CONTEXT FOR THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “The defining struggle of our time, and our future, will be the tension between Mother Nature and human nature. So, more of us need to think differently about who and what we are dealing with here,” stated Michele Norris, Washington Post columnist (July 2021)
Note to Reader:
Mother Nature (sometimes known as Mother Earth or the Earth Mother) is a personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it, in the form of the mother. The word “nature” comes from the Latin word, “natura“, meaning birth or character. In English, its first recorded use (in the sense of the entirety of the phenomena of the world) was in 1266. “Natura” and the personification of Mother Nature were widely popular in the Middle Ages. As a concept, seated between the properly divine and the human, it can be traced to Ancient Greece.
Mother Nature is ticked off. Can you blame her?
“Fires. Floods. Mudslides. Rivers and reservoirs drying up. Record heat. Rising shorelines. Glacial melting. The Earth is in peril, and many are finally realizing they can no longer think of Earth as the open armed goddess dispensing blessings and bounty to us — especially if we take no steps to curb the activities and habits that have sent carbon dioxide emissions soaring,” wrote Michele Norris in her column published by the Washington Post on July 30, 2021.
Springboard to EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process
“The defining struggle of our time, and our future, will be the tension between Mother Nature and human nature. So, more of us need to think differently about who and what we are dealing with here. That seems to have finally begun,” Michele Norris added.
“This last quotable quotable provides a springboard to the career work of British Columbia’s Tim Pringle, a Founding Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. “Tim Pringle thinks differently, as Michele Norris urges, and he has a system perspective. He has translated a foundational concept – that use and conservation of land are equal values – into a guiding philosophy complete with methodology and metrics,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.
“The significance of Tim Pringle’s breakthrough work is that it now enables local governments in British Columbia to use ‘real numbers’ for a budget line item for maintenance and management (M&M) of urban streams as natural commons systems within their asset management plans. This one sentence embodies three core concepts – M&M budget, natural commons, and asset management.”
To Learn More:
To read the complete article, download a copy of Mother Nature is ticked off. Can you blame her?
And to learn more about Michele Norris and her credentials as a journalist, read Michele Norris joins Washington Post Opinions as contributor and consultant
CREDIT: Mattes – Own book scan of Alexander Roos: Alchemie & Mystik, Taschen, 2007, Köln u.a.: TASCHEN, ISBN 978-3-8228-5035-0, p. 10, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4594463
A Foundational Concept: A Stream is a Land Use
“The EAP methodology focuses on the historical and current land use practices that have changed landscapes, modified hydrology, and have led to present-day community perceptions of the worth of the stream or creekshed and the ecological services it provides. A whole-system understanding is the starting point for developing meaningful metrics,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.
“A central idea of the EAP methodology is that a stream is a land use. If the stream did not exist, the land it occupies would be in the same use as nearby development. A stream is a land use because the area of the setback zone is defined in regulations.”
A DEFINING QUESTION: What is the environment that supports the ‘package of ecological services’?
“After undertaking a series of demonstration applications (case studies) in collaboration with BC local governments to test, refine and mainstream the EAP methodology and metrics, we realized in a moment of insight that we can distil the essence of EAP in a single statement: What is the environment that supports the package of ecological services? This is a land use perspective,” continued Tim Pringle.
“There are two ancillary questions. First, we ask what is the conditi0n of the natural asset? We then ask how has land use impacted the conditions that support the asset?”
“What EAP really is saying is that the ecological services supplied by the natural asset – in this case a stream – and used or enjoyed by the community depends on the local environment hosting the natural assets. For the purposes of EAP, we measure the local environment in m².”
“EAP considers what impacts land use has imposed on the watershed area (i.e. environment) that hosts a natural asset such as a streamside riparian area – also combined often with forest area, infiltration zone, aquifer recharge, etc. Obviously, this is a system perspective!”
EAP Bridges a Gap and is a Game-Changer
“Streams are Natural Commons, systems that provide ecological services (uses) that the community jointly can access and enjoy. The idea of the commons includes social, ecological and financial qualities,” explained Tim Pringle.
“Use and conservation of natural commons assets implies a social contract; that these natural assets will be maintained and managed to ensure access to ecological services in the future. The community has similar expectation concerning constructed commons – roads, storm drainage systems, potable water systems.”
“EAP satisfies a local government need for a financial methodology and metrics for valuation of ecological assets. Most importantly, EAP interweaves the financial, social and ecological perspectives within a single number.”
“This number is defined as the Natural Commons Asset (NCA) value. The end goal is an annual budget for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of stream systems.”
“The NCA value puts the discussion of natural assets (stream systems) on an equal footing with constructed assets (engineered infrastructure). This is a game-chamber. Environmental planners now have a starting point for a conversation with engineers and accountants about the services that natural and constructed assets both provide.”
TO LEARN MORE:
To read an article released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability on May 2021, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Accounting for Stream Systems in Asset Management.