Program, Videos, Slides – Tufts 2015

Restoring Water Cycles

– Program –

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Our program addressed science, land management practices and activism.   There was ample time for Q&A, and attendees and speakers were encouraged to attend the entire conference in order to be available for thought-provoking dialogue and creative networking. On Sunday afternoon there were ad hoc workshops presented by attendees and speakers, an activity that was very popular during our 2014 conference at Tufts.

We are telling the story of water.  

Today’s story is grim.

desertification-david_suzukiWithout water there is no life, and today the earth’s water cycles have been disrupted and damaged by human activity.  Billions of acres worldwide have already been turned to deserts by mismanagement, and more are on their way. Thirst and drought prevail, paradoxically   interspersed with devastating floods.   We face massive loss of food along with the loss of water, and the loss of life that inevitably follows.

And yet . . . therwater cascade - web DSCN1375e’s another story to tell,  one of abundance of water, food – and hope!

We know how to turn the water story around – and quickly – restoring drylands, dried wetlands and the biodiverse living abundance that water brings.  Even the driest state in the U.S., Nevada, is turning wet again with proper management that reintroduces and supports key species such as beaver. Simultaneously such eco-restoration can pull gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soils, to return greenhouse gases to pre-industrial levels, quite possibly in a matter of a couple of decades or less.

Our approaches are broadly applicable, inexpensive and low- or no-tech. We promote ways that nature has been developing for millions of years, ways that created once gloriously life-rich habitats across the globe.  If this all sounds too good to be true – well, the natural world is like that when we give it a chance!

Join us as we tell this new water story, covering the science, the land management practices and the activism that will make it all come to pass.  And check out Michal Kravcik’s Global Action Plan for the Restoration of Natural Water Cycles and Climate!

Friday evening
Welcome to a Water Story Untold


6:00 Biodiversity for a Livable Climate Executive Director Adam Sacks welcomes attendees and sets the agenda for the weekend: conveying the power and potential of water cycles to transform the biosphere and the climate.

Video [15:10]

Water and Climate: An Overview

6:15  Journalist Judy Schwartz, author of the groundbreaking book, Cows Save the Planet, gives the perspective of a concerned citizen seeking to understand how water fits into the complex workings of climate change.

Video  [15:33]   Slides

Civilization and Water: Scarcity, Abundance, and the Road Less Traveled

6:35 Maude Barlow, longtime Canadian global activist for water rights, describes the current crisis of global communities whose access to clean water is threatened by ecological damage and corporate exploitation.

Video [18:55]

Maude then introduces Michal Kravcik, and explains how his vision of a New Water Paradigm adds the dimension of restoration to empower regions for water self-sufficiency.

The New Water Reality

6:55 Innovative Slovakian hydrologist Michal Kravčík gives an introduction to his New Water Paradigm and the critical importance of regional or “small” rainwater cycles. The result is a set of empowering ecological concepts that enable people everywhere to secure clean and adequate water, prevent floods and drought and moderate local climate, simply by harvesting rainfall. Since the 1990s he has demonstrated these concepts in his native Slovakia.

Video [23:30]  (closed captioning available – Click the “CC” icon at the bottom of the YouTube video screen to activate)


From Gray to Green Infrastructure

7:30 Hydrologist Scott Horsley discusses green infrastructure as the new tool of water harvesting in urban areas and other settled landscapes.

Video [20:46]      Slides 

Emulating Nature

7:50 Steve Apfelbaum tells us how restoring biodiverse landscapes can be the most effective way to manage stormwater, as demonstrated in projects such as Seneca Meadows in New York state.

Video [21:21]   Slides 

Closing the Nutrient Loop: Creating Abundant Clean Water

8:10 Jim Laurie talks about using natural biological processes to turn some of the most toxic and polluted effluent around – both sewage and industrial waste – into clean, clear water.

Video [21:42]   Slides

8:30 – Q&A

Saturday Morning
The Remarkable Science of Water in the Biosphere

9:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

9:00 The Bio4Climate team introduces itself and gives some logistical info, including how to initiate and sign up for the ad hoc workshops on Sunday afternoon.

Video [2:12]

The Natural History of Water on Earth

9:10 Australian soil and climate scientist Walter Jehne discusses how the five kingdoms of life have created water cycles, moving water through sea, soil and air, navigating tumultuous changes through geological ages to the present, and how the human presence has brought earth’s systems into a crisis in which water is also the potential vehicle for stabilization and renewal.

