Building beyond 100: Reflections on the Living Waters Rally

Last weekend was the inaugural Living Waters Rally. Over four days, an eclectic mix of 100 or so people from every corner of Canada shared their water concerns and knowledge, took in a diverse program of keynote talks and workshops ranging in topic from community-based water monitoring to engaging the public in the politics of water. Some canoed and hiked; some met with their Members of Parliament. I left both exhausted and energized.

With Lindsay Telfer, Director of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.  (C) Gayle McClelland, WWF-Canada

When Lindsay Telfer, Director of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and I…and a few others, dreamed up this Rally idea about a year or so ago, I had no idea how important an event it would be – for me personally, but also, I think, for the water community in Canada.
These are dark days for water and environmental protection in Canada. Concern in the room at the Rally was obvious. Discussions about local struggles with new dam proposals, old mine proposals and other development pressures were underpinned by deep concerns over the erosion of science and the weakening of the laws that all of our groups, and all Canadians, rely on to protect their waters. The weakening of the Fisheries Act and impending closure of the Experimental Lakes Area were top of mind. This awesome tweetcloud brought to you by public opinion research guru Angus McAllister gives a good top line summary of the weekend’s discussions (twitter hashtag #livingwatersrally).
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, really. There were a lot of laughs shared over the weekend and there was a real positive energy in the room. And, I think, a strong sense that now, more than ever, there is a need and a desire to band together, from local watershed groups made up of a few staff and volunteers to large organizations like WWF, to protect Canada’s waters.
I believe, very honestly, that I witnessed this weekend a reinvigorated water movement in Canada. Obviously, that movement includes many more than the 100 people who spent last the weekend in Ottawa / Gatineau.
In our final session on Sunday participants agreed to share our reflections on the Rally with our supporters, partners, friends and members. These are mine – and this is my challenge to the other 99 (or so) to share theirs through blogs, newsletters, Facebook and Twitter (let’s keep #livingwatersrally alive!) as a first step in building beyond 100.

(C) Gayle McClelland, WWF-Canada