No. 135 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island -
THE BANK THAT RAN INTO RAN
If there is one reason why many people feel so hopeless about the
state of the world, regardless of heroic initiatives and small successes,
it is because we know that behind every clearcut forest, oil pipeline,
and GM crop are the bankers, investors, fund managers, and Wall
Street analysts that finance it all.
In the new Canadian film The Corporation, that has won high
praise at the Sundance Film Festival and wherever it has been aired,
Joel Bakan makes the case that the fundamental condition of the
corporation is that of a psychopath, who takes no responsibility
for human, social or ecological destruction, and seeks only to advance
its own ends. This includes the financial corporations, with their
offshore habits and dodgy accountants.
With this kind of a motor driving most of the economic activity
that takes place on the planet, what hope can there be for those
who want to live on an Earth governed by compassion, cooperation
and ecological stewardship?
In January 2004, a major worldwide study by a team of conservation
biologists reported in Nature that if global warming continues
as predicted, between 18% and 37% of all land-based animals and
plants could become extinct by 2050.
Silence. My heart is stunned into silence.
It’s like a million nooses hanging over the Earth, one for every
species that will become extinct, all because the corporations and
the banks that drive the global economy are unwilling to let go
of their greed to make money, from selling fossil fuels.
The Rainforest Action Group, based in San Francisco, works to protect
the Earth’s rainforests, and support the rights of their inhabitants
through education, grassroots organizing, and nonviolent direct
action. (See www.ran.org).
For the past four years, RAN’s activists have been picketing the
offices of Citigroup, the world’s largest financial institution,
with 200 million customer accounts in 100 countries. In 2003, Citigroup
had earnings of $17.85 billion on a revenue of $77.4 billion. RAN’s
activists were aiming to force Citigroup to stop financing the destruction
of the world’s rainforests.
So here’s the incredible result: they won. In 2003, Citigroup asked
to meet with RAN, to see what it would take to call off the protestors
who were dogging them everywhere they went, and embarrassing their
customers. It was slowly registering on Citigroup that it did not
look good to be held personally responsible for the destruction
of the world’s rainforests.
RAN’s activists had to scramble, as they were suddenly asked to
put down their placards and start thinking in a win-win language.
They did, Citigroup listened, and it worked.
In January 2004 Citigroup signed a momentous agreement: the "Citigroup
New Environmental Initiatives". They have agreed to stop financing
commercial logging in tropical rainforests. They have agreed to
recognize the need for environmental "no-go" zones that
are essential for the ecological integrity of a healthy planet.
They have agreed to enact new progressive lending practices that
will support the rights, livelihoods and cultural integrity of forest
dwelling indigenous peoples.
Recognizing that climate change is the biggest single threat to
the world’s forests, Citigroup has committed to report the greenhouse
gas emissions from its power sector projects, and to increase its
investments in clean, renewable energy. It has agreed to market
"energy efficiency" mortgages, which help homeowners with
the cost of efficiency upgrades.
"Citigroup’s new environmental initiatives signal the beginning
of an ecological U-turn in the global marketplace," said Michael
Brune, RAN’s executive director. "This is a wake-up call to
Wall Street as well as Washington. Destroying endangered ecosystems
for a few weeks supply of dirty power and toilet paper is as outdated
as the abacus. We applaud Citigroup for being the first private
bank in the world to deny financing for commercial logging in tropical
rainforests. One bank is not enough. We won’t save the rainforests
or ourselves until we deal head on with the ultimate weapons of
mass destruction, climate change, and the banks that fund the corporations
that are causing it."
In a rapid follow-up, RAN wrote to ten of the most destructive
US banks. Calling them The Liquidators, RAN challenged them to meet
or beat Citigroup’s policies. They are JP Morgan Chase, Bank One,
Bank of America, Fleet Boston Financial, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs,
John Hancock, Wachovia, US Bancorp, and SunTrust.
So here’s the message. Persistence pays off, especially when it
combines activism, with its ability to make people uncomfortable,
and win-win thinking, which can get people talking around the table.
So dig out that hope. We need it.
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A big thankyou to Helga
Naguib, Kathleen Bloomfield, Douglas Crow, Greg Morley, Kate Stevens,
Andrew Macleod, Laura Fisher, Virginia Newman, Martha Orr, Margaret
Hantiuk, Ellie Roelofsen, Pam Webster, Joan Edwards, Pamela Charlesworth,
Cliff Boldt, Marshall Rosen, Kathleen Kyle & Bill Barlee, Marie
Peters, Joyce Baker, William Ellis, Ann Cameron, Alice Davis, Otter
Valley Native Plants, Lesley Wicks, David Evans, Beverly Tanchak,
Warren Nickerson & Karen Hope, Sinclair Sales & Leasing,
Dr Dorle Kneifel Medical Corp, Roger Colwill, Peter Carilho, and
the Society of Friends.
Donations can be sent to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd,
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* Tax returns done by Financial Professional including self-employed.
