On November 9, 2022, I leapt into a presentation for the Bulkley Valley Research Centre Seminar Series. I talked about a career long journey that began as a quest to conserve species and ecosystems within the context of sustainable development and later transformed into a quest to find a better future, not just for me, but for all humanity.
Why did I do this? And why now?
I departed my comfort zone because my life and the lives of those I love depend on whether or not people around the world can successfully nurture, recover and renew relationships with the natural world that sustains us and enables us to thrive. We—the global we—need to figure out how to secure good qualities of life that align with the capacities of earth to sustain civilization as we know it. The timing of my leap was as intentional as the combined forces of inward reflections, gathered knowledge and emerging insights, along with global momentum to empower indigenous and local communities to innovate and co-create solutions that work for us—the community us.
This presentation is the culmination of much of what I’ve learned, thus far, about surviving and thriving in a complex and uncertain world. It’s a story for community-rooted, future-oriented travelers: seasoned wayfinders, intrepid explorers, tour-guide adventurers and curious armchair travelers. Here you can find the link to my presentation Community Matters: On the Public Interest in a Complex and Uncertain World, on the Bulkley Valley Research Centre YouTube channel.
How can we (Smithereens) strengthen our capacity to cope and thrive in a time of unprecedented ecological and social change?
I see the community I live in, Smithers, as an untapped source of empowerment for those of us being tossed around in the stormy seas of globalized, interconnecting, vulnerable human-built systems (food, transportation, energy, healthcare and more). Our community matters because we need each other to most effectively navigate the challenges we face. Together, we can reconnect people and nature in ways that produce restorative and regenerative effects greater than the sum of us. This is good news! This is an epic journey for humanity that we can firmly attach to home and share with and learn from our neighbours.
Where to from here?
My epic journey to a safe place for me and the rest of humanity began at the Spokane World’s Fair in 19974. I was 11 years old. On the outside entrance of the first IMAX Theatre ever built, I read a quote attributed to Chief Dan George, “The Earth does not belong to Man, Man belongs to the Earth.” With the airsickness bag in hand that they provided, I donned 3-D glasses to watch Man Belongs to Earth. And then we flew down the Grand Canyon and on to bear witness to the loss of wild creatures and landscapes and American ways of life.
Now I’m writing a book Looking Glass Revolutions: an Ecologist’s Epic Journey Home via the Americas, from which the themes of my presentation Community Matters: On the Public in a Complex and Uncertain World emerged. Epic journeys, like riding my bicycle through the Americas, preparing this presentation and writing this book, are the kinds of travels that pose extraordinarily challenges over an abyss of uncertainty about if or how one might arrive to their destination. In my view, my presentation for the Bulkley Valley Research Centre was the toughest I’ve ever attempted, complete with emotions of exhaustion. I’m gaining insights and bolstering my resilience for further travels.
From a community-rooted, future-oriented problem solving perspective, I’m keen to explore concepts, thoughts and ideas further with others in our community. I don’t have any preconceived notions about where to go next. I have lots of loosely formed ideas. And I see many potential linkages—including the Bulkley Valley Research Centre, Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board and Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation, Smithers Climate Action, among others—to seed conversations, to gain insights and to find synergies that matter for the resilience of our community. I’m convinced the most successful and rewarding problem solving explorations will emerge when we learn to draw from the full spectrum of wisdom, knowledge, experiences and skills that we collectively hold in our community.
The following sections provide additional information for people interested in learning more about concepts, issues and ideas that I referred to in my presentation.
Some Resources to Support Community-Rooted, Future-Oriented Problem Solving
Planetary Boundaries, Global Context
Find the Planetary Boundaries Research Publications (2009-2022) posted on the Stockholm Resilience Institute Website here.
Credit: Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al 2022. Licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.
Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Report Links
UN general Assembly. 2007. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Available at: United Nations website: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 2015. Truth and reconciliation commission: Calls to action. Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Available at: https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
British Columbia Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act 2019. SBC, C.14. Available at BC laws website: https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/19044
British Columbia Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan: 2022-2027. n.d. Province of B.C. Available at Province of B.C. website: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/indigenous-relations-reconciliation/declaration_act_action_plan.pdf
Local First Nations and Shared Histories, Books
Daly, R. 2005. Our box was full: An ethnography for the Delgamuukw plaintiffs. UBC Press.
Harris, D.C. 2001. Fish, law, and colonialism: The legal capture of salmon in British Columbia. University of Toronto Press.
Morin, M. 2016. Niwhts’ide’nï Hibi’it’en: The Ways of Our Ancestors (2nd edition, School District #54 2016).
McCreary, T. 2020. Shared Histories: Witsuwit’en-Settler Relations in Smithers, British Columbia, 1913-1973. BC Studies, (205), pp.124-126.
Additional Indigenous Resources
Smithers Public Library, Indigenous Resources, Including the Smithers Bridging Committee
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Websites
If you haven’t been following the IPCC reporting, the most recent “Summary for Policy Makers” reports are a good place to start:
IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3?32, doi:10.1017/9781009157896.001. Available at: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/
IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, M. Tignor, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem (eds.)]. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3–33, doi:10.1017/9781009325844.001. Available at: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/
IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.001 Available at: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
The IPBES Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for the Americas
IPBES. 2018. The IPBES regional assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services for the Americas. Rice, J., Seixas, C. S., Zaccagnini, M. E., Bedoya-Gaitán, M., and Valderrama N. (eds.). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany. 656 pages. Available at: https://ipbes.net/assessment-reports/americas
United Nations Environment Program
Making peace with nature: a scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies.
Intergovernmental Science-Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES)–Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chance (IPCC)
IPBES-IPCC Co-sponsored Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change
Pörtner, H.O., Scholes, R.J., Agard, J., Archer, E., Arneth, A., Bai, X., Barnes, D., Burrows, M., Chan, L., Cheung, W.L., Diamond, S., Donatti, C., Duarte, C., Eisenhauer, N., Foden, W., Gasalla, M. A., Handa, C., Hickler, T., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Ichii, K., Jacob, U., Insarov, G., Kiessling, W., Leadley, P., Leemans, R., Levin, L., Lim, M., Maharaj, S., Managi, S., Marquet, P. A., McElwee, P., Midgley, G., Oberdorff, T., Obura, D., Osman, E., Pandit, R., Pascual, U., Pires, A. P. F., Popp, A., Reyes-García, V., Sankaran, M., Settele, J., Shin, Y. J., Sintayehu, D. W., Smith, P., Steiner, N., Strassburg, B., Sukumar, R., Trisos, C., Val, A.L., Wu, J., Aldrian, E., Parmesan, C., Pichs-Madruga, R., Roberts, D.C., Rogers, A.D., Díaz, S., Fischer, M., Hashimoto, S., Lavorel, S., Wu, N., Ngo, H.T. 2021. IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop report on biodiversity and climate change; IPBES and IPCC, DOI:10.5281/zenodo.4782538 Available at the IPBES website: https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2021-06/20210609_workshop_report_embargo_3pm_CEST_10_june_0.pdf
Cascade Institute, Royal Roads University, University of Waterloo (collaborating institution)
Retooling for Climate Change, website hosted by Fraser Basin Council in partnership with BC Ministry of Environment
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Clark, T.W. and Clark, S.G., 2002. The policy process: a practical guide for natural resources professionals. Yale University Press.
Meadows, D.H. 2008. Thinking in systems: A primer. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Haidt, J. 2012. The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.
Klein, G. 2013. Seeing what others don’t: The remarkable ways we gain insights. Public Affairs.
Raworth, K. 2017. Doughnut economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Homer-Dixon, T. 2020. Commanding hope: The power we have to renew a world in peril. Knopf Canada.
Attribution: DoughnutEconomics, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Raworth, Kate. 2018. A healthy economy should be designed to thrive, not grow
Rockström, Johan. 2020. 10 years to transform the future of humanity — or destabilize the planet