HYDRATING LANDSCAPES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE: “Interweaving is a collaborative process where apparently contradictory ways of knowing water, such as Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge, are brought together as co-existing threads to produce a new cooperative theory called Blue Ecology,” stated Michael Blackstock 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 Michael Blackstock and Kim Stephens were panel members for a session titled Landscape-level Change. Click on the image below to watch the 27-minute presentation by Michael Blackstock.

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.”

Re-Imagining Water

Michael Blackstock has a vision: British Columbia water managers would embrace the Blue Ecology water cycle; our communities would become more water-resilient; and we would successfully adapt to a changing climate.

What we are essentially talking about is RECONCILIATION: going back to the headwaters of where we got our relationships with water and with one another wrong; and then starting back down the river of time – this time together – with a full understanding of the importance of embracing a water-first approach to planning human interventions in the environment.

“Western science and Blue Ecology are truly partners. It is time the marriage was made official,” wrote Kim Stephens, Michael Blackstock and Bob Sandford in an Op-Ed article published by the Vancouver Sun newspaper in 2017.

Blue Ecology and Climate Change

In 2008, Michael Blackstock was appointed to a UNESCO Expert Panel for a 4-year term. His work on the Expert Panel led to an invitation to speak at an international symposium held in October 2008 by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS). This resulted in a peer-reviewed paper, published in February 2009, and titled Blue Ecology and climate change: interweaving cultural perspectives on water, an indigenous case study.

While international recognition gave Blue Ecology early credibility and profile, there was little or no awareness within British Columbia of what Michael Blackstock had accomplished. Fast forward to November 2017. That is when the Partnership for Water Sustainability held the Blue Ecology Workshopto begin the process of mainstreaming Michael Blackstock’s work into the local government setting.


In 2001, the BC Journal of Ecosystems and Management published the first paper written by Michael Blackstock regarding water from a First Nations spiritual and ecological perspective. At the time, Michael Blackstock was Aboriginal Affairs Manager, BC Ministry of Forestry. His paper documents, through the use of ethnographic research methods, First Nations’ concerns and perspectives about water. The paper’s scope was primarily limited to the views of three Elders from the southern Interior of British Columbia

To read the paper that Michael Blackstock wrote in 2001, download Water: A First Nation’s Spiritual and Ecological Perspective.

“Blue Ecology has five guiding principles and aligns with the whole-system, water balance approach that the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia champions. Adoption of the principles – Spirit, Harmony, Respect, Unity and Balance – would move Blue Ecology from theory to practice, as an aid for water managers. To make the right choices moving forward, we must understand how and where the rhythms of water are changing. Then we can apply ecosystem-based understanding to adapt our practices to suit a changing climate,” wrote Kim Stephens, Michael Blackstock and Bob Sandford in an article published in Water Canada magazine in 2017.


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.

Michael Blackstock

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.

Kim Stephens

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.

Kimberley Cornish

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.

The Time Continuum

The unifying idea that Kim Stephens weaved into his panel presentation at the Living Soils Symposium 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.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of the PowerPoint storyline that guided the storytelling by Kim Stephens and watch the 14-minute video posted on YouTube:

Blue Ecology Storyline