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Freshwater Philosophy: The Genesis of Our Approach

Hi! My name is Jocelyn Gibbon, and I am the founder and principal of Freshwater Policy Consulting, LLC. I’d like to introduce myself and the approach of our company.

My husband and I live and work in Flagstaff, Arizona. By education and training, I am a writer and editor; a water and environmental lawyer; a conservation advocate; a boater and river guide in the Grand Canyon; and a teacher of “Restorative Exercise” as taught by the Nutritious Movement Center. How does that fit together, and why am I bothering telling you so?

Our approach at Freshwater has been shaped by this varied background. As a lawyer, I spend time studying how the rules and practices of our systems produce outcomes in the “real” world of our landscapes, our communities, and our lives. I don’t believe that the best answer to a problem is always legal, in the sense of litigating or changing the law. (More on this below.) But understanding the legal and policy context of a problem often helps you see the situation more clearly, and understand the right leverage points to promote desired results or changes.

As a writer and editor, I also believe in the importance of good communication, and that success can often come from sharing ideas clearly, creatively, and with attentiveness to the understanding and perspective of those you are working with. As a river guide—well, I’m passionate about rivers—but also about working on things as a team, and approaching them pragmatically and with a good sense of where the current might take you, how and when to go with it, use it, or work hard to get across it… As a movement teacher I have thought a lot about how we as people function and change our physical and mental habits and alignment over time, and how what we do affects our health—and I draw a lot of analogies between the way to approach changes in the complex workings of our bodies and the complex workings of our social systems. Finally, in all of this work I have become acutely aware of—and awed by—the complex interactions among our physical, social, and natural systems, and interested in how we—as people with some but not complete control over our surroundings—can promote well-being through our interactions with these systems. This is the kind of perspective that led to the creation of Freshwater and has shaped the philosophy of our company.

Finally, one more note about how we work with the law. I am trained as a lawyer and have worked as a lawyer. But I believe that natural resource problems often call for legal knowledge, but not always “legal” solutions. Freshwater was conceived based on an observation that understanding the complex legal and policy background of land, water, and energy issues is necessary—but not sufficient—to make important progress on issues of sustainability. We also recognize that many organizations—and conservation non-profits in particular—can benefit from a deep understanding of law and policy, without always needing, wanting, or being able to “hire a lawyer” to seek legal representation in a specific matter. Freshwater thus works with and values the field of legal knowledge, but we do not provide legal advice or services or serve as a lawyer to any of our clients.