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Zach Weiss on the power of community collaboration to revive rivers and bring back the rain


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Today I want to kick off a series of episodes that focus on the often-overlooked necessity of building resilient and healthy communities. This aspiration is as nuanced and complex as the natural environments we work in, and while human communities are directly connected to, and an essential part of these environments, we also have a disproportionate ability to affect the resources, energy flows, and even the cycles and life and death of the other organisms we share the space with. 

A major element in any environmental project should be the social and communal influences nearby. I have been a part of and assisted many projects around the world, at different scales and with different focuses, and I can confidently say that the ones I’ve watched progress with the most tenacity and resilience are those that took the time and made the effort to collaborate with their local community members and include them in the decision making process and activities. 

It’s true that most of these projects got off to a slow start initially because they weren’t putting all of their resources into project implementation and work on the ground, but over time I’ve watched them flourish into impactful gathering spaces of inspiration, connection and hope. I’ve also heard time and time again from the interviews on this show from some of the people that I most admire that investing in your community is the best use of resources and time if you aspire to create a project that stands the test of time. 

In that spirit, I reached out to a good friend and regular contributor to this show Zach Weiss. 

Zach is best known as the Protégé of revolutionary Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer and founder of Elemental Ecosystems, a company that designs and implements water harvesting landscapes and features for clients around the world.  He’s now launching a new online learning community centered around the exchange and promotion of knowledge around the regeneration of landscape hydrology called Water Stories. I was fortunate enough to get an early look at the educational videos, mini documentaries, and animations that he’ll be releasing in the coming months, and I highly encourage you all to sign up through the link on the show notes for this episode, and keep an eye out for those as they come out.

In today’s episode we’ll be taking a different approach to previous interviews I’ve done with Zach that focused more on the practical steps for understanding landscapes and intervening to restore hydrological function. In this one we’ll shine a light on some of the most impressive and impactful water restoration projects from around the world and the catalysts that brought communities together to accomplish projects that have transformed entire ecosystems and the lives within them as a result. 

These stories span the globe and a wide spectrum of contexts. They illustrate the power of collaboration, especially when resources are scarce and institutional support is no existent or even antagonistic. 

If you have ever held back from starting an ambitious goal that had the potential to heal massive areas of land because you couldn’t get the money or political backing, then listen closely to this session because it just might be the inspiration you’ve been waiting for.

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