Video [22:55]

The New Water Paradigm

9:30 Michal Kravčík guides us through the concepts of the New Water Paradigm in greater detail, showing how water cycles can be supported to enhance local climates and biodiversity, and how this understanding can broaden and enhance our strategies for addressing climate change.

Video [20:38]  (closed captioning available – Click the “CC” icon at the bottom of the YouTube video screen to activate)   


9:50 Q&A for Walter Jehne & Michal Kravcik

Video [13:40]

10:10 break

Nature Wants to Be Wet

10:30  Restoration ecologist Jim Laurie illuminates the vital connections between water cycles and biodiversity, describing numerous keystone species – from microbes and worms to beavers, burrowing animals and ruminants – which increase water infiltration and retention in landscapes. By partnering with these species we can jumpstart the restoration of stable local water cycles.

Jim also introduces students from his Homeschool Advanced Placement Biology / Restoration Ecology course who perform a short play called “Symbiosis”, including sketches on “Making Holes to Improve the Small Water Cycle” and “Stopping Flash Floods and Cleaning Water.”  Jim  finishes with a brief description of a new initiative in state government: since 2009 the Mass. Division of Ecological Restoration has helped partners remove 40 dams and restore approximately 2,000 acres of coastal wetland.

Video [34:51]

New Climate Leaders

11:05 Emaline Conkey, Senior, Mascoma Valley Regional High School in NH and Brianna Klauer, Sophomore, Hartford High School in VT

These two student leaders are in the “Climate, Water, Soil and Hope” program developed by Didi Pershouse of the Soil Carbon Coalition.  Students, teachers, and community members participate in a hands-on exploration of the role of soil aggregates in water flows and filtration, as well as role of plants and soil microorganisms in the carbon cycle.  Emaline and Brianna  share their experiences in the program and their goals for further involvement in the soil restoration movement.

Video [19:05]

Telling the Water Story to the People

11:20 Foster Brown, Amazonian ecologist, gives an introduction to the interactive methods he uses to teach forest ecology in the Peruvian communities he works with.     

Video [12:12]      

11:45 Lunch

Saturday Afternoon
Where the Water Hits the Riverbed

12:30 Fiddlin’ Quinn and His Big Folks Band welcome us back.  Foot-stompin’ music not to be missed!

Miracle in the Nevada Desert – Carol Evans and Jon Griggs

1:00 The restoration of ground water in the driest landscape of North America, the Great Basin of Nevada, has been a dramatic success story. Beavers have begun returning to the American West, representing a powerful step in restoring the land and transforming water cycles.

Fisheries biologist Carol Evans has worked with ranchers in Nevada since the 1970s to support beaver habitat on grazing lands, with dramatic results replenishing groundwater levels and restoring surface brooks and ponds – even in areas with only 10 inches annual rainfall (by contrast, temperate Massachusetts receives 45 inches of rainfall a year).  Carol tells us about the changes she has seen on the land she manages when innovative land management practices are put into place.

Adding the perspective of a rancher, Jon Griggs of Maggie Creek Ranch tells us about the history, wildlife, and return of long lost biodiverse species.  If we can do it in Nevada, we can do it anywhere. California, listen up!

A Q&A for Jim Laurie, Carol Evans, and Jon Griggs is included at the end of the video.

Video [1:09:38]      Carol’s Slides      Jon’s Slides

Retain the Rain, No More Down the Drain!

2:05 Jan Lambert introduces, by way of photos and illustrations, the richly varied ways in which rainwater is now being successfully restored into landscapes. Holistic green pastures in America and green roofs in Scotland. Using beaver dams as models for water retention and jumpstarting new forests by curbing erosion. Huge strides are being made in forest, farm, desert, and city to renew the water cycle, reduce floods and drought and renew hope for nature and humanity.

Video [27:57]     Slides

River Regeneration in Rajasthan

2:25 We are honored to present Rajendra Singh, the “Waterman of India”,  winner of the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize. Rajendra tells us of the importance of water to personal and social identities and stability, and about some methods he used to restore stable water flows to the state of Rajasthan, India.  He has led a decades-long successful campaign to reclaim degraded and mine-scarred landscapes using the traditional water harvesting methods such as the johad earthen dam. Local people have mobilized around these methods to restore water abundance in the driest state of India.

