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

Executive director of The Solutions Project


Newsletter No. 130 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - September 2003


Forest, forest, burning bright, in the nightmare of our nights.

If only it were just BC. Then perhaps we could argue that it was just one of those things, caused an exceptionally dry hot summer and the steady accumulation of forest debris from years of fire suppression.

But it’s not.

In the 1970s, Canada lost 1.5 million hectares to forest fires. In the 1990s, we lost 2.8 million hectares. The increase mirrors the rise in global temperature. Increased forest fires, increased pest damage, increased periods of prolonged drought – these are exactly what the climate models predict for a warmer world.

In Russia, satellite analysis shows that 23 million hectares of forest had burned by mid-August. The total for all 2002 was 11.7 million hectares.

It’s not just Kelowna and Cranbrook, either. There were 300 homes lost to fire in southwest Arizona this June. Portugal’s forests have been ablaze. In the US, last year was one of the most catastrophic fire seasons in history.

And then there are the heat waves. In Europe, the current estimate is that 20,000 people died in France, Spain and Portugal when the temperature got stuck in the low 40s for weeks on end. Parts of Europe have been a consistent 5 C warmer. In Baghdad, where the summer temperature has been 45–49 C in recent years, it hit 54C on August 11th. 54 degrees Celsius.

Professor John Schelinhuber, former chief scientific advisor to the German government, said "The heat is consistent with a worst-case scenario of global warming that nobody wants to come true. Most of us were thinking that in 20 – 30 years time we would be seeing hot spells like this. But it’s happening now."

In the Alps, Mont Blanc – the famous white mountain – has been closed to tourists after 200 years because the snow has all gone, and the exposed rocks are too dangerous. "No-one has ever seen a year like this", said local officials in Chamonix.

In central Africa, temperature rises in Lake Tanganyika have dramatically altered the nutrient balance of the lake, reducing the fish population that local villagers depend on. In Alaska, the year-round temperature has risen by 5 F since the 1960s; 2002 was the hottest year in their history; 98% of Alaska’s glaciers are retreating or stagnant.

This list goes on and on. The ten warmest years on record have all been since 1990, with the warmest being 1998, 2001 and 2002.

There are still some lost-in-their-dreams people who claim that it’s just a natural cycle. But it’s a fact that global CO2 levels are higher than they have been for 20 million years, because of our use of fossil fuels, and it’s a fact that CO2 traps heat. If this is what things are like in 2003, and we continue to burn coal, oil and gas, what will it be in 2010? In 2020??

BC’s forest fires are in fact the lesser of BC’s two forest disasters: the other is mountain pine beetle. Normally controlled by cold winters, it is spreading in an epidemic of catastrophic proportion from Kamloops to Prince George, an area twice the size of Vancouver Island, larger than Sweden. Larry Pedersen, BC’s chief forester, said last fall: "It’s November, and the beetles are putting on suntan oil in the balmy 10–15 degree C temperatures currently being experienced in the north." The cost to BC taxpayers in lost stumpage fees is approaching $2 billion.

We have to wake up. We really have to wake up. This is for real – not some abstract theory put about by a few disgruntled environmentalists. And by all accounts, it’s speeding up.

Here in BC, there is one very simple and immediate measure which our government can take to contribute to the global effort: scrap the plans for the 265 MW Duke Point natural gas power plant in Nanaimo that BC Hydro is so determined to build.

There’s a simple, clean alternative that BC Hydro refuses to look at: Seabreeze Energy is proposing a 450 MW windfarm at Knob Hill, on the tip of the Island, which is going through assessment, and Green Island Energy is proposing a 250 MW biomass plant at Gold River. For both of these projects, the local community is totally behind them. After dividing the windfarm’s capacity by 3 to compare it to natural gas, since the wind only blows 8 hours a day, that gives us 400 MW.

Stopping the Duke Point plant is the most immediate thing we can do. The fossil-fuel dominated National Energy Board has approved it, so now it’s up to the federal cabinet to give a final decision. (Aee Action of Month).

After that, it’s up to each of us to demand that our MLAs get with the program. BC doesn’t have a scrap of a plan to address global climate change. They scrapped the previous plan the NDP government had prepared, and have not come up with anything since.

And it’s up to each of us to reduce our personal emissions, in our homes, vehicles, schools, businesses, clubs, churches, and city governments. There’s a direct link between the fires of Kelowna, and the things we consume in our everyday lives.

Forest, forest, burning bright, in the nightmare of our nights.

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 fulfillment.

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* CJay’s Painting, 15 years experience. Interiors only, reliable and friendly service. Call Chris, 598-6847.

* Mature, responsible, NS woman will care for your home, pets and plants beginning September 25, or share your quiet eco-conscious home in Victoria. References. Leslie 250-653-9631.

