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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
Tel (250) 881-1304

Executive director of The Solutions Project


Newsletter No. 98 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - October 2000


During 1999, the world’s population passed 6 billion people. Everywhere, global ecosystems are in retreat, but our numbers keep growing. At this rate, we’ll reach 10 billion by 2080.

This means that we’ll need to find room for another 4 billion people - in ways that are socially and ecologically sustainable. Our grandchildren, who will be living in this world, have every right to enjoy its wildlife and its beauty. So where is everyone going to live? And how are they going to live?

In the late 1960s, Columbian activist Paolo Lugari found himself asking these same questions. Columbia is a huge country, but if you drive east from Bogota, out of the Andes mountains, you come to the rain-soaked savanna of the eastern los llanos region, just north of the Equator, where almost no-one lives because the soil is so poor. Go further east, and you’re in the Amazon.

Flying over the area in 1965, Paolo realized that if people could live here, they could live anywhere. He staked a claim to 25,000 acres at a place called Gaviotas (after a local bird), and asked his friends at Bogota’s many universities to help.

Between them, they invented a way to mix soil with cement to make buildings, dams and drainage pipes; they invented a light-weight pump which the kids could work by riding a see-saw; they designed a windmill (after 58 attempts) that would catch the slightest breeze and run for years without repair. They designed a solar water heater that works in the rain and is so cheap and effective that they set up a factory in Bogota, staffed by street kids turned solar technicians, installing the heaters all over Bogota. All this, without registering any patents, so that the world could enjoy their technologies for free.

They manufactured their windmills, installing thousands all over the country. They made biogas generators, and invented a solar pressure-cooker, and a solar kettle which provides safe, clean drinking water. It took six years to perfect, but in a world that is running out of fresh water, the implications are enormous.

They needed food, but the soil on the riverbanks was too poor, so they grew vegetables in containers of nutritionless rice hulls, washed by manure tea. By the late 1970s, they had a third of a square kilometer covered with hydroponic greenhouses. They built a solar hospital, cooled by the wind and heated by the sun, named by a Japanese architecture journal as one of the 40 most important buildings in the world.

At the end of the 1980s, Gaviotas began to run into trouble. Columbia’s embrace of global free trade was flooding the market with mass-produced food, driving local farmers to the cultivation of coca. The oil industry was booming, and the market for their windmills and solar collectors was declining. The Gaviotas pioneers were not the kind to give up, however.

Searching for a plant that could survive the harsh llanos soil, they had found a Caribbean pine from Venezuela which would grow if the roots of its seedlings were dipped in a fungus which was missing from the local soil, so they planted 20,000 acres. As the pine forest grew, it provided shade for a host of seeds dropped by birds or blown in on the wind. In front of their eyes – and to their total surprise - the rainforest started to return, with plants, shrubs, jacarandas, saplings, deer, ant-eaters, armadillos, capybaras and eagles.

The Gaviotans discovered that they could tap the pines for resin and process it into turpentine, replacing the imported petroleum products used in paints, glues, cosmetics, perfumes and medicines. They designed a zero-emissions factory to distill it, and found a new source of income. They realized that by planting the pines in ever-increasing circles and harvesting the resin, they could restore the llanos to a fertile rainforest. Now they are working with the Guahibo Indians to research the 250 new species of native plant which have appeared, seeking their ethno-botanical properties.

Today, Gaviotas is a self-sufficient village of 200+ people. Its residents live by their creative endeavors, powered by the sun and the wind. They manage their growing forest, and ship clean drinking water to Colombia’s many villages. In one of the world’s most violent countries, they have created an oasis of peace, health and fulfillment, filled with music and birdsong.

What can we learn from Gaviotas, here in BC? That it is of paramount importance to let people experiment and work together, to invent a new future; that universities have a lot to contribute, if students and profs are allowed to work outside the normal constraints; that land offers an incredible opportunity if people are allowed to live together and experiment. As Gaviotas founder Paolo Lugari puts it: "If we can do this in Colombia, there's hope that people can do it anywhere."

Guy Dauncey

For the full story, read Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, by Alan Weisman (Chelsea Green, 1998). Available from Munro’s bookshop, 382-2464

For more information, and pictures, see

Please note:  the Green Diary has moved, click here to view.


Published as a monthly service, nourishing the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your donations.AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)

July/Aug Sept Oct
Circulation: 2250 2250 2250
By Email: 688 678 706
Print & Post: $920 $943 $920
Editorial: $250 $250 $250
Donations: $805 $175 ? ? ?
Advertising: $205 $160
Balance: $1713 $885
Green Dollars: $210 $210 $210

Many thanks to Roger Colwill, Barb Hourston, Dorothy Beach, Tony Embledon, Kay Look, Rob Wickson, Philippa White, Jean Mackenzie, Debra Barr & Anne Moon.

After this issue, the bank will be very empty Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd, Victoria V9E 2B9. For a receipt, send stamped addressed envelope.

To receive EcoNews by email, send a message to


$5 line (free to non-profits, low-income). 1" box ad $30, $2" $55.

