We get really excited when we meet people that understand our swim drink fish vision. Cut the explanation – some people just get it.
That's exactly how I felt about Nina Munteanu when I first met her at the 2016 Water Docs festival.
Our main role at Water Docs was to introduce the Watermark Project and explain its significance to protecting Canada’s waterways. As the event came to a close, Nina and I crossed paths. And after just a few minutes of chatting it was clear that she really understood the Watermark Project.
Nina is an internationally published, award-winning novelist, short story and non-fiction author. She’s also been a limnologist and an ecologist for over 20 years. Currently, Nina teaches writing at the University of Toronto and George Brown College.
This Sunday, June 12, we’re one of many who are joining Nina in Etobicoke for the launch of her latest book, Water Is... . We recently crossed paths again to discuss details for this weekend’s event.
Q: The event is based around the launch of your book, but there’s a lot more happening than a few readings. Why does the event encompass so much more than what most would expect (from a typical book launch)?
I very quickly realized that the launch needed to be more than a simple book launch with a reading (I’ve done many of those already!).
The event is quite simply a celebration of water, which includes the launch of my book Water Is… (devoted to the many identities of water) but spills out into a shared celebration with poets, artists and visionaries sharing their knowledge, vision and expressions.
From Councillor Jim Tovey and other leaders in environmental politics and action to writers, poets, artists and entrepreneurs – the event is literally a potpourri of interesting people from all walks of life. I visualize the event as a dilettante’s dream with a water art exhibit by local painter Tasnim Jivaji, poetry readings, a discussion about the Watermark Project—encouraging people to connect with water through storytelling—and informational exhibits, attended by experts in the field.
The Water Is… event will launch with a blessing of Mimico Creek by a Mississauga nation knowledge keeper. The creek flows through the Islington Golf Course—and can be rather unruly at times. The blessing will set the tone of respect and appreciation for water.
Q: What are some things people can look forward to at the Water Is... event?
I’m looking forward to seeing all the cool people we’ve gathered at this event to mingle, share, and make connections. We’ve made efforts to bring in some very interesting people. Visionaries, green leaders, ecologists, environmentalists, technologists and entrepreneurs who can network on environmental initiatives, new technologies, water conservation, education, nature appreciation and so much more.
One of the highlights, apart from the water blessing and listening to Jim Tovey speak—he is such a dynamic and interesting person—is the Water Action Station (WAS), which will feature Jacques Cousteau’s Bill of Rights for Future Generations. Everyone will have a chance to make a personal commitment and then receive a copy of a manifesto for themselves, signed by yours truly.
The WAS will also feature a charity board. Pixl Press has agreed to donate a percentage of book sales to a water charity and we are asking participants to choose from the organizations shortlisted there; it’ll be a little like “pin the donkey” but instead it’ll be “pin the charity.”
In addition, Ro Omrow with Ecologos will talk about the work being done to turn Toronto into a “Blue Community.”
Q: What is Water Is...?
The Water Is… event is quite literally about celebrating what water is. In fact, that’s our official hashtag: #WhatIsWater.
The Water Is… book essentially does the same only in 12 chapters. Each chapter attempts to answer the question of what water is by exploring an aspect or character that water possesses, provides or informs.
These aren’t your ordinary characteristics either. The chapter titles include: magic, life, motion, communication, vibration, memory, rhythm, beauty, story, prayer, wisdom and joy. Water’s role in each of these is explored through personal connection, history, scientific discovery and philosophy.
Q: What inspired the Water Is… book?
Since early on in my over twenty-year career as a limnologist, I knew that I wanted to write a book about water. I’d always envisioned it as being a kind of limnology book for the non-scientist. But as time went on, and my knowledge and experiences grew, the kind of book I wanted to write morphed into something that spilled out of the boundaries of traditional science.
I demurred writing the book for many years, frankly because I wasn’t ready to step out of my comfort zone as a traditional scientist. That time finally came three years ago and the book practically wrote itself.
Q: Water Is... was a 3-year project that is finally ready for the public to own and appreciate. What do you hope readers will take away from reading Water Is...?
When I first started this project, I didn’t really know why it was so important to me. I knew I was going to reach beyond the traditional science community to which I belonged and it took some courage to finally write it. It was the message that kept me writing and that message is simple: connection.
It is my hope that readers of the book will find some emotional connection with water that will invigorate them, stay with them, lodge in their hearts, and engender action. And at the very least, a change in perspective.
Q: What was your favourite part of the 3-year process? Which part was the most challenging?
My favourite part was researching the book, which involved talking to some of the most interesting people in the world, reading and learning incredible things and doing fieldwork that involved wading much of the Credit River.
The most challenging part was stopping. I realized that at some point I had to cut off the research and writing and focus on submitting the final work to my publisher. At that point, I could no longer incorporate any new and wonderful piece of information I ran across. That was hard.
Q: You’re a limnologist – something that not many can say. What is limnology?
A limnologist is quite simply a scientist who studies freshwater, all aspects of freshwater: its physics, chemistry, and biology. This also includes an understanding of watersheds and catchment basins, which incorporates terrestrial ecology, land use, geology, geography, and so many other sciences.
Unlike an aquatic ecologist who focuses on why an organism or community lives where it does and how it interacts with its ecosystem, a limnologist studies all the factors that create, maintain, and change or destroy that ecosystem.
Q: When you first met Waterkeeper at Water Docs, you latched onto the Watermark Project fairly quickly. Why is the Watermark Project a good fit for this event and why should those attending share their Watermarks?
Quite simply, the Watermark Project resonates with what my book tries to foster and with the theme of the event on June 12: making a connection with water through personal narrative.
The idea of an emotional connection is, I think, critical to motivating humanity to embark and persist on a sustainable path. It totally made sense for the Watermark Project to be at the event.
I hope that many individuals will share their Watermarks with Waterkeeper. With each Watermark, others will be encouraged to share theirs in a growing river of powerful memories.
Q: What’s your personal connection to water? Why and when did you decide to make water such a prominent part of your life?
I have many personal connections to water. I’ve shared one Watermark with you, but you’ll have to read the book to find them all.
I only realized when I started to write and compile Water Is… that my personal connections to water literally defined my life. It was a stunning and powerful revelation for me. Watermarks can have the same compelling effect for individuals who agree to open themselves to them.
Everyone has at least one Watermark. The key is to start with one; it will naturally lead to many others.
This Sunday, share your Watermark and protect a waterbody you love.
Waterkeeper is very proud to join Nina at Water Is… on June 12 in Etobicoke. Look for Waterkeeper’s Water Literacy Coordinator, Claire Lawson’s special presentation on the Watermark Project.
Follow Nina Munteanu online at www.themeaningofwater.com.