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

Executive director of The Solutions Project


Newsletter No. 114 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - March 2002


Why is it that some of the premiers are saying that Canada cannot afford to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Have they lost their belief in our nation's ability to be innovative? Or do they have their heads buried so far in the tar-sands that they have become blind to the solutions that are staring them in the face?

When Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and his friends in the oil patch say that Canada can't afford to sign the Kyoto treaty, and that it will cost Canada $40 billion a year, they are referring to a 2-year old government study which includes various models, the worst of which suggests that going along with Kyoto might reduce Canada's GDP by $40 billion dollars a year by 2010.

First of all, let's get this into perspective. By 2010, Canada's GDP will be $1,300 billion; a $40 billion hit would reduce it to $1, 260 billion. Klein makes it sound like a "cost" that the people of Canada will have to pay, but it's not that way at all. Instead of having 30% economic growth over the decade, we might only have 26% growth. Some might say "no big deal". And besides, Environment Canada reckons that the worst case scenario is 0.5% of GDP by 2010, not 3%.

There's also the cost of not acting. The Quebec ice-storm cost Canada $6 billion. The Red River and Saguenay floods both cost over $1 billion. Last year's drought in the Prairies reduced wheat and canola production by 43%, and cost the western economy $5 billion - and the drought is still going. Was it just co-incidence that 2001 was the third warmest year on record? Or that Toronto suffered a record 23 smog alert days during its summer heatwave, more than double the previous record (11 in 1998)? That's $1 billion cost to Ontario ($2 billion across Canada) from asthma and health-care costs, and lost productivity. How much will it need to cost before we get the message?

The figure of 450,000 job losses has also been quoted. This comes from the same government study, where ten different models showed a range of possible impacts, varying from a gain of 60,000 to a loss of 450,000 jobs, over ten years. The pessimists have chosen the worst possible scenario, and packaged it as the truth. Another study, released last week by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute and the Center for a Sustainable Economy, showed that reducing America's greenhouse gas emissions would generate 660,000 new jobs by 2010, reduce overall energy costs, and produce a net gain in GDP - not a fall. (

These studies all depend on the assumptions you feed into them. If you assume business as usual, with little or no innovation, you get bad results. If, on the other hand, you assume that Canada embraces the kinds of technology and progressive public policies that are being practiced elsewhere, you get good results. The real question facing Canadians is this: do we want to wimp out as a country, and spend the next ten years complaining, or do we want to embrace the new technologies of wind, solar, hydrogen, bio-fuels and accelerated efficiency, and reap the benefits?

Over the past 12 years, Toronto's city government has slashed its emissions by two-thirds, chiefly by capturing its landfill gases. ( Denmark is generating enough clean wind energy to supply 15% of its power needs, while reducing emissions and creating thousands of new jobs. The British government reckons it has enough off-shore wind potential to produce three times more electricity than it needs. They could close down all of their fossil-fuel burning power plants, and their nuclear ones as well. (

Here in British Columbia, a commercial proposal has been floated to build a 700 MW off-shore wind plant north of the Queen Charlotte Islands. BC Hydro is looking at just 10 MW of wind energy for Vancouver Island, enough to create a green fig-leaf to hide the 500 MW of gas-fired power plans they hope to build on Vancouver Island, shipping the gas in through the proposed new gas pipeline to make the Island "self-sufficient" in energy. I mean - duh?

Or let's take cars. Transport is responsible for 27% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, 31% of the USA's. California has persisted with its 1990 legislation that requires 10% of all new vehicles to be zero or near zero emissions by 2003. In the Italian region of Lombardy, President Formigoni has announced that he wants to start phasing out all fossil fuel vehicles by 2005, replacing them with electric, hybrid and hydrogen vehicles. There is nothing - apart from political will - that prevents Canada from passing similar legislation. If the world's nations were to craft a global treaty by which they all agreed to phase in clean energy vehicles by a certain date, the auto industry would soon get with the program.

