IWRM at McGill University

I had the pleasure of joining (via Skype) the graduate class on Water: Society, Law and Policy that is a core course in McGill University’s graduate certificate in integrated water resources management. This was the third time I was invited to speak on ethical issues in water policy with that course and, as I have come to expect from the students there, it was a treat.

One of the students offered a nice critique of some of the work Peter Brown and I did in our book, specifically the essay on what we called ‘compassionate retreat‘ that forms the last chapter of our book. The gist of that piece is that water management has over-emphasized technical and scientific knowledge at the expense of considering issues of normative judgment. So we suggest that finding ways of retreating from our current position as a dominant force in complex systems and do so with compassion is vital – both with respect to the obligations we created through massive interventions into the water cycle and with respect to those excluded from the ‘benefits’ wrought under the guise of that type of development.

The student who critiqued the paper did a fabulous job, particularly in drawing out a nice distinction regarding science and technology. The distinction focused on the difference between policy programs oriented towards how science and technology should be applied versus if certain forms of science and technology fit with defensible ends for water management.

As with other opportunities engaging with the students in this class, it was a privilege to have somebody engage with your work so closely that, when they put up a diagram summarizing your chapter you think, “Hey, maybe we could use that if we revisit this?”