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Blue Ecology

    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “It is clear in my mind that traditional knowledge and western science are in alignment. They are just different ways of communicating. In fact, I believe there is an analogy between Indigenous oral history, and a statistical approach called Bayesian analysis. This is a way of processing anecdotal information,” stated Neil Goeller, BC Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy (February 2022)


    “In North America, from a scientific point of view, water records are quite short. We are lucky when we have 60 years of reliable records, possibly extending out to 100-plus years. Consider that our oldest hydrometric gauge in BC is only in the order of 110 to 120 years. The peak period for collection of streamflow and climate data was the era from the 1960s through 1980s. However, a majority of gauges in BC are discontinuous. When I reflect on this short-term context for hydrometric data collection in BC, there is no doubt in my mind that Indigenous knowledge would expand our horizon and help us make sense of the numbers in a larger context,” stated Neil Goeller.

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    ORAL HISTORY EXTENDS THE PERIOD OF RECORD AND UNDERSTANDING: “Michael Blackstock observed that the individuals most receptive to Blue Ecology were the ‘hydrology elders’ when he presented at the International Association of Hydrological Sciences Conference. I am not surprised. hydrology elders understand the limitations and assumptions inherent in how scientific knowledge is applied. They are not dazzled by a slick software interface,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (February 2022)


    “If Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) was alive today, I have no doubt that he would say, oral history extends the period of period and our understanding of what the data mean. One of his most memorable quotable quotes is that, probability is orderly opinion (and) inference from data is nothing other than the revision of such opinion in the light of relevant new information. Four decades ago, UBC Professor Emeritus Denis Russell developed a methodology to show how Bayesian statistics offers a framework for combining different kinds of information and making best use of what is available,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “As 2022 begins, British Columbia is still reeling from a roller-coaster year of relentless fires, droughts and floods. We learned, without a doubt, that the climate crisis is a water crisis,” stated the University of Victoria’s Oliver Brandes and Rosie Simms in an Op-Ed published by the Vancouver Sun (January 2022)


    “For many, these recent wild water lurches seemed to come out of nowhere. And that is the issue: It really isn’t unexpected. It may just be happening faster than many of us imagined. But a bleak future of worsening impacts is not inevitable. We can still choose a different path forward. The B.C. government has an opportunity to lead the world in taking watershed security seriously and building a plan to help us get to a prosperous tomorrow, while starting the work today. This is the best hedge against an increasingly uncertain future,” stated Oliver Brandes.

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    THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “There’s that pit in your stomach where you’re thinking, ‘Is this the moment where I get to say I told you so?’ ” said Tamsin Lyle, an engineer and one of several experts who had warned of flood risks in the Lower Mainland, when she was interviewed on the Fifth Estate (November 2021)


    Tamsin Lyle wrote a report for the provincial government in May 2021. In it, she stated that “the current model for flood risk governance in B.C. is broken.” Lyle said she was asked by senior bureaucrats to “tone down the language.” But she declined. “One of my proudest moments is that I kept that line in,” she said. “I think the province from about 20 years ago has a lot to answer for in terms of downloading the responsibility from the province – who had the better capacity to look at the problem at scale – to local governments who don’t have the capacity and don’t have the expertise.”

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    BLUE ECOLOGY IS THE PATHWAY TO REACH WATER RECONCILIATION: “It costs you nothing to change your attitude. A new collaborative knowledge attitude will open up new worlds of possibility. The Blue Ecology vision is collaborative, not competitive,” stated Michael Blackstock, Independent Indigenous Scholar (January 2022)


    “Our children’s children will be faced with daunting, complex, and urgent environmental problems. The impending crisis requires us to begin to lay a foundation for our children’s children to have a starting point, and some options to grasp in the urgent moment. We owe them hope,” stated Michael Blackstock. “Now is the time to act on the belief that if we interweave our strengths as traditional knowledge keepers, scientists, poets, artists, and architects in a collaborative manner, we can make a difference.”

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “It is clear in my mind that traditional knowledge and western science are in alignment. They are just different ways of communicating. In fact, I believe there is an analogy between Indigenous oral history, and a statistical approach called Bayesian analysis. This is a way of processing anecdotal information,” stated Neil Goeller, Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy (January 2022)


    “It seems obvious that oral history provides context. Oral history interweaved with science would provide more than just the 100 odd years of rigorous data collection we have. It would turn it into thousands of years of knowledge,” stated Neil Goeller. In BC, hydrometric records are fairly limited in time and geographic coverage. From a hydrology perspective, then, interweaving science and a rich oral history would turn a comparatively short period of data collection into thousands of years of knowledge. This might profoundly change how we view extreme changes in the water cycle and the consequences in BC.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Blue Ecology is an idea whose time has come. If British Columbia water managers would embrace the Blue Ecology ecological philosophy, our communities would become more water-resilient, and we would successfully adapt to a changing climate,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia (January 2022)


    “Blue Ecology has been a two-decade long journey of discovery for Michael Blackstock, highlighted by his appointment to a UNESCO Expert Panel for a 4-year term in 2008. His work on the Expert Panel resulted in an invitation to share his Blue Ecology message at an international symposium held in October 2008 by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences. Michael laid out the case for an attitude change and culture-shift related to water. Since then, he has written and/or contributed to a series of books that build on this theme,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    GRANTING A RIVER ‘PERSONHOOD’ COULD HELP PROTECT IT: “Galvanized by widespread environmental degradation and rising Indigenous rights movements, Indigenous communities around the world are leading the way in upholding the rights of sacred and ancestral rivers,” wrote Justine Townsend, University of Guelph, in an opinion piece published by The Conversation Canada (June 2021)


    “Extractive values — the belief that natural entities are resources that can be used for human benefit with little regard for their well-being and longevity — are deeply embedded in Canada’s legal and economic systems. These values influence the ideologies at the root of our biodiversity and climate crises. These ideologies justify the transformation of rivers, forests and the atmosphere into commodities and private property at our own peril. Enshrining their rights in law is a promising legal innovation,” stated Justine Townsend.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Let’s move past ceremonial reconciliation, to true reconciliation, validating Indigenous wisdom,” stated Michael Blackstock, Independent Indigenous Scholar and founder of the Blue Ecology Institute (October 2021)


    “Interweaving is not integration, just as equality is not about assimilation and creativity is not empirical. Interweaving is collaborative and incremental rather than a revolutionary process. Collaborators identify packets of knowledge that would benefit from the interweaving process. Blue Ecology is meant to be a companion because it augments existing Western science hydrology rather than displacing this knowledge. There is a humility component to Water Reconciliation and that can be hard for both sides when we are building a bridge to connect each other,” stated Michael Blackstock.

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    A VISION FOR WATER RECONCILIATION: “The methodology for Blue Ecology is about the actual work of interweaving the strengths of two cultures to reconcile them. It is time for First Nations to take a seat at environmental policy tables, as respected knowledge keepers who understand and respect water. Indigenous teachings can improve Western science,” stated Michael Blackstock, Indigenous Independent Scholar and creator of Blue Ecology


    Blue Ecology is an idea whose time has come. Long recognized by UNESCO and the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Blue Ecology is defined as the interweaving of Western science and traditional First Nations teaching and local knowledge. “My work related to water and reconciliation has put the spotlight on a new angle,” stated Michael Blackstock. “Is reconciliation just dealing with the past and acknowledging the pain and moving on, or is it something more complex than that? The complexity is that if we are asking folks to change their attitude towards water, what does that mean?”

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