The same kind of agreement, applied to solar energy, would accelerate the growth of the solar industry, enable mass production to kick in, and reduce the price of solar four-fold. This would make it possible for cities to pass "futurespective" bylaws requiring that all new houses built after 2005 must be built with a 2kW solar system on the roof, just as they are required to have plumbing. Smart policy, to accompany smart technology.

What about encouraging greater efficiency? Using today's available technologies, every appliance and every building could be twice as efficient, using half as much energy. To reap the savings, you apply a 'Public Benefit Charge' to every power bill, as many states in the US are already doing, and recycle 100% of the revenue back to the consumer as energy efficiency rebates. The price of energy rises, but you use less, so your annual fuel bill - and your greenhouse gas emissions - fall.

The consensus among forward-thinking policy-makers is that by embracing energy efficiency and renewable energy we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by more than we need for the Kyoto treaty. As we reduce our emissions, we will strengthen our economy, while creating new jobs and compensating workers whose jobs might be at risk.

But let us assume for a moment that Klein and Bush are right - that cleaning up our greenhouse gases will cost us something. If we follow this logic, should we not also argue that fighting global terrorism will impose too great an economic cost, and we should delay responding until we can afford it?

Don't get me wrong - global terrorism is scary stuff. But so is the potential collapse of the world's ice-fields, forests and climate stability, with all that this entails. The consensus among the world's climate scientists is that we face dire consequences if our greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow. Klein says he cares about the cost of Kyoto - but the cost of NOT acting will be far greater.

So let's get on with it. Let's believe in our ability to be innovative, ignore Ralph Klein's fears, and ratify Kyoto.

Guy Dauncey


AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a Vancouver Island and a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community & the joys of deep fulfillment.

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* Spring is in the air! Visit Abkhazi Garden, the 'Garden that Love Built'. Wander through the garden, tea room and gift shop. Wed-Sun, 1pm - 5pm, March 1st - Sept 30th. $7.50 per person, to support the restoration. Call 598-8096 for info, or to book guided tour.
* Spinstervale has affordable retreat, work exchange for women on organic herb farm in Coombs. $7.50/nite in small, rustic cabins or 2/3hours a day room/board. Long term available April 1st in log cabin: $450/mo incl heat, light, gas, wood, cable. Looking for longer-term farm & goat apprentice. (250) 248-8809
* Buy your Herbs at farmgate prices from Goldstream Gardens, Coombs. Organic plants and products. Tinctures, salves, dried herbs, dream or sleep pillows, lavender items. Available on farm, by mail or at Qualicum Beach farmers' market on Saturdays. (250) 248-8809
* Habitat For Humanity ReStore - New and used building materials and supply store. Great deals for all your home improvement needs. All profits go to Habitat For Humanity programs. Always looking for donations of building products. Details - 250 758-8743. #1-4128 Mostar Rd, Nanaimo
* Volunteer opportunities with The Land Conservancy: Abkhazi Garden: gift shop, tea room, gardener, tour guide, gate steward. Ross Bay Villa: help restore 1860's heritage building - painting, plastering, construction. Bottles for Greenspace drivers. Office work, fieldwork, event coordinator, public relations, writer, skipper, photographer, graphic artist, researcher, mechanic. Call Shirley, 250-479-8053
* Student Conservation Association is looking for 4 energetic high school students (aged 15-19) to join 4 Washington students in one of largest conservation service-learning programs in North America. 7 weeks, July-August. Details - Sarah Williams (250) 995-2457
* Becky Bernson CD's now available. Becky died of cancer in February 2000; recorded at a special memorial concert, with many of Victoria's finest folk/acoustic performers. CDs, Songbooks $15 each from Denis Donnelly, 598-5186. All proceeds to causes Becky believed in, many environmental.


