No. 136 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island -
I have just been to see the movie "The Corporation",
which everyone is raving about, and which has been called "The next
Bowling for Columbine" by the Globe and Mail.
My response? I hated it.
It felt like 2 hours 15’ of being bludgeoned over the head with
a thick stick, followed by a 15’ sweetener at the end to make me
walk away with a good feeling.
It seems I am in a minority of one in feeling this way, so don’t
let me dissuade you from seeing it, and coming to your own conclusions
(for showtimes see www.thecorporation.tv).
Everyone else thinks it’s wonderful!
I was already familiar with most of the people interviewed, and
the examples of corporate ill-doing that were shown, so maybe I
had higher expectations. But yes, dammit, I was right to have higher
It is no longer good enough to display how bad our
problems are, however brilliantly you do it. By devoting 90% of
the airtime to the problems, and only 10% or less to the solutions,
the film may drive some viewers deeper into hopelessness and despair.
It’s true that the corporation, defined as a "person" in law, shows
all the signs of being a psychopath.
It’s true that some corporations will lie, steal, cheat, poison
and kill to advance their own selfish ends. It is also true that
many don’t, and never will.
It’s true that big corporations are taking over the world’s media,
food, farms, forests, and pharmaceuticals, and that now they want
to get their hands on the world’s water supply too.
It’s true that big oil and coal corporations have done their best
to sabotage progress global climate change, and big chemical corporations
have done their best to make sure toxic chemicals remain on the
market, causing cancer, asthma, and other ailments that destroy
our health and happiness.
All this is true, and much, much more. The problem that we face,
as a planet, is that we are steering towards a multi-dimensional
social and ecological catastrophe, but the bridge of the Good Ship
Earth has been hijacked by corporate leaders whose only agenda is
to continue making profits.
The film seems to say that if we take to the streets, as the people
of Cochabamba (Bolivia) did in response to the privatization of
their water supply, we can be victorious. "The people, united, can
never be defeated."
Well, bullshit. It is far more complicated than that, and we deserve
to be treated to a proper analysis of the solutions, not a simple
recipe for popular uprising.
PERSONALITY DIAGNOSTIC CHECKLIST
___ Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
___ Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
___ Reckless disregard for the safety of others
___ Deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit
___ Incapacity to experience guilt
___ Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful
Michael Moore had a better handle on the complexity
of the issue when he said, in the film, that when he and his friends
were campaigning against the motor industry in Flint, Michigan,
they never made the connection that it was they, driving around
in their cars, who were also contributing to air pollution and global
The challenge is enormous, so the solutions must be equal to the
challenge, both locally and globally. We need to clarify what the
ten best solutions are, and organize them into a clear, elegant
package that everyone can get behind. And if we don’t have those
solutions yet, let’s be honest and say so, so that we can put more
effort into finding them. Here are some suggestions:
1. Create a Global Corporate Charter, such that
directors are required by international law to act in the best
interests of the global and local environment, and the communities
in which they operate, and as well of the corporation itself,
which is their only present legal requirement. (For more ideas
along these lines, see www.aurora.ca)
2. Create a Global Treaty on Corporate Charters which will end
the validity of the current charters under international law,
by an agreed date. Failing that, create an Alliance of Nations
for Global Sustainability which will require the use of the new
Global Corporate Charter by locally based corporations.
3. Tie global support from agencies such as the World Bank and
the IMF to the adoption of the New Global Corporate Charter, by
an agreed date.
4. Redefine fiduciary trust so that fund managers have a legal
obligation to invest funds in a socially responsible manner, as
well as seeking to maximize their clients’ gain. Define this in
global, as well as national terms.
5. Make triple bottom line accounting a legal requirement for
social and environmental results, as well as financial results.
6. Ban corporate and union donations to political parties over
$1,000, as Canada has done. (See www.dwatch.ca/camp/BillC24AnalysisAug03.html)
7. Adopt Three Strikes and You’re Out legislation, as California
is proposing, revoking the charter of any corporation convicted
of three major violations resulting in a fine of $1 million or
more within a ten-year period. Incorporation is a privilege, granted
by the people, not a right. (See www.commondreams.org/views03/0307-02.htm)
"The biggest corporation, like the humblest private citizen, must
be held to strict compliance with the will of the people." Theodore
8. Build local, living economies in our home towns and communities,
supporting locally owned sustainable businesses, while restricting
the ability of cloned chain stores to set up shop, as many communities
are already doing. (See www.ballenetwork.org)
9. Build a strong, coherent, global movement, as we’ve already
started through the World Social Forum. (See www.choike.org)
10. Visualize success. We ended slavery. We can also end poverty,
and environmental unsustainability.
To Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan, I
say THANKYOU, for engaging us in thought and debate about these
enormous issues. If you are planning a sequel, could it be "Beyond
The Corporation", and be packed full of workable solutions that
will get everyone fired up and excited? It’s positive action that
we need, not despair.
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SEEDS OF PROGRESS
The Seeds of Progress Community Organic Garden is probably the
only one of its kind in Victoria’s Western Communities. Located
at 3319 Painter Rd, in Colwood, for the past six years we have grown
organic vegetables, taught folks how to grow food for their families,
donated our produce to the food bank, and offered free seeds, seedlings,
and training. This year, we’re faced with a $4,000 shortfall before
we can go ahead with our 7th year. We welcome volunteers from all
walks of life, and, we also happily accept financial donations to
enable us to continue our work. In fact, we urgently need them!
If you can help, please make a tax deductible donation to Seeds
of Progress, and mail it to Westshore Community Resources, 1096
Goldstream Ave, Victoria, BC V9B 2Y5. Or call me, Jackie Robson,
THE PENTAGON REPORT ON ABRUPT GLOBAL CLIMATE
Everyone’s talking about it, and it’s zipping around the world
on the Internet. I’m talking about the Pentagon Report on "An Abrupt
Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for US National Security",
written by Peter Schwartz, a CIA consultant and former head of planning
at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the Global Business
Network in California. The report was commissioned by Pentagon defense
adviser Andrew Marshall, aged 82, who has held considerable sway
on US military thinking over the past 30 years. His nickname is
You might think global climate change is bad enough. Well, meet
"Abrupt Climate Change", global’s kid brother, who the authors of
Pentagon Report think is a very scary dude. Here’s how it works:
The world’s thermohaline (warm salty) current starts off the coast
of Iceland, where the water is very salty because so much fresh
water is locked up in the Arctic ice. The salt water sinks, and
in so doing it launches the thermohaline current, which carries
the water down to the tropics. After five years or so, it returns
as the warm Gulf Stream, allowing northern Europe to enjoy warm
weather, when it would otherwise be freezing its butt off, given
it’s at the same latitude as Labrador. As global warming melts the
Arctic ice, however, the fresh water dilutes the salt water, causing
the current to switch off.
The Pentagon Report warns that "abrupt climate change could bring
the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear
threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies."
It concludes: "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features
of life.... Once again, warfare would define human life." The authors
say that climate change should be considered immediately as a top
political and military issue, and be elevated beyond a scientific
debate to a US national security concern. Here are some of the probable
scenarios that the report includes. Please note: these are worst
case scenarios, not predictions:
* Britain will have winters similar to those in current-day Siberia
as European temperatures drop off radically by 2020.
* Major European cities will sink beneath rising seas as Britain
is plunged into a Siberian climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict,
mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across
* By 2007, violent storms could make large parts of the Netherlands
uninhabitable and lead to a breach in the aqueduct system in California
that supplies all water to densely populated southern California
* Europe and the US could become virtual fortresses trying to
keep out millions of migrants whose homelands have been wiped
out by rising sea levels or made unfarmable by drought.
* Catastrophic shortages of potable water and energy could lead
to widespread war by 2020.
Doug Randall called his findings "depressing stuff" and warned
that it might even be too late to prevent future disasters. "We
don't know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow
and we would not know for another five years." Experts familiar
with the report told the UK Observer that the threat to global stability
"vastly eclipses that of terrorism". www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0222-01.htm
If you’re feeling a little blue after reading this, remember:
the solutions that we need to tackle global climate change already
exist. The global will is there, too, even in the US. With a different
leader in the White House, and the US getting behind the world to
tackle the crisis in a committed way, the outlook might feel very
The US is like an agile horse that has a bush-sized bung up its
butt, that is paralyzing its ability to be bold and dynamic. This
is frustrating the hell out of millions of ordinary US citizens
who are itching to get out there and ride their country towards
a sane, smart, sustainable future, instead of being stuck in the
global rest-room, waiting for the heavens to open.