* Cob/Strawbale - Looking for land partner/renter to finish house on beautiful 60 acre Comox Valley farm. $60,000 negotiable. Susan Holvenstot, 250-334-2375

* Garry Oak Restoration Project needs your help. Could you be a restoration assistant, site steward, photopoint monitoring assistant, photographer, community educator, web site assistant, historical researcher or data entry assistant? Call Pat Johnston 595-5600

* Sept 15-24th -- Fasting and Raw Food Health Retreat with Ray Kent, master iridologist, Qualicum Bay, contact Susan Holvenstot, 250-334-2375 or . $65/day, 5 day minimum , "Never be sick again"

* For Rent: Rural cottage with greenhouse attached, own garden plot, on small farm with most mod cons. Suit single/couple. Must have car; no boozers! $650. 652-2613.


The Sierra Club of Canada is one of our premier environmental NGOs, and the BC Chapter has done incredible work to help preserve our forest and ocean ecosystems. That’s not to say we’re winning, but we’d be a lot worse off without its efforts. It is the Sierra Club’s members who make it what it is, and help keep the work going. From endangered species to toxic waste, food issues to sustainability, pesticides to climate change and conservation policies, the Club stands out from other environmental organizations by turning protest into effective policy, such as the Kyoto Protocol and soon-to-be wild salmon conservation policies. Right now, we need more members to increase our influence in local, regional, and national conservation, research, education, and advocacy efforts. With your help, we can make this happen, and make more of a difference than ever. To sign up, call 1-888-810-4204, and say that you are an EcoNews reader. And congratulations to Kathryn Molloy, on being appointed the new Executive Director of the Sierra Club of BC! See .

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Are you a non-profit environmental organization grappling with legal issues? Is hiring a lawyer just a pipe dream? Well, look no further. The Environmental Law Centre at UVic is a group of students, working under a supervisor, dedicated to providing legal information to groups like yours at minimal or no charge. Each semester, eight students each take on an environmental law project, providing professional quality legal research. Our clients have included the Denman Island Residents Association, the Georgia Strait Crossing Coalition, Esquimalt Residents for Clean Air, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, and a CRD working group; we have covered conservation covenants, regulation of logging roads, air quality concerns, and aboriginal water rights. We can’t tell you what to do, but we can get you the legal information to make a more informed decision. If you think we can help, call 250-721-8188 .


Jim Merkel is a radical man with a simple idea, which he has been living for the past 14 years: in order for us to live in peace, fairly and equitably on this Earth, he believes, we must live within our planetary means. The Earth has 28.2 billion bio-productive acres, and there are 6.35 billion of us – that’s 4.4 acres each, which we need to share with the world’s creatures. If we take 1/5th for our own use, we have to live and produce all our necessities on 0.8 acres each. The Ecological Footprint method calculates the land needed to produce everything we consume, and absorb the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels: the average Canadian uses 18 acres. Right now, the wealthiest 20% of the world’s citizens are consuming 80% of the resources; in 1998, half of the 1.2 billion people who lived on less than $110 a year had stunted growth or mental retardation from insufficient caloric intake. Increasing numbers of young people are growing up with anger at the injustice, and it’s only a short step from anger to violence. Back in 1989, Jim was an engineer in the military-industrial complex, designing military computers. The Exxon-Valdez oil spill shocked him into sanity, and he quit his job. He went on to become an activist, and a student of simplicity, living on $5,000 a year for the past 14 years. In the Global Living Project that he and his partner Rowan have created ( ), they encourage people to live on ‘one wise acre’, by simplifying their lives right down. He has travelled extensively, often living close to nature, and in Kerala and Tibet he has seen first hand how simply people can live, while still being happy. Jim has worked out that if every family had just one child, by 2011 the world’s population would fall to 1 billion. If 3/4 of the land was left for other species, each human could have 6 acres. Jim’s new book Radical Simplicity (New Society Publishers )) explores all this in detail, and offers us three tools that we can use to simplify our lives, including an ecological footprint scorecard. It’s a very thought-provoking and inspiring guide to a radically different way of living, which offers a challenge to anyone. Jim’s on a two-month bicycle tour, and he’s speaking in Victoria on Sept 9th (see Diary), co-sponsored by Munro’s Books and the Green Party of BC.


Remember Seattle, in 1999? Well, the World Trade Organization is meeting again in Cancun, Mexico, Sept 10th – 14th. The two big issues on the table are agricultural subsidies and trade liberalization. The developing nations want subsidies eliminated to give their farmers a chance. The US, for instance, pays its corn farmers $10 billion a year, encouraging them to produce a surplus that is dumped in Mexico for less than the cost of production, making it tough for Mexican farmers to compete. America’s 25,000 cotton farmers received $3 billion in subsidies last year - $230 per acre. But in west Africa, 11 million people who depend on cotton as their main income can’t compete with the US cotton, which has 40% of world exports. The same applies to sugar, wheat, and many other crops.

