Diversity. He is also a professional forester and a charted mediator.
Michael Blackstock’s recent book Oceaness is a book of social commentary that includes poems, essays and art works. It includes his new theory of Blue Ecology which was developed with Elders, by interweaving their perspective with that of Western Science. The themes of this book are water; ecology; oral history; human rights; music; and humour.
Kimberley Cornish has worked internationally in the areas of vocational training and food security drawing on her educational background in political science and international development. Since returning to Canada, she has headed up Food Water Wellness Foundation to advance agricultural practices that are environmentally regenerative. Her focus has been measuring and monitoring soil carbon sequestration to validate the potential of regenerative agriculture.
To Learn More:
Set aside two hours to watch the video of the entire panel session as posted on YouTube.