No. 131 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island -
WORLD TRADE: HOPE IN DEATH
Ever since the collapse of communism, the drum
beat of liberal economic fundamentalism has grown. Like a tribal
chant before the Gods of the Market Forces, it has been repeated
over and over again, hypnotizing its believers into obedience.
The markets must be free…. Investors must
be protected… Regulations must be abolished … Globalization can
not be stopped … There Is No Alternative….
Lee Kyung-hae was a small farmer from South Korea
who knew it to be a lie. He was a visionary, a passionate worker,
and a leader. In September, he joined the protests at the World
Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico, and in a moment of
excitement, he plunged a knife into his heart, dying a few hours
Who was this small farmer? And why did he make
the supreme sacrifice?
Lee came from the mountain slopes near Jangsu,
a small town of 30,000 farming households in North Cholla Province,
four hours drive south of Seoul. It is a spectacular area, where
the terraced slopes are full of rice, cabbages, radishes, ginseng,
apple orchards, and greenhouses filled with roses. (Thanks to
Jonathan Watts, Guardian, for much of this).
Farming in the region may look beautiful, but
it has always been a struggle. The fields are often covered with
snow in winter, and the rice is poor quality. The farmers are
deep in debt, and young people are abandoning their farms. In
the past 20 years, the town’s population has almost halved.
Lee was born to a wealthy family of rice traders
in 1947, and dreamed of revitalizing farming in the area. He borrowed
to buy a patch of mountain land, studied agricultural science,
met his wife while at college, and the two of them set to work
at Seoul Farm, 30 hectares of steep mountainside where they created
grazing pastures, paddy fields and farm buildings. He brought
experts from Germany to help with the electric fencing, and erected
a cable car to transport hay from the higher slopes to the sheds
below. Nobody had ever imagined that cows could be grazed on such
The farm became a teaching college with live-in
students (like WOOFers). His herd had expanded to 300 cattle,
and in 1988 he was given a UN award for rural leadership. The
fame of this man who had mastered such a difficult land was spreading.
Then disaster struck, when the South Korean government
bowed to the Gods of the Market Forces, opening the market to
cheap Australian cows and encouraging farmers to expand their
stocks with cheap loans. The price of beef collapsed, and Lee
had to sell all his cows to meet his interest payments. When the
last cow was gone, the banks repossessed the land. In the midst
of this, his wife died in a car crash.
When he had overcome his double grief, Lee plunged
himself into politics to oppose the trade liberalization agenda
that had ruined him, and so many other small farmers. He was elected
four times to the North Cholla local assembly, and 1987 he helped
form the Korean Advanced Agriculture Federation.
As part of his struggle to change the global
trade agenda that was destroying his home, he staged more than
30 hunger strikes. Earlier this year he camped outside the WTO
office in Geneva, fasting once again to demonstrate his belief
that the trade negotiations were killing farmers. He once tried
to disembowel himself. He knew that he often went too far, but
that his actions were unconscious. "I regret this kind of
irritated and uncontrolled action," he wrote in 1990, but
he said that he could not bear to stand by and watch the WTO inflict
suffering on farmers.
Lee is now dead, but the WTO was halted in its
tracks at Cancun by the African and Caribbean delegates who walked
out of the talks, rather than accept the compromises which other
developing nations were willing to accept. The God of the Market
Forces has been stopped. A local Jangsu official said "Lee
knew the Korean countryside is slowly dying, that farmers are
living lonely, miserable lives. He wanted to tell the world. That
is why he sacrificed himself, and that is why we call him a hero."
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Think BIG, Go Green!
DesignWrights & Cedarwood Video showcase bright,
green local endeavours,
at "Your Business and the Environment"
Conference, October 24
Enter for $10,000 green business award!
THESE LEGS WERE MADE FOR WALKING
It was around 50,000 years ago that our direct
genetic ancestors made the trek out of Africa. Walking north from
the Kalahari desert, they walked across to the Yemen, around the
coast of India and Indonesia (now under water because sea levels
rose at the end of the ice age) and down into Australia. Later,
we walked into every corner of the Earth. These legs were truly
made for walking.
And then came the motor car, with soft seats,
onboard stereos, and coffee cup holders. Why walk, when you can
drive? And guess what: the less we walked, the more we put on weight.
As a result, today’s crop of human beings are probably, on average,
the fattest, laziest, least attractive human specimens who have
ever graced this planet.
But wait! To the rescue comes Victoria’s first
Walk Week (Oct 4th – 10th), and the International
Walk to School Week. In 2002, six BC schools achieved 100% participation,
with every student arriving for class without a family car. The
only families who drove to Frank Hobbs Elementary near UVic were
those who brought the grill for the pancake breakfast the school
organized to celebrate the event. Everyone else arrived on foot,
scooter, skate board or bicycle, many walking in a parade down the
hill from UVic Family Housing. Two legs good! Four wheels bad!
That’s good for the kids. But what about the grown-ups?
City Green and New Balance are bribing us to get us off our butts.
If you commit to walk more during the week, you can win a Ford Explorer.