RECYCLING OUR WATER
Intrigued by the possibilities of grey water recycling, and re-using
all that otherwise wasted water? Thanks to Peter Dixon’s efforts,
the CRD Water Supply Commission is going to include water reuse
in its revised 2004 Strategic Plan; it now has a mandate to investigate
greywater applications. Thanks, Peter! Call 472-8646 for more information.
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS
Intrigued by the possibilities of drilling billions of dollars
worth of oil and gas out of BC’s waters, so that we can pour more
fuel on the fires of global warming? Now there’s a bright idea –
except that it’s also prime marine habitat. The Royal Society ‘Science
Panel’ that the federal government established to look into lifting
the moratorium has concluded they don’t have enough information
to assess the risks to wildlife and marine species, but this is
no reason to keep the moratorium.
Curious logic, this; certainly not the precautionary principle;
maybe the dogmatory principle? Something tells me they haven’t read
the Pentagon Report on Abrupt Climate Change. Wide-eyed folks like
our bold and brave BC Minister of Energy and Mines, Richard Neufeld,
reckon there may be 2.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil under
the ocean. So go, go, go!
But wait; the world uses 28 billion barrels a year, so that’s
all of 34 days supply. If we started using it on March 1st, it would
all be gone by April 4th. Is that what we’d risk our global climate
and coastal waters for?
But wait; they think it may be worth $100 billion. Who can turn
down that kind of money? In Newfoundland, 2% of the value remained
in the province, so if we take that $2 billion benefit, spread it
over 20 years and share it among 5 million BC citizens, it comes
to (let me see…) $20 a year. Hmm. Is that what we’d risk our global
climate and our coastal waters for?
Oh, I forgot about the jobs. In Newfoundland, the federal government
contributed $4.66 billion to make the oil happen, at $97,000 per
job. Hmm. So government handouts are suddenly a good idea?
If we want jobs, we just have to develop the area’s tidal and
wind energy potential. Studies show that sustainable energy projects
generate 60 to 90 times more jobs than fossil fuel projects. So
what’s this really about? It beats me. Just greed, I think, and
a total inability to think beyond the next fill-up of the SUV. (See
One of the solutions to the mess that is overtaking us is called
The Natural Step, created by Dr Karl Henrik Robert, a Swedish cancer
scientist who was alarmed at the growing rates of cancer, and the
toxification of nature by industrial contamination. Developed with
a large community of Swedish scientists, The Natural Step lays out
four fundamental System Conditions which all human activities need
to follow, to re-align our economies with the laws of nature (See
Many businesses around the world, and some communities such as
Whistler, here in BC, have adopted The Natural Step as their framework
for progress. Back in Sweden, The Blekinge Institute of Technology
in Karlskrona, a picturesque city on Sweden’s south coast, is setting
up a unique one-year international masters program on Strategic
Leadership Toward Sustainability, led by Dr Karl-Henrik Robert,
based on The Natural Step. The first class of 50-60 students starts
this September, in English. So why mention this here? Because it’s
a great opportunity for students to learn some of the best systems
knowledge that addresses the issue that matters most: how to steer
our planet back towards natural balance. www.bth.se/tmslm
PS This August, the Sustainable Sweden Association is offering
a 10 day English speakers tour of Sweden’s successful sustainability
initiatives, including eco-municipalities and organizations that
use The Natural Step. www.sustainablesweden.org
NO MORE PESTICIDES!
Springtime is coming, and landscapers are getting ready to spray
lawns and gardens all over Canada with pesticides and herbicides.
"Chemicals? Who cares? We’re tough. We drive big pick-ups." But
no, says a growing chorus.
Over the last decade the number of municipal pesticide by-laws
adopted in Canada has reached 66. When all the current regulations
and by-laws come into full effect, the number of Canadians protected
from unwanted exposure to synthetic lawn and garden pesticides will
be close to 11 million, 35% of Canada's population, ranging from
Toronto (2.48 million) to Sainte-Paule, Quebec (199). The next major
municipality to vote on a by-law will be Montreal. (See www.cche-info.com/Bylaws.html).
Here in Victoria, the CRD is still studying its options, and taking
things rather slowly. What Victoria does have is SOUL – the Society
of Organic Urban Land Care Professionals, formed in 2003 to respond
to the growing need for ecologically responsible land care practices.