If so, you might want to stop them after reading this. Scientists at the Spanish Neuro Diagnostic Research Institute in Marbella have found that a call lasting just two minutes can alter the electrical activity of a child's brain for up to an hour afterwards. The radio waves penetrate deep into the brain, and they fear that disturbed brain activity in children could lead to psychiatric or behavioural problems, or impaired learning ability. The tests were done on an 11-year old boy and a 13 year old girl, using a CATEEN scanner, linked to a machine that measures brain activity. In Britain, Dr Gerald Hyland, a government adviser on cell-phones, found the results "extremely disturbing". A UK Department of Health spokeperson said "With children, mobile phone use should be restricted to very short periods of time." (UK Sunday Mirror, Dec 29 2001).


While we're at it, get a whiff of this: that "new car" smell contains high levels of toxic emissions which can make drivers ill. A study by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial research Organization found high levels of toxic emissions in new cars for six months and longer after they leave the showroom. The smell comes from plastics and vinyl, and includes benzene, at five times the recommended limit (carcinogenic), acetone (a mucous irritant), ethylbenzene (a systemic toxic), and xylene isomers (a foetal development toxic agent which could cause abnormalities in unborn children). There is anecdotal evidence of drivers becoming ill when they drive new cars - headaches, lung irritations and swellings, and lethargy, which poses an obvious driving hazard. And as for pregnant mums? Well…..


So let's move to 'good news' department. With all these toxins and radio waves around, we could do with a cleaner environment. To help things along, the City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development (how about that?) has produced a 40-page Green Office Guide, which covers the six basic ways in which an office can become more sustainable: lighting; office equipment; paper products; heating and cooling; water; and cars and parking. For each, it spells out the technical low-down, the savings, and gives case studies. A typical Portland office can cut its energy costs by 25%, saving 40 cents a square foot ($4,000 US a year for a 10,000 sq ft office). Portland City Hall added a 'Vending Miser' to its refrigerated beverage machine, costing $198; it saves $75 a year, and pays for itself in 2.5 years (a 38% return). The Fred Meyer Baking Plant fixed its water leaks (709,000 gallons a year), and is saving $3,280 a year. The moral: wasting the planet also wastes money. The resources are Portland based, but the booklet could easily be adapted for Vancouver Island (any takers?). For a free copy, go to


Are you looking for ways to preserve the forest, farmlands, creeks or estuaries which make your neighbourhood - and the Island as a whole - such a special place? In April, the Land Trust Alliance of BC is holding its 5th Annual seminar series at Lake Cowichan, with 3 days of workshops covering the full A - Z of land stewardship, starting with doing a baseline inventory, and moving on to conservation covenants, fundraising, watershed and agricultural stewardship, ecological forest management, and tax and acquisition issues. Great speakers, and a chance to mingle with people and groups who have done it all before. It costs $150-$200, $25 less if you book before March 15th. 250-538-0112


Wouldn't it be great if local councils and regional districts made land stewardship a guiding principle in all their planning? If this appeals to you, check out a new report from the Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse (Washington DC) called "Green Infrastructure: Smart Conservation for the 21st Century". Green infrastructure is the network of open space, woodlands, wildlife habitat, parks and other natural areas. Green infrastructure planning differs from conventional planning because it looks at conservation values in concert with land development, growth management and built infrastructure. You can download the 36-page report from


You've heard of the WTO - the World Trade Organization, based in Geneva, which is rewriting the rules of the global economy to make life easier for investors and corporations. The WTO's current project is the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), which will open all services, from health care and education to postal services and water to global competition, entitling a foreign corporation to challenge a government's laws or regulations before the WTO's secretive legal panel if it thinks the rules have unfairly restricted its ability to do business. According to secret minutes revealed by John Sewell, former mayor of Toronto, the WTO's Working Party on Domestic Regulations has a draft on "Restrictive regulations relating to zoning and operating hours", which will enable any developer or pub-owner to challenge a council's decisions if they think the zoning is too tough, or too burdensome (something most developers think). This could make a mockery of smart growth and green infrastructure planning, with developers appealing to overthrow local zoning decisions. The federal government says "don't worry", but the Federation of Canadian Municipalities IS worried; Ottawa city council and 40 other municipalities have passed resolutions seeking exemption from the GATS. For more information, see, under 'World Trade'.