* Volunteer wanted to update the Victoria Greenpages media list at Call Guy, 881-1304

* A big welcome to the GroundWorks Learning Centre at 521 Superior St, James Bay (360-0799), which LifeCycles and Community Mapping Centre have set up together. Drop in for a visit on Tue 9-4, Wed 1-8, to see what’s new.

* Xmas dinner: organically fed, free range Gulf Islands goose. Orders taken for Dec. Also lamb & chicken 250 629-3964

* Weekend Trailbuilding Campout starting, needs experienced folks, especially trail leaders. Syd, 381-1141

* Reach for Unbleached bulk office paper buying club. Deadline Oct 13th for chlorine free, high recycled paper. $53.50/box (5000 sheets). Pre-payment essential, (604) 879-2992

* Congratulations to Fin Donnelly on his amazing 1400 km ‘Spirit of the Salmon’ swim of the Fraser, to draw attention to the plight of BC’s largest. What a swim!!!

* Travel Map and information on Upper Walbran Valley available from Western Canada Wilderness Cte, 388-9292

* Study Circles in Voluntary Simplicity and Deep Ecology starting now. North West Earth Institute. Jackie, 361-9446

* Nov 2nd is the deadline for Habitat Conservation Trust Fund proposals – habitat restoration, conservation, land stewardship, environmental education, habitat acquisition. Call 1-800-387-9853 or see


If they can do it, perhaps we can too? Last year, the Berkeley school board passed an optional organic food policy, through which all 10,000 students are being introduced to pesticide-free, GM-free food, some of which they are growing for themselves. 12 of the 15 schools have organic schoolyards; the goal is for schools to grow 25% of the organic produce needed, with local family farms producing the rest. The project was started by parents who were dissatisfied with the food being served in the school cafeterias. The new policy sets goals and obtainable objectives, and provides abundant information to the public through full disclosure, profit and loss statements, business plans, and the nutritional breakdown of all meals served. The district is attempting to keep costs down by working with local growers and buying in bulk; the program has reported a 6% increase in meals served, which means more kids are participating. The policy also bans the use of genetically engineered foods, irradiated foods, and dairy products from cows injected with the recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Other goals include establishing a child nutrition advisory committee and eliminating food additives, and high-fat, high-sugar snacks and entrees. For details, see


Sherri Hohert, MSW, RSW

Individuals, Couples, Families

1520 Fort St, Victoria

(250) 598-0544


Are you concerned that the ideals and the practice of sound land-use decisions don’t often meet? Most people are beginning to accept that we need urban greenbelts and ecological protection to control suburban sprawl and protect nature, and yet projects such as the Costco megastore in Langford, Silver Spray in Sooke and the Hulls Field wetland proposal in Langford continue to make their way through the approvals process. Does nature stand for nothing, when it comes to making a dollar? William Honachefsky's new book, ‘Ecologically Based Municipal Land Use Planning’ will revolutionize the way communities plan their land-use. Though US-based, most of the principles apply well in Canada. Drawing on more than 30 years of experience and the investigation of thousands of cases of environmental abuse, Honachefsky presents a powerful combination of strategies that restore the Municipal Master Plan (OCP) to its rightful dominance over zoning; incorporate a host of new and unique "ecological indicators" with which a community can assess the health of the natural resources that sustain it; apply GIS to problem-solving; and make the preservation of a community's ‘ecological infrastructure’ the paramount priority of the Master Plan (OCP). His book is about empowering ordinary citizens, and crafting scientifically-based land use plans that will withstand the most withering judicial scrutiny. In future, no community will be able to say it did not have the tools to stop sprawl in its tracks. CRC Press/Lewis Publ, Boca Raton, FL. 1-800-272-7737


We are slow to use tax credits creatively in BC to encourage green behaviour. In Oregon and Maryland, they give tax credits for the purchase of Energy Star efficient appliances, home insulation and retrofits, and efficient vehicles. In New York, the state is now offering a ‘green building credit’ to developers who build environmentally sound commercial and apartment buildings with improved indoor air quality which use recycled and recyclable materials, and use 65% less energy than the state’s Energy Code. 10% of the cost of ozone-friendly air-conditioning, 30% of the cost of hydrogen fuel-cells and 100% of the cost of built-in solar PV panels can be recouped as a tax credit. The state is laying the groundwork for a state-wide shift to environmentally progressive building technologies, and aiming to set the pace for future federal legislation. This is one of the building blocks of a green economy.

Looking for co-buyer for

Lovely old Courtenay home

4 bedrooms, gardens, solar, community activists. Your share - $60 - $90,000.

