No. 132 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island -
DOWNTOWN – WIN IT OR LOSE IT
The City of Winchester, in southern England,
certainly has history on its side. It has a lovely old Cathedral,
a great big statue of King Alfred, and a 13th century
imitation of King Arthur’s famous Round Table.
Until recently, however, it also had a massive
problem with traffic which made going downtown a pain, and encouraged
people to use the out-of-town superstores.
Not any more. Along with cities all over Europe,
Winchester has closed its main downtown streets to almost all
traffic, turning it into a people place where business is booming
alongside the street musicians and jugglers.
Here in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, we also
have a great downtown that fills with tourists in summer, and
is the envy of city planners all over North America.
It is also filling up with heroin addicts and
drug dealers, however, and as shoppers abandon the downtown in
favour of the shopping malls and big box superstores, with their
free parking, it is in danger of imploding.
If downtown businesses find it impossible to
make a year-round living, the vicious circle will begin, with
stores closing, followed by other businesses. There are signs
that it has already started.
All over North America, with the exception of
places like Vancouver and Toronto, the spirit that once animated
great cities is fleeing to the clean boredom of the suburbs, where
it vanishes. The commercial life is being sucked out of downtowns
by Big Box stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, by the lack of
people living downtown, and by the drug-dealers, crime and poverty
that move in to fill the space.
There is nothing inevitable about this: it is
the consequence of planning decisions that allow Big Box stores
to set up shop on the fringes of town, and of decisions to build
new freeways that plough into the downtown, destroying character,
beauty and grace.
We are all the poorer for the loss of a vibrant
downtown. So how can we safeguard what we have, and make sure
that Victoria’s downtown does not implode?
The magic ingredient which will bring the downtown
back to life is people – lively, busy, living locally people.
If you’ve got enough people who live downtown, who claim it as
their home, who shop there and get involved in its politics, everything
else will follow. In the jargon, it’s called ‘social capital’.
So let’s turn some of those big car parks into
beautifully designed mixed communities of single homes and low-rise
Let’s build a dense, car-free urban ecovillage
along the harbour in the area north of Value Village up to Rock
Bay, with walkways, gardens and cafés, designed with the
latest green building and energy technologies. With a local car-share
cooperative, there’d be no need for individual car ownership.
Let’s ensure that the downtown is as friendly
as possible for pedestrians and cyclists, and priorize spending
to that end. Let’s have a complete walkable waterfront from Shoal
Point to Ocean Point and West Bay. Let’s make Government Street
a car-free, pedestrian paradise.
Let’s build a new waterfront art gallery and
performance space, and put the arts at the centre of the revival
strategy, alongside people.
Let’s dream much bigger dreams when it comes
to quality of our architecture and sculpture, so that buildings
sing to you and sculptures play with you, instead of making you
want to become an urban art saboteur.
Let’s think like the great cities of Renaissance,
and create a city centre that is full of colour and diversity,
with poetry, drama and music.
Then we have to deal with the car, which means
making it much easier for people to travel downtown without the
car. Let’s start a free downtown trolley shuttle, and build the
Light Rail Transit system that has been so long in discussion.
Let’s revitalize our whole transit service, and
build bus shelters that are clean and comfortable, with electronic
timetables that tell you when the next bus is coming, as they
do in Europe.
Let’s learn from Boulder, Colorado, where they
revamped the city bus service to make it efficient and flexible,
and now sell $50 annual bus passes to 60% of the city’s residents.
How can we pay for all this? We should charge
suburban homeowners for the full cost of the roads, power, sewer
and water lines that are needed to service them, and use the income
to support transit, LRT, and cycling and pedestrian initiatives.
We should increase development cost charges for
new developments to cover the full cost of sprawl, and reduce
them for smart growth developments that cost less in roads and
We should encourage the existing property owners
and developers to get together, and challenge them to come up
with a dream for the low value, run down spaces that dot the downtown.
It was achieved in Harris Green, so it can be done in Rock Bay,
and on other smaller parcels of land.
A lively, vibrant downtown is a delight to inhabit.
It makes human sense, it makes ecological sense, and it makes
economic sense. So let’s do it!
monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a Vancouver
Island and a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures
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Many thanks to Brian
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* Wanted: Peaceful accommodation for older
professional woman, under $400 all incl, in James Bay, Fairfield.
No basements, please. 704-0103
* Australian Aboriginal Art for sale. Traditional
dot paintings from Central Desert community art co-operatives. Original
works; authenticity certificates. Andy250-339-4754 email@example.com
* Garden designs with nature in mind by
Stewardship Natural Landscape Design. Christina Nikolic, 382-4450
* Vegan House! Tired of living with meat-eaters?
Rather be surrounded by happy and fun vegans? Looking for 1-3 people
to share a house in Victoria by end of year. firstname.lastname@example.org
* Can you help? I’m a UVic student, planting
Garry oak seedlings at Tower Point Metchosin, Swan Lake, and UVic
campus. I need volunteers to help plant 70 trees on Nov. 8-9, 15-16,
and 29-30. Snacks, transportation provided. Geri Poisson 389-0206
* Car sharing: We need volunteers to help
bring car-sharing to Sidney, Central Saanich, VicWest/Esquimalt,
& the Quadra/McKenzie area. 995-0265
* Office Paper Buying Club. 100% non-bleached,
post-consumer recycled paper. Purchase deadline Nov 15th.
or phone Paper Choice at 1-800-567-4055.