Oops! Wrong answer. The correct answer is new walking and running
shoes, transit passes, and lots more. For a full list of walking
events, so that you can meet new friends while rediscovering your
legs, and the prizes registration form, see www.citygreen.ca, or
call Tathra Street, 381-9995. In cities of the future, there won’t
be any cars. The walking will be so pleasant, the cycling so easy,
and the transit so efficient that the car will be relegated to the
WORLD GRAIN HARVEST
Phew! That was quite some summer. But here’s something
new you may not have come across before. The crops don’t like the
heat, either. New research from crop ecologists at the International
Rice Research Institute and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service
shows an emerging consensus that for every 1˚ Celsius rise
in temperature above the optimum during the growing season there
is a 10% decline in grain yields. Above 40˚ Celsius, photosynthesis
stops entirely. Seed fertility is affected too. At 34˚C he
fertility of rice is 100%, falling to 0% at 40˚C.
So now let’s look at the predictions for global
temperature rise: on average, 1.5˚ to 5.8˚C throughout
the world over the next 100 years, higher over land and in the continental
interiors – where most of the grain is grown. When feedback loops
are taken into account (forests dying back, Arctic permafrost releasing
CO2 and methane), the Hadley Centre for Climate Research in Britain
estimates the warming could reach 8˚C.
It’s not difficult to do the maths: A 1˚
C rise causes a 10% reduction in yield. An 8˚C rise causes
an 80% reduction. This is not the maths of hunger. This is the maths
of massive worldwide starvation, and death.
This summer, the world’s grain harvest will fall
short of the amount that we consume by 93 million tons. France is
expected to lose more than 20% of its grain harvest; Italy 13%;
Britain 12%. In the Ukraine, where temperatures sizzled all summer,
the wheat crop fell by 75%; Moldova, 80%. In India, the government
had to release 50% of its food stocks, as a result of the intense
heat, combined with flooding.
Globally, this is the fourth year in a row that
production has fallen short of consumption. Last year it was the
US and India that saw big harvest reductions. This year, it’s Europe.
There has been no growth in world grain production for 8 years now
– but the world population keeps rising. Falling water tables are
also undermining our ability to grow more food.
On a sane planet, the emergency bells would all
be ringing, and we’d be taking urgent global action to cool the
climate, preserve the watertables, and stop eating meat (Cows eat
16 kilograms of grain for each kilogram of meat they produce. An
acre of prime land can produce 18,000 kg of potatoes or 22,000 kg
of tomatoes, but only 113 kg of beef.) So – will we do it?
GREEN ARE THE IRISH
Last year, the Irish government brought in a 25
cent tax on plastic shopping bags, resulting in an 80% drop in their
use, as people switched to cloth bags; the income was used to speed
the recycling of old fridges. Now the government plans to levy taxes
on three more unwanted items – chewing gum packets, receipts from
cash machines, and polystyrene packing from fast food chains. The
income from the 80 million packs sold every year will be used to
remove the 500 tonnes of gum that ends up stuck to the streets.
FRANCE – CITIZENS in 1789, NATURE in 2003
No wonder the Bush administration feels rattled.
The French cabinet has approved a plan to add an Environmental Charter
to the country’s constitution, stating that ‘everyone has the right
to live in a balanced and healthy environment’, that humans have
a duty to ‘preserve and improve’ the natural world, and that people
should pay damages if they harm the environment. The charter advocates
the precautionary principle, whereby officials should act to halt
practices that have not been proven to be safe. If the bill passes
this fall, the pre-amble of France’s national constitution will
be amended to mention the charter, placing it on an equal footing
with France’s landmark 1789 human rights document, "The Declaration
of the Rights of Man and the Citizen." The legal implications
are truly profound. Can someone volunteer to find the text, and
translate it into English? Contact Guy, 881-1304
Ever wondered how solar energy works, or what it
costs? On Sat Oct 4th, you can join the Victoria Solar
Tour from 11-3pm. It’s self-guided, with people at each of these
locations to talk about the technology:
* Solar heated pool and electric vehicles maintenance:
McKinnon Gym, UVic.
* Solar hot water: 855 Vancouver St
* Solar vacuum tubes: 3181 Kingsley
* BCBC Building, 865 Yates
* Solar PV house: 2730 Forbes
* Electric Vehicles: 5548 Alderley
* Solar Powered Bus Stops: The I-Stop
Cook Street Village, Cook at Oscar
More locations brewing: call 384-0366
VALUES BASED BUSINESS
In the 19th century, business owners
argued that they had to use child labour and require their employees
work an 80 hour week because the market demanded it – if they didn’t
do it, they’d lose sales to someone else who did. Since then – thanks
to determined campaigning by the radicals and trade unionists of
the 19th century – we have legislation that protects
the rights of children and workers. Today, however, the same argument
is used to defend the use of sweatshop labour overseas, the abuse
of nature, and the use of toxic chemicals that put all of our lives
at risk. Here in Victoria, a new Values Based Business Network is
being founded, as a dynamic alliance which will build a vision of
global and local sustainability among local businesses. The launch
is Oct 20th (see Diary), Coro Strandberg, 360-1716.
