From 23 to 26 November 2003, the science and splendor of water were explored during the 2003 Banff Mountain Summit—Mountains As Water Towers. Presented by Mountain Culture at The Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, Canada, this sold-out event drew over 300 delegates from 18 countries and 5 continents.
Begun in 2000, the Banff Mountain Summit series brings together diverse stakeholders—including scientists, artists and policy-makers—to explore topics of importance to mountain areas. This year's Summit, Mountains As Water Towers, addressed the quantity and quality of water flowing in, and from, mountain places.
Dr. Hans Schreier drew attention to the magnitude of processes increasingly affecting mountain watersheds. “[In the European Alps], a 500-year flood followed by the hottest and driest summer in more than 100 years has occurred within a one-year time period… after a year with excessive snowfalls followed by a year with minimal snowfall, and a windstorm that damaged forests in ways not seen or documented in recent history,” he explained. Schreier pointed out that these events were not localized phenomena, citing the hot and dry “summer-of-fire” in western Canada and the United States.
Thanks to the increasing availability of information, said Dr. Isobel Heathcote, the public is paying attention. “Public interest in the environment has grown steadily since the introduction of environmental science degree programs in the early 1970s. It is no coincidence that [this rise] has paralleled the growth of computer technology, and the increasing availability of information…. [T]here is now ‘striking consensus’ that environmental management is undergoing a fundamental change.”
While the science was sobering, it was Ms. Moleski's grade six class from the Town of Banff Elementary School who garnered a standing ovation from Summit guests. Their performance of “The Climate Change Revue” combined science with musical theatre to educate both students and audience alike about climate change, and how to address it at home. The show was created with assistance from Dr. Don Waite, a Canadian environmental scientist with a passion for music.
Other presentations included the breathtaking endurance of World Hoop Dance Champions, Alex Wells and Lisa Odjig, and Dag Goering's photographic essay Sacred Water: The Ganges, a Gift from the Himalaya which illustrates the unique connection between this ancient river and the people who live on it. Authors Maude Barlow and Marq de Villiers also shared their unique perspectives with Summit guests.
The 2003 Banff Mountain Summit—Mountains As Water Towers was presented by the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation. Generous assistance was also provided by the Government of Canada, Petro-Canada, National Geographic, the Commonwealth Foundation, Bow River Basin Council, International Development Research Council (IDRC/CRDI), Calgary Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Alberta Environment, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Cooperative partners included Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin, the Columbia Basin Trust, Alberta EcoTrust, and the Mountain Forum.