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AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)EcoNews reaches thousands of people each month, including every MLA in BC and every CRD municipal politician. It’s 95% funded by donations from readers like you. If you value the information it provides, will you support it with a donation?

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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 

Newsletter No. 132 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - November 2003


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 condominiums.

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 servicing.

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!

Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

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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Many thanks to Brian Grant, Loiuse Pothier, Ross Crockford, Audrey Woodward, Joyce Hale, John Boquist, Claire Lynch, Margaret & Art Simons, Roy MacQuarrie, Miyo Stevens, Margaret Fear, Colin Graham, Alice Eaton, Mel McDonald, Debra Barr, Silk Chauncey, Jim Hackler & Camilla Turner.

Donations can be sent to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd, Victoria, BC, V9E 2B9. For a receipt send stamped addressed envelope.


Hell is a mall. The survival of wilderness surroundings is fundamental. Eliminate the landscape, and you erase all memory – Briony.


Dear Readers,

The droughts, floods and forest fires come and go – but EcoNews keeps on going, nurturing a vision of a sustainable Vancouver Island, and a sustainable world. However, our bank account is empty once again - so can you help?

EcoNews has been successfully financed by donations from its readers ever since it started, 132 issues ago. Each issue costs $600 for postage, $250 for printing etc, and $250 for editorial, totaling $1,100. For this, we reach 6,000 people, including every MLA and local politician, and many more through the web page..

If you enjoy reading EcoNews and value the information that it provides, would you consider making a donation? (Cheques payable to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V9E 2B9.) EcoNews is not charity tax-deductible, but if you would like a receipt, enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. Many thanks !


THE ECO-CORNER

$5/line (non-profits, low-income free)

1" box $40, $2" box $70. Insert $180

* 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 harrison@ekno.com

* Garden designs with nature in mind by Stewardship Natural Landscape Design. Christina Nikolic, 382-4450 stewardshipnld@yahoo.ca

* 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. veganhouse@shaw.ca

* 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. copypaperbuyingclub@shaw.ca or phone Paper Choice at 1-800-567-4055.


CALIFORNIA DREAMING

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 2005

* California’s energy use to fall by 20% within two years

* 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 law

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.


FOREST HERO

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


FOREST SOLUTIONS

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).


FOREST VICTORY

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 men.


FAIR TRADE

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 farmers.


"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."

Got Milk?  You've Also Got Veal.
www.DairyInfo.ca


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 2003: http://cip.nanaimo-online.net/1003

* CBC’s The Fifth Estate, on 911 Conspiracy Theories: www.cbc.ca/fifth/conspiracytheories

* 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! consultations@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

Th anks to Jim Hackler.


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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria
V9E 2B9
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
(New Society Publishers)
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