No. 114 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island -
NO NEED TO WORRY
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?
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,
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. (www.SustainableEconomy.org/press/cleanenergy.htm)
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. (www.climateark.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=7607).
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. (www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=9692)
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.
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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
* 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 email@example.com.
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
* 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
USING CELL PHONES?
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).
'NEW CAR' SMELL
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?
GREEN OFFICE GUIDE
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 www.sustainableportland.org.
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. email@example.com
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 www.sprawlwatch.org/green
AND LOCAL COUNCILS
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 www.fcm.ca,
under 'World Trade'.
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.
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.
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 www.opendemocracy.net).
The French government sent 6 ministers - 3 more than it sent to
New York. More next month, on the actual discussions.
OF THE MONTH:
THE E & N RAILWAY
know the issue - we've got to save our Island railway - or at least
the tracks and right of way.
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 www.legis.gov.bc.ca/mla),
with a copy to Judith Reid. Minister of Transport, fax 356-8337,
and Graham Bruce, fax 356-6595.
this electronic version of the newsletter free of charge even though
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You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:
Conway Road, Victoria V9E 2B9, Canada. Thanks !
here for previous issues of EcoNews.
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304
Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate
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