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What Lies Under The Ground Beneath Your Feet?
Complexity of water systems
Water is essential for living; for us, for animals, for bugs, for trees and the soil. Without water, no one can be.
The harms we have caused to water are impacting both the social and environmental parts of our lives. Droughts cause flooding and flooding causes droughts, droughts and flooding cause displacement and water shortage.
There’s many little clusters of push right now for natural based solutions for addressing climate change, but it’s hard to create action without resources and support, and the ones with resources are usually swimming the other way.
Through my project, I want to encourage people to use their voices and power, I want to show that citizens can and should be part of decision-making, and to create positive actionable change, people from different backgrounds and with different levels of systemic power need to work together.
Scale of influence
Complex problems like this one - water systems, specifically in urban environments - are knotted in a huge multi-sector knot that I cannot penetrate with one project, so I decided to focus on the scale that I can have influence in: my neighbourhood.
I’ve been living in Vancouver for 4 years, and 3 of those years in Mount Pleasant. Through slowly getting more familiar and comfortable with this neighbourhood I have started noticing all the community initiatives that teach people about the waterways that run right under our feet. QR codes for listening to the rivers on Saint George Street, fish drawings engraved on the sidewalk near Emily Carr, wooden fish coloured by children on the fence of Florence Nightingale Elementary School. And I’ve started paying more attention to the landscapes I walk through. I can hear the rivers running through the pipes, even when there is no rain or no one has flushed their toilet, I see the walking paths in the parks and how they merge like the rivers used to merge into one another. I’ve always been amazed at guerrilla interventions, their ability to build resilience and connection in a community.
Mount Pleasant taught me about the invisible rivers that run through its soil, and now I can share that with others.
To get people on board and act, they first need to understand the context, become familiar, and see its importance and urgency.
What Lies Under The Ground Under Your Feet? focuses on that first step: many people don’t know about the covered waterways and their impact on floods, water supply, food supply, droughts… And the invisibility of water systems in cities makes it even harder for citizens to understand the impacts and consequences of the way water is dealt with.
My aim is to teach people through playful and embodied activities: a “friendly revolution” of sorts. These activities will slowly create a database that can be used to influence government policies and decision-making.
By inviting participants into an informal educational space, through pragmatic and playful activities, people are more likely to speak up their opinions, and to dive deeper into sense making and embodiment of practice since there is no pressure to “get something right” and no need to be the “expert” about a subject.
An informal space allows for vulnerability, inviting people to connect deeper with each other and the spaces they stand in; to become familiar, and to feel a sense of belonging and ownership.
Belonging and ownership
By familiarizing ourselves with our environments we start desiring and expecting what is best for it, and with that, what is best for us. How do we take care of our surroundings so that it can take care of us, and the ones around us? We feel empowered to speak up and use our voices to advocate for what is ours.
Citizens are the most familiar with their communities and environments, and by feeling empowered of our opinions and rights, we can start advocating for the changes we want to see and start taking up space in decision-making regarding our livelihoods.
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