First stop, California, where the awful fires around
Los Angeles and San Diego are being fuelled by unusually warm weather,
courtesy global climate change. Which candidate in the recall election
made the following commitments?
* Air pollution to fall by 50% by 2010
* 50% of all new homes to have solar PV roofs by
* California’s energy use to fall by 20% within
* 20% of California’s energy to come from renewables
by 2010, 33% by 2020
* Hydrogen refueling stations every 20 miles on
California’s major highways by 2010
* To defend California’s new greenhouse gas reduction
Yes – it was Arnold Schwarzenegger!
CLEANED BY BANANAS
Next stop, Victoria. Which dry-cleaner has stopped
using perchloroethylene (perc) because its owners were worried about
the effect of the chemical on their employees? The answer: Elite
Cleaners, at 1019 Cook St (250-381-2221), whose owners, Rick and
Laurel Nathorst, have eliminated the use of perc entirely, becoming
the first dry cleaners in western Canada to go 100% green. Instead
of perc, they’re using natural citrus agents and banana oil spotting
agents. Rick went to Europe to research alternatives and then worked
with a dry cleaner in Ontario to perfect the new wet-cleaning process
– which uses 60% less water than dry cleaning. Perc causes irritation
of the eyes, nose, throat and skin, effects the nervous system,
and causes cancer in laboratory animals, which is why several US
states are planning a ban. Using citrus and banana juice, Rick’s
staff no longer suffer headaches and fatigue, and he has stopped
worrying about the effect of the perc on nearby apartment dwellers.
Rick and Laurel have sold their home and cashed in their RRSPs to
make it happen, but they’re very happy with the result, which produces
brighter colours and softer clothes.
Next stop, Burnaby Jail, where the 75-year old
grandmother Betty Krawczyk has been given a 6 month jail sentence
for her protest against the BC Liberals’ Working Forest legislation,
on top of the 4.5 months she has already spent in jail. If you want
to send her a card, a poem, or a letter, her address is Betty Krawczyk,
c/o BCCW, 7900 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby V5J 5H1. The Working Forest
enabling legislation, which zones all of BC’s public forest land
outside the parks for industrial logging (and for subsequent real
estate development), has been passed; the Cabinet is now empowered
to implement the initiative through an Order in Council, likely
by June 2004. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is all the
more determined to defeat it. They suspect it is clearing the way
for the sell-off of crown lands in the Liberal’s second term. The
Tofino Chamber of Commerce and Municipal Council have come out against
it, as have the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and First Nations Treaty
Summit. For full details, see www.workingforest.org
While the BC Liberals go about their sad destructive
business, others are chasing larger dreams, more worthy of this
land. I’m talking about The Dogwood Initiative, a relatively new
non-profit group that is working for sustainable land reform in
British Columbia, with the mission to create sustainable community
solutions for lands and people. Their dream for our forests involves
local control of forest lands by local communities, whose people
have a long term stake in the sustainability of the land. They are
also fighting the threat from expanded natural gas and coalbed methane
exploration. To join them in their efforts, see www.dogwoodinitiative.org.
They are having an open house on Friday Nov 7th, 5-7:30pm,
at 1422 Fernwood Rd (at Rudlin St, between Johnson & Yates).
We’re like a gathering of Davids, chasing an army
of Goliaths. And sometimes, we win. After three years of relentless
campaigning by the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network
and its allies, the Boise Cascade Corporation has released "Boise
and the Environment," a major breakthrough in the forest products
industry, and a landmark, private sector commitment to forest protection.
With this announcement, Boise is becoming the largest American forest
products company to eliminate wood and paper products from endangered
forests. It is the first distributor of forest products to extend
such a policy to its suppliers, and the only American forest products
company to apply such a policy both domestically and internationally.
The Boise victory is one of the most important corporate advances
in forest protection since Home Depot’s 1999 commitment to stop
selling wood from endangered forests. See www.ran.org
AMAZON FOREST WOES
The new government in Brazil is pursuing progressive
policies, but the news from the Amazon is grim. The rate of deforestation,
which people had hoped was falling, jumped by 40% in 2002, sparking
alarm among environmentalists. In 2001, 7,010 square miles were
lost to burning and logging, mostly to create new soy bean farms.
In 2002, 9,840 square miles were lost, that’s nearly 100 by 100
miles –6.3 million acres. If each acre contains 200 trees, that’s
over a billion trees lost, and all the biodiversity that lived in
their canopy. Gone, the soil now turning to dust, the spirit ancestors
of the forest tribes left homeless.