Great rates. Roxanne Brydges, CFP, 360-6284, email@example.com
* Garden designs with nature in mind by Stewardship Natural
Landscape Design. Christina Nikolic, 382-4450 firstname.lastname@example.org
* Are you an outdoor adventurer with interesting experiences
to share and trips to plan? The Company of Adventurers would like
to hear from you. Call Al Lubkowski at (250) 595-8881.
* How Healthy Is Your Home? Trained Bau-biologist available
for environmental house inspections, including indoor air quality
and EMF investigations, education and solutions. Oasis Indoor Environmental
Testing and Consulting 250-653-9631 or visit www.buildingbiology.net
* To sublet: Sweet little suite. Cozy furnished 2 BR, nr
VGH, Interurban Campus. 1 month, mid Feb to mid Mar. $650 incl.
Ellie Boisvert 479-9491.
* Health Food Coop. We are local vegan environmentalists
who are interested in starting a health food coop in Victoria. Could
you complete the survey at www.islandveg.com/coop
to give us some input? Dave & Heather 380-1865
* Pesticide-Free. Can you help me pull weeds in Brookes
Field (Fairfield), to keep it safe from spraying with pesticides?
Call Mary Doody-Jones, 388-4046. Mdoodyj@telus.net
* PLAN-B Natural Building School at OUR Ecovillage starts
April 25th. Registration: email@example.com
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Natural Building Summer School at OUR Ecovillage, Shawnigan Lake.
* OUR Ecovillage tours, bi-weekly. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Do you want to build a green home or sustainable
community? Learn how to live lightly on the Earth. Presentation
in last week of February based on 9-Step process currently in use
by Victoria group. Details – call Vern Rogers, 472-8660. email@example.com
MORE ON MICROWAVES
* According to Spanish scientists at the Department of Food Technology
in Murcia, microwaving food destroys 97% of the flavonoids and other
chemicals, compared to 66% when food is boiled, and still less when
it is steamed. (Eating it raw, of course, produces no losses).
* In 1991, a woman who was in hospital for hip surgery in Tulsa,
Oklahoma died after receiving a transfusion containing blood that
had been mistakenly heated in a microwave. The irradiation seems
to have altered the blood in a way that caused her death.
* In 1992, US researchers investigating an outbreak of salmonella
among party-goers found that those affected had used a microwave
to re-heat food from the picnic, while none of those who used a
conventional oven became ill.
* Russian researchers at the Institute of Radio Technology at
Klinsk, in Byelorussia, found that heating prepared meats in a microwave
creates the cancer-causing agent d-nitrosodiethanolamine. They also
found that eating microwaved foods was associated with a higher
percentage of cancerous cells being present in the blood serum,
and that microwaving food altered the elemental food substances,
leading to disorders in the digestive system. Russia banned the
use of microwave ovens from 1976 until the mid-1980s, after perestroika.
* The Russian researchers also reported a marked acceleration
of structural degradation leading to a decreased food value of 60
to 90% in all foods tested, including decreased bio-availability
of vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential minerals and
* In 1989, the Extension Service at the University of Minnesota
issued a warning that heating baby’s milk in a microwave can cause
slight changes in the milk, that there may be a loss of some vitamins
from infant formula milk, and some protective properties in expressed
breast milk may be destroyed. In 1989, Dr. Lita Lee of Hawaii reported
in the Dec 9th Lancet that "Microwaving baby formulas
converted certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic cis-isomers.
Synthetic isomers, whether cis-amino acids or trans-fatty acids,
are not biologically active. Further, one of the amino acids, L-proline,
was converted to its d-isomer, which is known to be neurotoxic (poisonous
to the nervous system) and nephrotoxic (poisonous to the kidneys)."
* The PVC plastic films used to cover food during microwave cooking
have been found to release plasticizers into the food. Plasticizers
are hormone-mimickers which have been shown to create gender confusion,
the early onset of puberty, and other worrisome medical abnormalities.
Thanks to The Ecologist. And see www.mercola.com/article/microwave/hazards.htm
GARRY OAK STEWARDSHIP
Do you have a Garry oak tree on your property? If so, you are among
a privileged few. The Garry oaks are a vestige of what used to be
a huge oak forest on south-east Vancouver Island, thanks to our
relatively dry climate, complete with its own ecosystem of plants,
animals, insects and birds, over 100 of which are now endangered,
some extinct. The Garry oak tree is the only local habitat for some
40 different species of insects. That tree on your property may
be 125 to 400 years old, starting life as a seedling between 1604
and 1880 AD. A really old tree could have been a seedling soon after
Queen Elizabeth 1st of England died.
Given how fragile the Garry oak ecosystem is, it is all the more
important that you know how to take care of them. To help you, the
Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society has produced a very practical
leaflet which tells you how to protect them, and the kind of conditions
they need. If your neighbours have Garry oaks on their property,
you might want to give them a leaflet. Due to funding cutbacks,
the Society has to raise an additional $70,000 this year. During
2004, donations to the Society benefit from federal matching funds.
