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Daniel Pauly

    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.To fix this problem, we must learn how to stay in touch with the past while continuing to move forward,” stated Daniel Pauly, legendary UBC fisheries scientist


    Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact. In a short-but-influential paper published in 1995, legendary UBC fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly argued that this blind spot meant scientists were failing to account fully for the slow creep of disappearing species. Daniel Pauly coined this effect as the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. Since then, this has been observed far more widely than the fisheries community – it takes place in any realm of society where a baseline creeps imperceptibly over generations.

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    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


    In September 2021, Greystone Books published The Ocean’s Whistleblower. It is the first authorized biography of Daniel Pauly, a truly remarkable man. Daniel Pauly is a living legend in the world of marine biology. And he lives in British Columbia. Among his many contributions is the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. This is a foundational concept. And it goes to the heart of the vision for intergenerational collaboration.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Part of the reason for the success of our shared responsibility way of thinking is a result of the efforts of various organizations who have managed to successfully engage governments, developers, the community, academia, etc., in water-centric thinking, planning and development activities. In many jurisdictions, water-centric has become a focus and part of our daily conversations,” stated John Finnie, Past-Chair (2006-2011), CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island


    According to John Finnie, the Partnership for Water Sustainability challenges its audiences by posing this question: what do you want this place to look like in 50 years? The decisions communities make today will ripple through time. We do have a choice – will it be cumulative impacts or cumulative benefits? Looking back, 2008 was a defining year for ‘designing with nature’ on Canada’s west coast. The government of British Columbia put in place a policy framework that is a ‘call to action’ on the part of local governments.

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    GENERATIONAL AMNESIA: “As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world. And unfortunately, all of us come to suffer from it no matter how young or old we are,” wrote Richard Fisher, BBC Senior Journalist and member of the BBC Future team of writers (June 2021)


    “Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact. New generations have a habit of collectively forgetting how positive social change comes about through the dogged activism of minorities once shunned. But if the most recent generation is forgetful about the positive steps and changes handed to them by their forebears, then so too can they fail to notice how those predecessors have damaged the world too,” stated Richard Fisher.

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    PREPARE FOR TOMORROW: “Stopping the spread of coronavirus is paramount, but climate action must also continue. And we can draw many lessons and opportunities from the current health crisis when tackling planetary warming,” stated Dr. Natasha Chassagne, University of Tasmania


    “In many ways, what we’re seeing now is a rapid and unplanned version of economic ‘degrowth’ – the transition some academics and activists have for decades said is necessary to address climate change, and leave a habitable planet for future generations. Degrowth is a proposed slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits,” stated Dr. Natasha Chassagne.

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    PREPARE FOR TOMORROW: “Policy changes required to mitigate climate change appear far less disruptive — economically, socially and culturally — than the measures being taken right now to tackle COVID-19,” say Eric Galbraith and Ross Otto of McGill University


    “The alarms for both COVID-19 and climate change were sounded by experts, well in advance of visible crises,” stated Eric Galbraith. “As scientists who have studied climate change and the psychology of decision-making, we find ourselves asking: Why do the government responses to COVID-19 and climate change — which both require making difficult decisions to avert future disasters — differ so dramatically? We suggest four important reasons.”

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    BRITISH COLUMBIA’S NEW CLIMATE REALITY: “If this kind of (extreme hot dry) weather persists, we are going to be in challenging situations as we get into the later part of the summer,” stated David Campbell, Hydrologist & Section Head, BC River Forecast Centre (June 2019)


    Long stretches of warm weather this spring and too few rainy days are raising alarms about drought across British Columbia. Drought levels have been raised already for parts of the province and Dave Campbell says the current forecast points to drought conditions province-wide in the coming weeks. In an average year, Campbell says the drought map of B.C. would be the colour green, the code for normal. But most of the province is a bright yellow, the code for dry.

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    IAN McHARG: No designer has done more to stoke the public imagination or reshape the professions around the environment. And nothing captures the scope and scale of his legacy better than his landmark book, Design With Nature, published in 1969


    At the University of Pennsylvania, Ian McHarg taught a campus-wide course titled “Man and Environment” that brought luminaries like Loren Eisley, Margaret Mead, Lewis Mumford, and Julian Huxley into the department of landscape architecture. These courses gave McHarg the grist he would need to write Design With Nature. It arrived amid a national environmental awakening and immediately became part of the zeitgeist, giving planners, designers, and urbanists a manifesto for their frustrations with America’s lax land use and environmental regulations.

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    SHIFTING BASELINE SYNDROME: “With each new generation, the expectation of various ecological conditions shifts. The result is that standards are lowered almost imperceptibly,” stated Dr. Daniel Pauly, professor and project leader, Sea Around Us Project, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of 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. If you generalize this, something like this happens,” explains Daniel Pauly. An understanding of Daniel Pauly’s “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” is a foundation piece for implementing restorative development, reconnecting hydrology and ecology, and bending the curve to restore stream systems. The goal of shifting to an ecologically functioning and resilient baseline will ultimately depend on the nature of change to standards of practice.

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    INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE SALMON: “I like to say to people that after 100 years of research, we know a lot about salmon, but what we need to know most, we mostly don’t know,” stated Dr. Richard Beamish, Scientist Emeritus with the Pacific Biological Research Station in Nanaimo


    In 2012, Dick Beamish proposed the International Year of the Salmon to promote research on how ocean conditions are contributing to changes. IYS has now grown into an effort to ensure the “resilience of both salmon and people” in a changing climate. In embarking on this journey, British Columbians can learn from historical precedents and parallels. In particular, the “salmon crisis” in the 1990s was a game-changer in the way it was the catalyst for green infrastructure practices. A generation later, will lightning strike twice and will the iconic salmon again be the regulatory driver that spurs communities to raise the bar to “improve where we live”?

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