Your Business & the Environment
come together in one
Conference and Trade Show
Business – Sustainability – Waste Reduction – Energy Efficiency
Corporate Social Responsibility
Ocean Point Resort, Victoria
TURKEY WASTES INTO OIL
Business often gets a bad rap these days, and so
does new technology – but it pays to keep a very open mind. Allow
me to present "thermal depolymerization process (TDP)."
This is a process that a company called Changing World Technologies
has developed which essentially mimics and speeds up what the Earth
does over millions of years when it converts forests and swamps
into fossil fuels. Nature does it by pressure-cooking the long molecular
chains of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen in dead animals and plants
into shorter chain hydrocarbons, resulting in the petroleum that
we are using to cook the planet and fry its crops. Changing World’s
TDP does the same thing in one minute by pressuring a heated slurry
of waste organic materials, while producing zero harmful pollutants.
The process is 85% efficient, needing 15% of its output of energy
to keep it going. So what can TDP deliver that might help our struggling
planet? How about ….. oil? The demonstration plant in Philadelphia
started by converting 7 tons of various wastes into usable oil.
With the investors lining up (including the US EPA), the next stage
will see a plant in Carthage, Missouri convert 200 tons a day of
waste turkey fat, bones and feathers into 21,000 gallons of water,
11 tons of minerals, and 600 barrels of high quality oil. Since
the turkeys absorbed their carbon in the current carbon cycle, the
fuel will be carbon neutral, and have zero impact on global climate
change. From the tests that Changing World has done, if they took
all America’s agricultural wastes, they could convert them into
4 billion barrels of oil a year, about the same amount the US imports
from the Middle East. The US is expected to ban the recycling of
abattoir wastes into animal feed soon, opening up a huge potential.
But there’s more. Philadelphia City Council is
planning to use TDP to treat its sewage – the one thing that everyone
except the folks behind Solar Aquatic sewage treatment want to get
rid of. Changing World is also talking about the potential to use
it on landfill wastes: the mind boggles. Is this the perfect mix
of biomimicry and sustainability? TDP currently costs $15 a barrel,
compared to the world price of $30 a barrel ($1 in the Middle East,
$8-$12 in Alaska and the North Sea). With scaling up, Changing World
expects $8-$12. Before anyone gets too excited, we should see the
precautionary principle applied by environmental assessment. See
ACTION OF THE MONTH:
STOP THE WORKING FOREST INITIATIVE
The BC Liberal government is planning to act on
its Working Forest initiative to zone BC’s public forests as a permanent
logging zone, and obstruct the protection of new land for parks,
drinking watershed reserves, endangered species habitat, or First
Nations settlements. It will hand our public forest to the logging
companies, and guarantee them increased compensation for any future
protection initiatives. It takes away our democratic right to choose
how we use our publicly owned land, and ensures the supremacy of
the timber groups. With their 77 seat majority we need a massive
outcry to stop this VERY SOON; they may vote on it as early as October
7th. For details, see www.workingforest.org
ACTION: Call your MLA’s office, and be very
vociferous: Stan Hagen: 703-2422; Judith Reid: 951-6021; Mike Hunter:
716-5266; Graham Bruce: 715-2900; Brian Kerr: 391-2831; Murray Coell:
655-5711; Susan Brice: 952-4418; Arnie Hamilton: 479-8326; Ida Chong:
472 8528; Jeff Bray: 952-4211; Sheila Orr: 952-4262
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:
Mark Fiore Remembers September 11th:
Michael Meacher’s astonishing article on September
11th 2001 in the Guardian. Michael Meacher is an MP,
and was UK Minister of the Environment until very recently. "The
9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure
its global domination": www.truthout.org/docs_03/090703A.shtml
TRUTHOUT – an invaluable source of first rate,
normally hidden and censored stories: www.truthout.org
A Petition to Parliament to Reject Genetically
Engineered Wheat in Canada: www.greenpeace.ca/e/action/wheat
California politics, Hybrid versus Hummer: www.HYBRIDvHUMMER.com/movie
Mind-boggling real-life NASA animation of planet
frying during the 20th century's last quarter-century: www.giss.nasa.gov/data/update/gistemp/animations
One Sweet Whirled – Ben & Jerry’s Campaign
to Fight Global Warming – and (for Americans) a free fax to your
senators urging them to support Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Lieberman
(D-CT) and pass the historic "Climate Stewardship Act" to address
the problems of climate and change and air pollution and promote
clean energy. www.onesweetwhirled.org
Medhi Najari’s campaign to become the NDP Leader:
Nils Jensen’s campaign to become the NDP Leader:
Peter Dimitrov’s campaign to become the NDP Leader:
Carol James’ campaign to become the NDP Leader:
Craig Keating’s campaign to become the NDP Leader:
Leonard Krog’s campaign to become the NDP Leader:
Steve Orcherton’s campaign to become the NDP Leader:
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