Call Susan, (250) 334-2375


Peter Ronald writes: You’ve sailed or kayaked on the waters; you’ve admired them from the ferries; you’ve been whale-watching on them with your visiting relatives; but how much more abuse can they take? Orca Pass is a stewardship proposal for an international marine conservation area in the transboundary waters between the Southern Gulf and the San Juan Islands. Named for the Orca whales that live in this ecologically rich subtidal area, the proposal seeks to help local species recover from heavy fishing, pollution and other human impacts. It is being advanced by the Georgia Strait Alliance, People for Puget Sound, and a coalition of individuals and citizens groups on both sides of the border who are using science and traditional knowledge to map the area for ecological values, including eel grass, kelp beds, rockfish and other bottom fish habitat, marine mammal sightings, and sea bird colonization. Our goal is to identify and create a network of fully protected marine areas within Orca Pass. The proposal straddles Boundary Pass and Haro Strait and includes Portland, Moresby, Sidney, Waldron, Matia, Sucia, Patos, Tumbo, and southern parts of Saturna and Pender Islands, a world renowned area for biologists and recreational boaters alike. This is the major marine conservation initiative in the Sound and Strait area, which complements the federal government's National Marine Conservation Area and Southern Gulf Islands National Park initiatives. To learn more, visit, and call Peter Ronald at 361-3621. The proposal needs your support and endorsement!


While other jurisdictions are finding ways to build a green economy, the BC government has set its mind on a technology which will create more pollution and increase greenhouse gas emissions. The name of the project is the GSX (Georgia Strait Crossing), and uncovering its origins requires a level of sleuthing to make David Duchnovny proud. The government (through BC Hydro) is saying that two of the electricity cables from the mainland to Vancouver Island are wearing out, and that the cheapest way to replace them is to run a gas pipeline from Washington State through the proposed Orca Pass in the southern Gulf Islands and through the Cowichan Valley’s farmland to fuel three gas-fired electricity cogeneration plants, one in Campbell River (built, but not started), one in Port Alberni (approved, but not built; the owner has backed out and no-one else is buying), and in one possibly in the Duncan area. To bolster its case, BC Hydro is using inflated figures for future demand, an artificially low figure for the future price of natural gas, is ignoring the potential for energy conservation, and the fact that the cogen plants require large amounts of river water for cooling (threatening fish survival), and is saying "no problem" to the surge in greenhouse gas emissions that the pipeline will cause because they’ll buy carbon offsets - such as planting trees in Guatemala to absorb the C02 emissions. The project doesn’t make sense, and most people don’t want it – they want to see an energy future for the Island based on conservation, smart policies, and renewable energy from biomass, microhydro, wind, tidal, solar, and renewably-derived hydrogen, not gas. In Sumas WA, where there’s a similar proposal for large cogeneration plant, a woman from the gas company was recently pelted with eggs in a supermarket car park, and resigned her position. The peasants are angry! So why is the government persisting? We suspect that it stems from Glen Clark’s love of megaprojects, and his hopes to build a big aluminum smelter plant in Port Alberni. For that, you need lots of cheap power. Clark is gone and the smelter never happened, but we’re left with the gas pipeline project; the government also gets huge revenues from gas licenses. This is one of those "turnaround" decisions where the opposition has its feet stuck in. We need your help! See


It’s busy season on the "stop GM food" front. The Pacific Rim Biotechnology Conference and BioExpo 2000 is set for Vancouver, Nov 12th – 16th, with 1500 delegates from biotech corporations, governments, laboratories and lobby groups ( There’s a big Teach-In on Nov 10th organized by Trading Strategies, a coalition of over 40 groups, with speakers including David Suzuki and Maud Barlow. To sign up for the bus that’s going over, call 472-4558 – and see the Diary for linked events.


Michael Abel and friends have been leading a courageous and persistent campaign to persuade local councils to ban the aerial spraying of pesticides in their municipalities, and force a review of the BC provincial legislation. To give Michael a hand, call (250) 384-9001. For the details, and to send your local council a letter by mail or email, see



Up at the North Pole, the summer ice has melted for possibly the first time in 50 million years – and all because we are using more cars, playing with more appliances and burning more fossil fuels. Without the summer ice, the polar bears can’t hunt for seals, and can’t survive the winter. It’s an awful thought, but the way we are going the polar bears may become extinct, except perhaps in zoos. On the other side of the world, people in Assam, west Bengal and south Vietnam are seeing their homes swept away by a level of flooding that is far more intense than usual. These are all signs of global climate change – but alas, they’re only the beginning. In Mid November, the UN hold its fifth climate conference in Holland, when the leaders of 170 nations will meet to thrash out the details of the treaty signed in Kyoto in 1997. Canada will be there, along with lobbyists from the coal, oil, gas and auto industries. It is very important that the government hears from people who are concerned about more than profit from fossil fuels.

Action: Write to Jean Chretien, with a copy to David Anderson (House of Parliament, Ottawa K1A 0A6), and urge him to commit Canada to strong actions to reduce climate change emissions. Express your concern about BC’s plans to generate its future energy from gas (see GSX this page), and request an Independent Panel Review of the Georgia Strait pipeline project to include an examination of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, and alternative ways to meet the Island’s future power needs.

PS If there is a postcard from the David Suzuki Foundation with this EcoNews, please send that off too. You can also express your views on this at two new websites: (great graphics!) and

Deadline for October 2000: August 24th

The Green Diary has moved!  Click HERE to see whats happening!



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Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.

EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Sustainable Communities Consultancy

Author of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)

Now Available!
'Earthfuture : Stories from a Sustainable World'
(New Society Publishers, November 1999)
An ecofictional novel

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