SHORT-TERM GRATIFICATION VS INTER-GENERATIONAL LEGACY: “We know what we need to do to adapt to a changing water cycle. Whether and how we deal with uncertainty, manage risk, and adapt to droughts and floods will depend on how effective we are in encouraging a spirit of inter-generational collaboration among decision-makers at all levels within government and with community,” wrote Kim Stephens (Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability) in an Op-Ed published in April 2021

Note to Reader:

Published weekly from September through June by  the Partnership for Water Sustainability, Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes. 

In an April 2021 edition of the e-newsletter that is distributed province-wide, the Partnership introduced the Time Continuum graphic (below) that conceptualizes the way of thinking that underpins the inter-generational mission of the Partnership. The following reflections by Joan Sawicki, a former elected representative, provide an over-arching context for the Op-Ed by Kim Stephens that follows below. He is the Partnership’s Executive Director.

Experience, Knowledge and Wisdom

“Not many people understand the decision-making process that politicians and public employees go through in attempts to address ‘the public interest’. Voters often send mixed messages. While it is perfectly legitimate to hold politicians’ “feet to the fire”, there is some justification to do the reverse as well! In a representative democracy, politicians can only lead where people are prepared to follow,” explains Joan Sawicki.



EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE on the Time Continuum

“British Columbia’s communities have arrived at an “inter-generational moment” in history. For quite some time we have known that climate mitigation is about carbon and climate adaptation is about water. Now what will we do? Sure, the climate is changing at an accelerating rate and we are experiencing an increased frequency of extreme events – drought, fire, wind, flood. However, the situation is by no means hopeless,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“In British Columbia at least, we know what we need to do to adapt to a changing water cycle. Whether and how we deal with uncertainty, manage risk, and adapt to droughts and floods will depend on how effective we are in encouraging a spirit of inter-generational collaboration among decision-makers at all levels within government and with community. The goal would be to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future.”

“Through experience, we do know that when we get the water part right, other parts of the puzzle will fall into place. The process and the journey for getting to the water sustainability big picture starts with the foundation pieces. Going forward, making the right decisions depends upon benefitting from, and building on, the experience of those with knowledge plus the wisdom that has been gained through decades of experience.”

“We do not have the luxury of time to wait for a younger generation to go through their learning curve to figure out what goes into operationalizing the foundation pieces for achieving a water-resilient future. Technical knowledge alone is not enough! Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation for and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out!”

“Elders have a responsibility to pass on understanding and wisdom. However, responsibility is a two-way street because minds must be open to accepting the inter-generational baton and embracing the wisdom that goes with it. With this thought in mind, I created the “time continuum graphic” (above) to conceptualize the thinking that guides the Partnership’s mission. The inspiration for the graphic was my participation on a panel at the Living Soils Symposium organized by Regeneration Canada in February.”

“Ananda Fitzsimmons, co-founder of Regeneration Canada, asked me to “tell the story of how the Partnership for Water Sustainability works and how you have engaged collaboration. What you have done is quite unique and inspirational.” Ananda’s request challenged me to think about how to frame and illustrate the inter-generational mission of the Partnership in a way that would be readily grasped by an audience and across age groups.”

“The unifying idea was the notion of a time continuum to characterize short-term versus long-term thinking. The consequences of decisions ripple through time, I emphasized. 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. We must replace these with a career perspective, I urged the audience in my call to action.”

“What will our legacy be? That is the question decision makers and their advisors ought to ask themselves. Realistically, none of us can make decision-makers or organizations change their attitudes, culture or behaviour so that they embrace this mind-set. The best any of us can do is influence their choices. Thus, it is all about capitalizing on the REACHABLE and TEACHABLE MOMENTS to influence choices.”

“In this context, I am reminded of the famous Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


More Quotable Quotes


About the Partnership for Water Sustainability

Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia as a not-for-profit society on November 19, 2010 was a milestone moment. Incorporation signified a bold leap forward. Two decades earlier, a group of like-minded and passionate individuals, including representatives of three levels of government, came together as a technical committee. Over time, this “water roundtable” evolved into The Partnership.

The umbrella for Partnership initiatives and programs is the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments.

The Partnership’s guiding philosophy is to help others be successful. When they are successful, we are successful. The Partnership is led by a team of mission-focused volunteers, elders and collaborators. These individuals bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to the Partnership roundtable. This enhances the effectiveness of the Partnership as “the hub for a convening for action network”. Although many on the Partnership leadership team have retired from their day jobs, the water-centric mission continues.