“There are parallels between the state of Vermont and the province of British Columbia, and especially the Georgia Basin region on the west coast,” says Stephen Perkins of the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Vermont


Note to Reader:

In March 2015, US Senator Patrick Leahy sponsored the 2nd biennial Leahy Environmental Summit in Burlington, Vermont. Senator Leahy is the longest serving member (40 years) and dean of the United States Senate. His vision for this ‘convening for action’ event is that it will inspire social and structural resiliency for flooding and stormwater issues related to climate change. Senator Leahy invited Kim Stephens to provide ‘inspirational remarks’ about British Columbia experience in leading and managing change via inter-regional collaboration.

Vermont Summit_parallels with Van Island

‘Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart’ Stewardship: Convening for Action in Vermont

“Hurricane Irene in 2011 is one of the worst natural disasters to occur in the history of Vermont. Our climate is changing and we recognize the need to change our land and water management practices. A desired outcome of the Leahy Environmental Summit is creation of a ‘resiliency network/partnership’. In this regard, Vermont can learn from the success of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia,” states Stephen Perkins, Director of Development and Community Relations at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. He was responsible for organizing the Summit.

Stephen Perkins_500p“Vermont is made up of a patchwork of fiercely independent and self-reliant towns.  When a disaster strikes, communities in this state have a tremendous capacity to take care of their own.  One of our goals in this summit process is to bring that volunteerism and capacity for action to a region-wide level.  How can we as a broader community understand the needs of our neighbors, the landscape, and the water systems that tie us all together?”

“Teams representing distinct regional watersheds from throughout the state spent two days together, inspiring each other and holding up ‘golden innovations’ for all to use and model.  State and Federal resources joined the conversation, lending gravity and political power to the conversations.”

“In this first step, town conversations and plans moved to regional, watershed based projects. Using BC as inspiration I truly hope the next step will weave those regional projects and plans in a statewide network of resiliency and sustainability that is a model for the rest of our country,” concludes Stephen Perkins.

Power of the Whole

Senator Patrick Leahy_120p“The Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart initiative is based on a simple notion that when it comes to enterprise innovation and integration, there is nothing that brings out the best in human systems faster, more consistently, and more effectively, than the power of the whole,” wrote Senator Patrick Leahy in his letter of invitation.

”True innovation happens when strong multi-disciplinary groups come together, build a collaborative interchange, and explore their different points of strength. We seek to inspire new behaviors – both individually and collectively – that will result in a floodwater smart citizenry and a more climate change resilient infrastructure across Vermont and the Lake Champlain watershed.”

A ‘Teachable Year’ is a Call to Action

Kim Stephens_Vermont_Mar2015_500p“My role at the Summit was to inspire the Vermont audience by elaborating on the inter-regional collaboration that is taking place among local governments within the Georgia Basin,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. “The Vermont forum provided me with an opportunity for reflection on how much we have accomplished over the past decade under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. I shared our lessons learned with the Vermont folks.”

“Leading and managing change is a long-term commitment. That was my key message. It takes a decade of sustained and incremental progress to reach critical mass and turn the tide. The process starts with a ‘teachable year’ that captures public attention. Vermont’s ‘teachable year’ is 2011. BC’s teachable year is 2003. We had drought, forest fires, floods and pine beetle. Given what happened in 2003, more people than ever became convinced that climate change is real.”

“Through the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative, we are continuously building on success. By 2017, an over-arching program goal is that local governments within the Georgia Basin would truly understand how natural systems support municipal services and would be able to fully integrate this understanding and associated methodologies into programs, planning and funding,” concludes Kim Stephens.

To Learn More:

To download a copy of the Agenda and read a summary of media coverage of the Leahy Environmental Summit, click on ‘Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart’ Stewardship: Convening for Action in Vermont.

To download a PowerPoint version of the “inspirational remarks” by Kim Stephens, click on Building Resiliency in British Columbia: Integration of Natural Systems Thinking and Adaptation to a Changing Climate.
Internationally recognized, Diane Arsenian uses images and words to capture information and ideas that emerge from conversations. In turn, this helps individuals truly understand their shared ideas.

Internationally recognized, Diane Arsenian uses images and words to capture information and ideas that emerge from conversations. In turn, this helps individuals truly understand their shared ideas.

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