CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE: Blue Ecology is the pathway to reach Water Reconciliation


“SHARE INFORMATION. INFORM DECISIONS.” This soundbite lines up nicely with the mission of Waterbucket eNews which is to help our readers make sense of a complicated world. 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. 

The edition published on January 11, 2022 featured Michael Blackstock, Independent Indigenous Scholar. He developed Blue Ecology, the “water-first” ecological approach to interweaving Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science.

Blue Ecology Virtual Seminar – Creating a Climate for Change (Reconnect Children with Nature)


This edition launches another year of Waterbucket eNews, published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability on Tuesdays from January through June, and from September through November. Beginning with today’s feature article about the Blue Ecology Virtual Seminar on the evening of January 20th, the unifying theme for the upcoming series of articles is 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. The challenge is to overcome generational amnesia so that communities learn from past experience, apply this knowledge, and achieve better policy and financial outcomes.

Blue Ecology is the pathway to reach “water reconciliation”. The relevance is that we have landed at the crux of two of the most important issues facing Canadians – relationships with First Nations and relationships with water – in an era when we must also adapt to a changing climate. And the Partnership and partners just happen to be trying to piece them together as a seminar and eventually as symposium!

What we are essentially talking about is going back to the headwaters of where we got our relationships with water and with one another wrong; and then starting back down the river of time – this time together – with a full understanding of the importance of embracing a water-first approach to planning human interventions in the environment.


“Beginning in 2018, the Partnership for Water Sustainability and the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT) have co-produced Watershed Moments, the Vancouver Island Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate Annual Symposia Series. To date, the series has comprised three events. The next full-scale symposium will be held either in late 2022 or mid-2023,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director.

“The Partnership and NALT designed Watershed Moments 2021 / Blue Ecology Virtual Seminar as a bridging event. It was postponed by two months, from November 18/21 to January 20/22, after Michael Blackstock underwent emergency surgery only days before the originally scheduled date for the livecast.”

“The spotlight is on Michael Blackstock, Independent Indigenous Scholar. His role is to prime seminar participants for their future attendance at Watershed Moments 2022: A Symposium on Blue Ecology and Water Reconciliation. Looking ahead, the symposium will showcase and celebrate “Blue Ecology in action” in the Cowichan region.”

Three Objectives

“Structured as a panel session, the bridging seminar has three objectives. First, it serves as the event of record for launching Michael Blackstock’s Blue Ecology Institute. The initiative is guided by a vision to build a bridge between two cultures through a water-first approach.”

“Secondly, the seminar introduces Blue Ecology the idea as a way of interweaving Indigenous and Western perspectives to achieve a vision for “water reconciliation” in British Columbia.”

“Thirdly, the seminar showcases watershed education initiatives for school children within three Vancouver Island regional districts.  These initiatives have a unifying thread – each addresses the “Nature-Deficit Disorder”, a term which is now widely recognized and understood.”

“Nature-Deficit Disorder is the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, and the belief that this change results in a wide range of behavioural problems. For this reason, a goal of watershed education initiatives for schools is to reconnect children with nature.”

Interweaving – It Costs You Nothing to Change Your Attitude

“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 (IAHS).”

“In his peer-reviewed paper titled Blue Ecology and climate change: interweaving cultural perspectives on water, an indigenous case study, Michael laid out the case for an attitude change and culture-shift related to water. In the decade-plus since, he has written and/or contributed to a series of books that further explore and build on this theme.”

“The Blue Ecology Seminar marks the start of the next leg of Michael’s journey, now in collaboration with the Watershed Moments team, a grass-roots initiative that has members from 10 organizations. The Watershed Moments mission is to advance mainstreaming of Blue Ecology. Interweaving of Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science is the pathway to reach Water Reconciliation,” concluded Kim Stephens.

Interweaving: A Call for an Attitude Change
Context by Michael Blackstock

The book ‘downstream: reimagining water’ is an anthology. It brings together the perspectives of artists, writers, scientists, scholars, environmentalists, and activists. It does this by exploring the key roles that culture, arts, and the humanities play in supporting healthy water-based ecology. Michael Blackstock is one of the contributors.

The book’s cover was painted by Michael Blackstock; the painting is entitled “Adams River Sockeye Run”. To learn more, visit

Getting from Sovereign to Collaborative!

As explained  by Michael Blackstock: My chapter is titled Interweaving Water. It outlines four steps toward transforming sovereign knowledge into collaborative knowledge: (1) humility, (2) transcending, (3) interweaving, and finally (4) transformation. I illustrate this process using the theory of Blue Ecology.

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.

HUMILITY: I view Western science and Indigenous ways of knowing as sovereign entities. A great deal of energy goes into rationalizing, promoting, and protecting an epistemology. However, now we need to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.

We can build a collaborative epistemological framework if we transcend sovereign contemporary narrative’s boundaries, and literally mine each epistemology for gems that can be interwoven in a collaborative manner.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief.)

TRANSCENDENCE: Curiosity about other cultures draws us into a better understanding, and allows us to contrast and compare two worlds. The product of curiosity is an analysis whereby comparison and contrast enable the interweaving process. Once I understood the strengths and contrasts of each perspective on water, I was ready for the interweaving process and published papers that showed how interweaving could happen.

INTERWEAVING: Interweaving is about creating a new form of knowledge through collaboration by interweaving useful threads from each way of knowing into a more robust way. 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 an ecological philosophy, which emerged from interweaving First Nations and Western thought. It is meant to be a companion because it augments existing Western science hydrology rather than displacing this knowledge.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Blue Ecology aligns with the whole-system, water balance approach that the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC champions for restoration of hydrologic function and stream system integrity within the built environment.)

TRANSFORMATION: The main axiom of transformation is: 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.

A New Way of Looking at Water

Hope is not a passive desire but an active attitude.

I really see the value of each culture being genuinely curious about each other and willing to interweave to resolve disputes: This is my action.

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.

Blue Ecology is an incremental example of how we can interweave cultural perspectives on water, but that is just a starting point in this new era of interweaving.

The shared vision of the book contributors is that ‘downstream: reimagining water’ will contribute to the formation of an intergenerational, culturally inclusive, participatory water ethic.

Creating a Climate for Change / Watershed Education Initiatives: Introduction to Panel Members

Michael Blackstock is the lead member of a 4-person panel that will share their experiences in trail-blazing watershed education for youth. He is joined by Linda Brooymans, Steph Cottell and Christina (Tina) Willard-Stepan. The District of North Vancouver’s Richard Boase returns as moderator extraordinaire. He is also a founding Director and Vice-President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

Did you enjoy this article? Would you like a PDF document version? Waterbucket News feature stories are published online as part of the Living Water Smart Series. Click on the image below to download your copy.


About the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

Technical knowledge alone is not enough to resolve water challenges facing BC. Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out.

The Partnership has a primary goal, to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future. To achieve the goal, the Partnership is growing a network in the local government setting. This network embraces collaborative leadership and inter-generational collaboration.