Posted 16 May 2022 - 08:12 AM
From UVic, just now:
Expert Q&A on water crisis amidst climate change
The threat to water security is just as urgent as the climate crisis, says Oliver M. Brandes, project lead of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project at the University of Victoria. An economist and lawyer by training, Brandes is co-director of the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, based at UVic’s Centre for Global Studies (CFGS), where he leads its award-winning water sustainability project and serves as associate director of CFGS.
Among other affiliations, Brandes is a founding member and current chair of the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW).
FLOW recently released an open letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to acknowledge the “climate crisis as a water crisis.”
Q. What is your biggest fear about the water crisis?
A. My fear is that we will miss the opportunities.
In Canada, certainly on the West Coast, we are somewhat fortunate in the sense we aren’t yet over the cliff. We might be approaching the cliff, but we’re not yet over it.
My fear is that people are going to realize too late the real opportunities ahead of us to transform our societies, governance and policies, and thus build the necessary resilience to help secure our future both for us and our children.
Q. What worries you from a global context about social injustice and water security?
A. We become more polarized when we’re under pressure. People’s resilience is rapidly diminishing. For instance, food security concerns get amplified when we have to make difficult trade-offs. Whether it’s choosing between growing enough food, developing better housing, addressing immigration issues or dealing with famine and economic stability, the list goes on. Water is always this unbelievably important connector issue.
There are all kinds of different approaches globally to how people interact with water. Different cultures have different ways of looking at water and the values that underpin perception and priorities. And that’s an important aspect of thinking about creative solutions. Western science with a colonial mindset won’t get us out of this.
Q. The BC and federal governments both recently released their budgets. What looks promising for water security, in your opinion, and are there any gaps?
A. You can see a tale of two kinds of approaches to investment.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. I’d like to see the federal government be bolder and I’d like to see the provincial government take advantage of its early investment and really leverage it and build on it—maybe even become a national or continental leader.
Q. What can people do in their daily lives to help avoid an escalating water crisis?
A. We know about being mindful on so many levels. But water is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted, especially on the coast where drought is often immediately followed by rain. In this context of wild extremes, it is very easy to forget and just assume things will be fine without making any of the real changes we will ultimately need to do.
Outdated appliances, water-guzzling showers, and profligate outdoor water use—things like using fresh water to recreate a landscape and maintaining extensive lawns in the middle of summer have huge water implications. If we’re talking about system change, we have to change the incentives and priorities. And that’s our role, not just as individuals, but as citizens. As individuals, we can make choices and be more stewardship oriented, but ultimately it must be about collective action.
It’s about empowering the leaders who want to be bold and are prepared to make hard trade-offs and really make the tough choices to ensure we begin the system changes and ensure the solutions we put in place—the rules, regulations, legal protections and local decision-making—remain durable even as circumstances and our climate continues to change.
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