Proportional Representation
Have you signed up to be a canvasser?
From April 1st - June 30th, we need to gather 200,000 signatures.
Call Toll-Free 1-866-PROREP-9


If you're a member of Coast Capital Savings (previously Pacific Coast Savings), it's election time for new Directors from March 7th - 21st. While campaigning is not allowed, EcoNews does have an opinion! The voting's split, depending on where you live. Here in Victoria, Jim Hackler brings a lifetime commitment to social responsibility and democracy. On the lower mainland, Donna Morton brings a commitment to ecological sustainability: they're your people. There are 3 vacancies in each region, but there's no need to vote for more than one person, if that's how you feel.


In August, the world's organic growers will be coming to Victoria for the big IFOAM World Conference. Hopefully, there will be some from Cuba. As a result of the US trade boycott and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has become very resourceful in its food-growing without resort to imported chemicals, pesticides or fuel. There has been an explosion of city farming, which supplies 60% of Cuba's vegetables, and there are over 1 million registered 'patio gardens' - small, private urban plots of less than 800 square metres. In Havana, there are 62,000 such gardens. A typical patio gardener feeds vegetables with compost, raises catfish with worms and larvae, raises rabbits with leaves and herbs, and uses natural pesticides to protect tomatoes, guavas, avocados and mangoes. Under a 1996 Havana bylaw, only organic growing methods are allowed. Growers are supported by the people's patio movement for eco-organic production, the agriculture and pisciculture network, and the municipal food development committee. There are larger urban market gardens too, where volunteers work alongside paid workers. The only chemical that is used occasionally is a low-toxin pesticide called cabaril, to protect the seeds from ants. Castro launched Cuba's 'alternative model' of agriculture in 1991, and there are now more than 200 bio-tech centres producing non-toxic bio-fertilizers and pesticides. 40% of the state farms have been broken up and turned into incentive-based cooperatives; on the remaining farms, the state owns the land, but the members run the business. Everywhere in Havana, amid the crumbling buildings, there are small veggie stalls, where the growers sell their produce. Now this has to be good for the children! (Thanks to Walter Schwarz, Guardian, Jan 16th 2002).


It makes so much sense - community forestry gives local people more control over the decisions that affect local forests, creates greater job opportunities, and encourages local land stewardship. Ten projects have been created under the province's Community Forest Pilot Project, but it's not always easy. From March 14th - 16th, the BC Community Forestry Forum will be a major gathering for practitioners, with speakers, workshops and field trips looking at community forestry in Canada and around the world. It promises to be inspirational. See 250-472-5106


You heard about the World Economic Forum, in New York, attended by the high and mighty, and 20,000 demonstrators. But did you hear about the World Social Forum that happened at the same time in Porto Alegre in Brazil, attended by 60,000 ordinary people from all over the world? Amid the thousands of workshops, a new spirit of positive determination was evident. The post September 11th depression has lifted, and there was the scent of something in the air - 'a tide turning, a paradigm slowly shifting' (Paul Kingsnorth The French government sent 6 ministers - 3 more than it sent to New York. More next month, on the actual discussions.


You know the issue - we've got to save our Island railway - or at least the tracks and right of way.

Action: Write to your MP in Ottawa (post free, House of Commons, Ottawa K1A 0A6), and to your MLA locally (Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4, see, with a copy to Judith Reid. Minister of Transport, fax 356-8337, and Graham Bruce, fax 356-6595.


EcoNews provides this electronic version of the newsletter free of charge even though it costs time and money to produce. Please feel free to repost. You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:

EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V9E 2B9, Canada. Thanks !

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

Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
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