At the same time, the developing nations want the movement towards trade liberalization stopped. They see it as a massive figleaf that hides the rich countries desire to rape their economies under the disguise of trade. The EU, Canada, US and Japan want to put the liberalization of investment and government procurement on the table. Big business tried to get an agreement on investment through the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), that was defeated by the mobilized efforts of citizens around the world. Now they are trying again through the proposed WTO investment agreement, arguing that more investment will bring economic growth – but Martin Khor (Third World Network) says "they are not aimed at regulating investment, but regulating governments so that they can’t regulate investment." Here are some rules the EU wants removed:

* Cameroon – foreign companies must create at least one job for every $6,250 of investment.

* Chile – Investors must stay for 3 years before transferring profits abroad.

* Bolivia - foreign companies must establish local companies if they want to trade on a regular basis.

* Taiwan – foreign companies cannot purchase land for agriculture, fishing or hunting; nor can they buy mines, forests, or sources of water.

The biggest challenge – how to transform the global economy so that it no longer operates like an army of gigantic parasitic leeches on Earth’s ecosystems – is not on the agenda. If you come to the Council of Canadians Teach-In on Tuesday Sept 9th, however, it certainly will be. See Diary.

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When the history of the world’s fair trade, eco-sustainable economy is written, the name of Garstang will be present - the little town in Lancashire, UK (pop’n 4,000) that showed what could be done. Three years ago, Garstang’s Oxfam group invited the town’s civic leaders to a slap-up meal of fairly traded and local produce. The meal was a hit, and now 90 of the town’s 100 businesses, both its schools, and its council, chamber of commerce, churches, garages and hairdressers all either sell or promote fair trade food that pays a fair living wage to developing country farmers, along with a social premium. This includes coffee, tea, sugar, fruit, chocolate, wine, honey, chili peppers and meat. International trade has increased six-fold since 1990, but the real price of commodities such as coffee and sugar is 30% lower than it was 20 years ago. The Garstang group started their campaign in 1995; in 2001, they were declared the world’s first Fairtrade Town. Garstang has also twinned itself with New Koforidua, in Ghana. Following Garstang’s example, 80 other towns and cities have applied to be fair trade communities too. See If you want to help spread fair trade coffee in Victoria, call Blaise Salmon 384-1842. And how about Victoria twinning with Kapasseni, in Mozambique, which the Getting Higher Choir is building such a close relationship with?


From fair trade to local bioregional trade – the dining hall at Berkeley College, Yale University is transforming its cuisine into a showcase for fresh, organic, locally grown food, or what the students enthusiastically call "real food" – such as Japanese eggplant parmesan, instead of a big mac. The kitchen staff at Yale have fallen under the influence of Alice Waters, proprietor of Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California, and founder of Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard. When her daughter entered Yale, she approached the university, and ended up founding the sustainable food project with the goal to convert one of the university’s 12 dining halls, serving 450 students. Because of the tight dining budget (just a few dollars per student per meal), there will be 18 items on the menu this year, instead of 34, with one fully organic menu at every meal. The cost of that meal will likely double, but it may fall as more local farmers come on board. The college has hired local organic farmer Josh Viertel to set up a campus-wide composting program, and to convert an overgrown field into a 3/4 acre organic garden to grow food for the college, and serve the educational aspect of the program.


"The biggest difference between the Russians and Americans was that Russians recognized that ‘the Party Line’ was propaganda from the ruling elite, and Americans who receive ‘the Mainstream Press’ fail to recognize it as ‘propaganda from the ruling elite’ and mistake it for ‘reality’." - Bill Moyers, on NOW Magazine


Talking of gardens, City Green is booking free Green Garden Visits through the end of September. A one-hour consultation will provide you with information on winter organic food gardening, saving seeds, local sources of organic seed, winter cover crops, natural lawn care, building a fall compost pile, and natural pest prevention. This is a good time to look at how this gardening season has unfolded, and make plans for next year. Each visit is tailored to your needs, by donation. Josh, City Green 250-381-9995



The federal cabinet has the final say on approval of the Vancouver Island Generating Plant (VIGP) at Duke Point, planned for Nanaimo. It is an insult to the fire-fighters, and to the citizens of Kelowna and the other communities, to build a plant which will increase the risk from global climate change, when clean alternatives are ready now, and for a lesser cost. It’s time to change course to clean energy, and we want to start here on Vancouver Island – now!

Action: Write to Jean Chretien, PM, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Fax: 613-941-6900 Ask him not to approve the plant, as part of the government’s commitment to Kyoto. Copy to David Anderson.


Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way


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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
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Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
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