LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there. And the question is, why do people accept this? Well, because they don’t know that it was different,” stated UBC’s Dr. Daniel Pauly, a living legend in the world of marine biology who has had a profound influence on the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on November 9, 2021 featured Daniel Pauly’s Shifting Baselines Syndrome. It comprised two stories in one, with the second one being brought forward from 2014. It provided historical context regarding a vision for re-setting the baseline through implementation of a whole-system approach that integrates the site with the stream, watershed, and groundwater aquifer.

The latter is an essay that connected the dots between Daniel Pauly’s work and the goals of Resilient Rainwater Management. It served to inform audiences across Canada when the Partnership for Water Sustainability delivered a National Rainwater Management Workshop Series.

Know Your History and Context to Offset Generational Amnesia

“To know where you are going, you need to know where you have come from. Otherwise, as Daniel Pauly observed in 1995 when he published a short-but-influential paper, baselines shift when successive generations of practitioners do not have an image in their minds of the recent past. Know your history. Know your context. These are keys to overcoming generational and organizational amnesia.”

“When the Partnership delivered a National Rainwater Management Workshop Series in 2014, referencing the Shifting Baseline Syndrome helped us explain to our audiences (in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax) why we think differently in British Columbia. Because we do! How we think in this province is shaped by our topography and geography.”

“When we travelled across the continent, we realized just how crucial the stewardship ethic is in British Columbia. Yet, British Columbians as a whole may only be a generation or two away from becoming disconnected from nature. This means we are in a race against time to inspire an intergenerational collaboration ethic in the local government setting. This is the intergenerational mission of the Partnership.”

“As Daniel Pauly said during his TED Talk in 2010, we can recreate the past. Seeing examples of what the past looked like enables people to re-set their baseline, he stated. In BC, a learn-by-doing process is opening minds and building confidence that we can re-set the baseline. For the champions in many regions, the journey to date is decades-long. It is hard work. Yet there is hope. And that is why Waterbucket eNews celebrates and showcases those who are beacons of inspiration.”


To read the complete story published on November 9th 2021, download a PDF copy of  Living Water Smart: Know Your History and Context to Offset Generational Amnesia.