So if you want good organic landcare for your garden, check SOUL’s
members at www.organiclandcare.org;
there are 22 on the Island. Ask your maintenance crew if they’d
be willing to join SOUL, and learn how to create ecological harmony,
instead of death.
NATURAL GAS ERRATA
My apologies to readers, and to Terasen. Last month’s story on
Terasen’s Liquid Natural Gas plans had two big errors in it. The
proposed facility is near Timberland Road, south of Nanaimo, not
Cherry Point, and it is to be a storage, not a shipment facility,
so there won’t be any exploding tankers.
Last November, Saltspringers for Safe Food conducted a consumer
survey on genetically engineered foods at their two supermarkets,
polling 1170 consumers, over 10% of Salt Spring’s adults. 93.5%
felt that foods containing GE ingredients should be labelled; 88%
felt the labels should be mandatory; and 75% wanted Thrifty Foods
and Ganges Village Market to follow the British supermarkets and
eliminate GE ingredients from their house brands. The group is hoping
to inspire Thrifty Foods to commit to GE free house brands, and
to step up the pressure for mandatory labeling at the National Grocers
Would you be willing to organize a local survey in your community?
Phone Michelle Grant for the details, 250-537-9634.
ACTION OF THE MONTH: CATHEDRAL GROVE
The BC Liberal government is trying to cut down 18 of the huge,
350 year old ancient Douglas fir and western red cedars and other
second growth trees at Cathedral Grove, on the road to Port Alberni,
to clear the way for a 5-acre parking lot. The Western Canada Wilderness
Committee and the Carmanah Forestry Society say that the plans endanger
critical elk habitat, and will destroy an essential buffer against
the winds that roar down the valley, threatening blowdown of the
Cathedral Grove giants. They also say that an alternative site is
Action: Write to the new Minister for Water, Land and Air Protection,
Bill Barisoff, Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4, asking him
to hold off, and work out a better solution.
Tel: 250-387-1187 Fax: 250-356-8294
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:
* Bush and Blair singing together: www.zen15631.zen.co.uk/bb.mpg
* At least one Conservative Party leadership candidate is talking
about doing away with the CBC. If you would like to save and improve
the CBC,please sign the petition at www.publicairwaves.ca
* BC Ferries is being threatened by the anti-union, privatization
dogmas. Here’s a petition to stop the give-away: www.petitiononline.com/ferries/petition.html
* The mountain caribou have dropped to fewer than 1900 individuals.
Six of the 13 herds have fewer than 50 animals, placing them in
danger of disappearing altogether. These are the only mountain caribou
in the world. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. Although
they are "red-listed", no Canadian federal or provincial laws directly
protect endangered species habitat on provincial or private lands,
which constitute the vast majority of caribou habitat. Take action
now to protect one Canada's most endangered species and send a free
fax to the BC government: www.wildcanada.net/caribou.
* The Citizens Assembly newsletter helps you to stay abreast of
developments with this important initiative, which may lead to a
Proportional Representation system of voting in BC. You can also
make a public posting to their website at www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public/news/newsletter.
* Track Bush's Greenwashing at Greenwatch. The good folks at MoveOn
have created a whole new site dedicated solely to tracking the Bush
Administration's environmental misdeeds: www.BushGreenwatch.org
* Bush in 30 Seconds. MoveOn invited members of the public to
submit ads that purported to tell the truth about the President
and his policies. From more than 1,500 submissions from ordinary
Americans, they chose some winners: www.bushin30seconds.org
* The Lord of the Right Wing. It's the bling bling and power thing
and the right wing! Check this little flash movie out: http://flash.bushrecall.org/
* Ben Cohen came up with a simpler and more straightforward way
to look at what's going on with the US government based on where
they actually spend our money. It's also a great introduction to
the values of TrueMajority: http://action.truemajority.org/ctt.asp?u=102093&l=275
* CodePink, Global Exchange and Black Voices for Peace have created
an inspiring flash movie using an excerpt from a powerful Dr. King
speech with heart-wrenching images of the US occupation of Iraq.
* The above five items all come from the newsletter from New Society
Publishers, the best, most green publishers in the west! For the
best books that will fill your dreams with solutions for all our
woes, see www.newsociety.com
* This will blow you away. Instant real time visits across time
and space, from the Tholos. See http://uk.gsmbox.com/news/mobile_news/all/97623.gsmbox
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Conway Road, Victoria V9E 2B9, Canada. Thanks !
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395 Conway Road, Victoria V9E
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