The Amazon is larger than western Europe, so it’s
virtually impossible to control deforestation, which is carried
out by farmers, illegal loggers, and miners. The poor are drawn
to the Amazon from other parts of Brazil to share in the illegal
logging of rare trees such as mahogany. The Brazilian government
has promised emergency measures, including real-time monitoring
of the deforestation, and forcing all ministries to consider the
environment when they enact policies, but it doesn’t exactly fill
you with hope. (Thanks to Planet Ark/Reuters).
All that tropical hardwood doesn’t just disappear;
much of it finds its way into the stores of Europe and North America,
where ecologically unconscious consumers like to show off fancy
hardwood floors and furniture. To stem the illegal imports, the
European Union is drafting legislation that will require legal timber
imports to be certified, in a bid to clean up the $150 billion global
forest product trade. We won’t see much success in the Amazon until
we change the rules of the global game. As long as Brazil is hog-tied
by unfair trade rules, enormous debt, and enforced restructuring
imposed by the IMF, the World Bank, and the big corporations, the
poor will continue to do whatever they can to survive. That’s why
we need to believe Another World is Possible – the motto of the
World Social Forum, where the Davids gather once a year to dream
of a world beyond corporate greed, and the tawdry dreams of tiny
There are many solutions to the evils of selfish,
corporate dominated globalization, and Fair Trade is one of them,
guaranteeing that small farmers, coffee growers and artisans in
the developing world get a fair price for their work. On November
29th there’s a Fair Trade Fair at Gordon Head United
Church Hall, organized by VIDEA, where you can buy Christmas gifts
that give twice, and build a more just world. See Green Diary for
details – and listen to CBC Radio 2 ‘IDEAS’ on Nov 24th,
at 9pm, which looks at the effect of Fair Trade on Ghana’s cocoa
"The future belongs to those that believe in
the beauty of their dreams." --Eleanor Roosevelt.
WHAT IS "SUSTAINABILITY"?
It’s an old debate, but a very important one, now
that a commitment to "sustainability" is as mainstream
as motherhood and apple pie. For some, sustainability is just a
nod in the direction of the environment, while business continues
as usual. The classic Brundtland definition from the 1980s is not
much help, since it only refers to humans, and our needs: "Sustainable
development meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
That allows us to drive a bulldozer through whatever we want, as
long as we pretty it up afterwards. So here, as a contribution to
our shared future on this planet, is an upgraded, more thoughtful
definition of sustainability that includes all species:
"Sustainability is a condition of existence
which enables the present generation of humans and other species
to enjoy social wellbeing, a vibrant economy, and a healthy environment,
and to experience fulfillment, beauty and joy, without compromising
the ability of future generations of humans and other species to
enjoy the same."
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:
* Mark Fiore on the US Energy Bill: www.markfiore.com/animation/energy.html
* A site in tribute to whoever is blogging the
southern California freeways. A new political artform is born! www.freewayblogger.com
* And you thought Kraft Food was soooo tasty? www.krafty.org/flash
* Vive le Canada – Our country, Our Voice! www.vivelecanada.ca
* Nanaimo’s Interactive Community News, October
* CBC’s The Fifth Estate, on 911 Conspiracy Theories:
* Crop Circles in England, August 2003: www.cropcircleconnector.com/2003/august2003a.html
* Introducing – the Freiburg VeloTaxi! www.velotaxi-freiburg.de
* The Affluenza Questionnaire: www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/diag/what.html
IRAQ – COLONIALISM 101
The Economist magazine calls it "a
wish list of international investors", and "a capitalist
dream". But Walid Hafiz, one of Iraq’s biggest capitalists,
fears that under the new financial law, Iraqis could become guest
workers in their own country, and "the slaves of foreigners."
They’re talking about the "Law on the Regulation of Foreign
Investment" that the US administrator in Iraq has forced through,
over the objections of the shocked Iraq business elite. The law
is designed to liberate Iraq from a planned economy, open up Iraq
to the global economy, and create jobs. Sounds kind of ok? In the
small print, the law gives foreign interests unlimited access to
the country’s most profitable industries. Foreign nationals can
acquire full ownership of local firms and siphon of profits without
restriction. Hundreds of state-owned businesses will be open for
privatization, leaving only oil and gas under government (US) control.
There will be no scrutiny of potential investors, and taxes will
be capped at 15%. And you thought they were there to bring freedom
and democracy? Thanks to Der Spiegel, 6 October 2003
ACTION OF THE MONTH:
CANADA’S TRADE POLICIES
Canada is party to the FTAA – the Free Trade Area
of the Americas. Among those who back the FTAA, there’s a strong
desire to open up health care, water, and energy to free trade.
The US health care corporations are itching to win the legal right
to break up Canada’s health care system. The same applies to the
big energy and water corporations.
So – what do you think? The Department of Foreign
Affairs wants to hear from you: "In the extensive consultations
that have been conducted since preparations began for the 1999 Ministerial
in Seattle, it is clear that not all Canadians agree with every
aspect of Canada's participation in global trade talks. The Government
is interested in hearing from you in order to ensure that Canada's
negotiating objectives fully reflect the interests of Canadians."
ACTION: Write to Trade Negotiations Consultations,
Dept Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Lester B. Pearson
Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, K1A 0G2 – and tell them what
you think! email@example.com
Th anks to Jim Hackler.
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