If you give $100 or more, you’ll be in a draw to win a boat trip
in the new Gulf Islands National park. Call 475-2024. www.garryoak.bc.ca
It’s starting! The first sign of spring is the outburst of Seedy
Saturday Community Seed Shows on Vancouver Island, where you can
buy local organic seeds, and get ready for the moment when the soil
is warm enough to plant. See the Green Diary for all the details.
For almost 100 years, the western tradition of building has been
inspired by industry and the modern world, divorced from nature
and ecology. Romantic dreams of harmony with nature were left behind,
and it was the beat of machinery and industrial power that inspired
builders and architects, not the beat of an eagle’s wings, or the
flow of water over rock. We now have to live with the consequences:
cityscapes that are bereft of beauty, concrete buildings that reveal
no intimacy, and building designs that are incredibly damaging of
With every toll that rings for the funeral of another species,
however, another human spirit says "Enough!", and sets
her or his heart in a new direction. Just imagine how Vancouver
Island might feel in fifty years time if our developers and architects
started building to a different tune.
Green Architecture by James Wines (Taschen, 2000) is an
inspiration for the architects among us. Rich in examples, the author
takes us on a global journey to some of the most adventurous new
buildings that have been designed with nature in mind. Wines is
concerned as much with what the buildings look like, as with the
green-ness of their materials.
Green Development by staff from the Rocky Mountain Institute
(Wiley & Sons, 1998), is for the developers and builders among
us, as well as the architects. The great strength of this book is
that as well as detailing the design features that make a building
or a community green (energy, water, materials, fresh air, daylight,
pedestrian designs), it shows how costs and return on investment
work, drawing on 80 practical examples, and explaining how a design
team needs to structure its meetings to achieve the win-win results
that green buildings promise.
New Organic Architecture: The Breaking Wave, by David Pearson
(Univ California Press, 2001) delves into the roots of organic architecture
among the homes of ancient people. It then shows us the work of
30 of the world’s most creative new architects, who are re-weaving
the love affair with nature through the revival or organic architecture.
Frank Lloyd Wright, who started the movement, only to see it dies
under the assault from modernism, must be purring in his grave.
Feast your eyes!
From Greed to Green, by David Gottfried (WorldBuild Publishing,
2003) (www.greedtogreen.com) is also for the developers among us.
In a refreshingly honest way, the author describes his personal
journey, starting out as a 24-year-old "über-brat"
and real estate developer, raised to make profits and wealth. When
his soul begins to protest, inspired by the dream of green building,
he makes a dramatic break, and goes on to found the US Green Building
Council, which created the LEED green building standard, which has
become so influential within the industry, and led to the creation
of the Canadian Green Building Council. It is highly unusual for
someone to write in such an honest, self-revealing, readable manner,
and I strongly recommend this book to all aspiring green builders.
These books show that a new vision is very much alive, putting
modernism and post-modernism aside, and drawing inspiration once
again from nature.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:
Photographs of Auroras from Space
The Surface of the Earth, colour relief images from NOAA:
NASA’s Climate Change Headlines:
Do you think that you are a Canadian? Test your knowledge. www.cbc.ca/chillybeach/trivia/trivia26.swf
. Try this more than once to get all the questions; each replay
Paranoid Shift: A Masterful Synthesis of the Ills of our Age:
"We have all been lied to about 9/11, the country is in mortal
danger and only you can make it right. If you need a label, I stand
here as a 9/11 Truth Candidate":
LEVEL GROUND TRADING
Congratulations to Victoria’s Level Ground Trading, for winning
the prestigious 2003 Ethics in Action Award. Level Ground imports
fair trade, shade-grown San Miguel Coffee from small-scale farmers
in Antioquia, Colombia, distributing it through Thousand Villages
stores and other outlets. As a result of the fair trade price they
pay the growers, they paid over $40,000 in 2000 to fund scholarships
for rural teenagers who would otherwise not be in school. In 2003,
Level Ground is providing education for 115 students, upgrading
rural schools, and providing employment for marginalized women,
and providing agricultural support to the native Aymara farmers.
All because their goals as a company are for a win-win world.
They are also importing Frutos de los Andes (sun-dried tropical
fruits) and fair trade pesticide free sugar cane. And all because
of local support from people like you. For more, see www.levelground.com
ACTION OF THE MONTH: JOHN EFFORD
John who? John Efford is the new Minister of Natural Resources
in the new Martin cabinet. He hails from Newfoundland, and showed
up for the inauguration wearing a seal-skin coat. He supports offshore
oil and gas exploration in BC, and nuclear power: "It’s a clean
environmental thing to do." He was among 96 Liberal MPs who
wrote to Jean Chretien in August 2002 urging him to ratify Kyoto,
but now he is advocating the expansion of fossil fuels, and seeking
greater concessions for the oil and gas industry. This leads to
a big concern that he’s going to backtrack on cabinet support for
Action: Please write to Minister Efford, and remind him
how critical Canada’s commitment to Kyoto is. Climate change is
the greatest danger our planet faces. It’s as simple as that.
Rt Hon John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources, 580 Booth St,
21st flr, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E4
Tel (613) 996-2007 Fax (613) 996-4516
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