Video [19:17] (closed captioning available – Click the “CC” icon at the bottom of the YouTube video screen to activate)

The Tijuca Story: Reforestation and the Biotic Pump

3:05 Tom Goreau tells of the successful reforestation centuries ago of the mountains surrounding Rio de Janeiro, and describes the workings of the “biotic pump” by which forest transpiration supports healthy precipitation across wide areas.

Video [22:55]     Slides

Community Grazing for Community Abundance

3:25 Precious Phiri of Zimbabwe discusses the managed grazing of ruminants from the perspective of how it opens soils for water – and raises water tables and brings back surface water for crops, domestic animals and wildlife, along with a surge of biodiversity and productivity for humans and many other species.

Video [18:44]      Slides 

Permaculture, Perma-Water

4:00 Glenn Gall will take us through the groundbreaking work done by many permaculture practitioners, and the central part which water plays in permaculture design.  Discussion will include methods such as keyline, subsoiling and grazing, where water has become the focus of land management.


4:20 Boston-area community gardener and permaculture teacher Allison Houghton will give an appreciation of the pyramid of species that support soil life and biodiversity, and the ways in which water retention can be supported for ecosystem health.


4:40 permaculture Q&A

Video of both speakers and Q&A [34:39]

5:00 Close

Sunday Morning
Merging Activism with Restoration

9:00: Policy panel: Building Water Cycles into the International Climate Debate

Walter Jehne, Tom Goreau and Jan Lambert with Michal Kravčík each speak on the opportunities for broadening the debate over climate before COP21 in Paris. How do we take it beyond the current global focus on carbon dioxide reduction to deploying methods for hydrological cooling that directly relieve climate extremes?

Walter Jehne describes his strategic vision for expanding the awareness of water cycles in global climate policy.  Jehne was trained as a microbiologist and over decades has worked in Australian business and government settings. He has led initiatives to recognize the climate value of the “in-soil reservoir”, the potential of carbon-rich soil to buffer climate extremes.

Jan Lambert speaks as co-author with Michal Kravcik of the Global Action Plan, included in her new book Water, Land and Climate – the Critical Connection.

Tom Goreau describes the policy landscape for advancing ecological restoration, both inside and outside those official organizations. Goreau has long and patient experience in consulting and advising small nations in UN climate bodies.

A Q&A for all three speakers is at the end of the video.

Video [56:51]

Maintaining Forest Cover and Biodiversity in Amazonia 

10:00 Foster Brown is a senior scientist for Woods Hole Research Institute, based in the State of Acre in the western Amazon. Brown illustrates the challenges of protecting Amazonia especially from fire, and of mobilizing local populations for ecological awareness.

Video includes Q&A session with Brown.

Video [43:10]      Slides 

11:00 Activist panel: Empowering water restoration

Moderated by Adam Sacks, our three panelists will speak of success in mobilizing people to work for water restoration in widely varied settings.

11:00 Maude Barlow  will speak on how water supply and water rights are at the heart of many conflict and crisis zones throughout the world. On the positive side, this means that the empowerment that comes from the New Water Paradigm can reach a massive web of people positioned to repair local environmental problems locally, as well as participate in healing the planet.

11:15 Rajendra Singh will give us the story of regeneration and hope from Rajasthan, and how the restoration of river watersheds has built community and livelihoods for its people.

11:30 Precious Phiri has been part of the Zimbabwean community grazing culture throughout her life. She has an inspiring vision of community strength and security coming from the collective village-based methods of holistic management.

Video for the panel includes Q&A session for all three panelists.

Video [54:20]

Sunday Afternoon
Our Collective Water Genius

Ad hoc workshops, 1:15 – 5:00 p.m.

The Ad Hoc Workshop feature was very popular in 2014; and we welcomed again the initiative of attendees and speakers alike to spend the afternoon in breakout workshops. Participants planned and posted their own workshop topics to our sign-up board during the weekend, and we had time for several workshops during three 1-hour sessions.

1:15 Workshop # 1

2:15 Break

2:30 Workshop # 2

3:30 Break

3:45 Workshop # 3

4:45 Closing Remarks – Workshop attendees can optionally present brief remarks to describe highlights and foster continued networking after the conference.

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