No. 144 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
THE CRUEL LORDS OF NATURE
Around 10,000 years ago, after Earth had emerged
from 90,000 years of the last ice age, when mammoths roamed and
northern humans shivered in caves, the people who lived in the
fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, in modern day Iraq, invented
They began collecting the seeds of wild plants
such as wheat, barley, peas, lentils, chickpeas and flax, and
sowing them in an organized manner. As the seasons passed, the
farmers observed their crops, and selected seeds from the plants
which produced better yields, sharing them in a tradition which
continues to the present. In so doing, Nature inserted human
consciousness into its 450 million year old process of plant
evolution, and laid the foundations for all agriculture.
Fast forward 10,000 years to modern day Iraq,
under occupation by the US government, as it seeks to extend
its global economic empire.
When the US Administrator Paul Bremer left
Baghdad in June 2004, he left behind 100 orders that he had enacted.
Most of the orders concern the re-organization of Iraq’s economy,
handing control over to global (mostly US) corporations, with
the intention of making Iraq the poster-boy for the neo-conservative
vision of a free trading economy, where global corporations could
roam with as much freedom as the mammoths did during the ice
Order 81, on "Patent, Industrial Design,
Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety" amends
Iraq’s patent law of 1970, making the practice of saving and
exchanging seed in Iraq illegal.
Illegal, after 10,000 years.
Iraq’s previous constitution prohibited the
private ownership of biological resources. Under Order 81, the
only seeds that farmers will be allowed to plant must be "protected" crop
varieties brought into Iraq by corporations who own the relevant
Plant Variety Protection (PVP) patent.
Since Iraqi farmers’ seeds cannot meet the
requirements, they will not be allowed to use them. That right
goes to corporate plant breeders who have the exclusive right
to produce, reproduce, sell, export, import and store the protected
varieties, including all the harvested material, with a monopoly
of 20 years for crop varieties, and 25 years for trees and vines.
The new patent law explicitly promotes the
commercialization of genetically modified seeds, increasing the
use of pesticides, and farmers’ dependency on companies such
as Monsanto, Bayer and Dow Chemical.
How are we supposed to react? The Iraqis have
chosen their response: armed resistance, fuelled not by El Qaeda
operatives drawn to Iraq to fight the US (making George Bush
Osama bin Laden’s best recruiting agent), but by their anger
at the Bremer laws, which turn their economy over to a bunch
of black-suited global pirates.
Is that hyperbole, or the extravagant ranting
of a liberal whiner?
Not if you read the words of John Perkins,
author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, currently
running at #104 in the Amazon best-seller list.
In his book, Perkins describes how, as a highly
paid professional in the international banking community, he
helped the US cheat poor countries out of trillions of dollars
by lending them more money than they could ever repay, and then
taking over their economies.
He was recruited while in business school in
the late ‘60s by the National Security Agency, one of America’s
spy agencies, and sent to work for Chas T. Main, in Boston, where
he became chief economist. His job was to make deals lending
vast sums of money to a country on condition that they gave 90%
of it back to a US company to build an electrical system or highway,
serving the wealthy people.
The country would be stuck with this enormous
debt: Ecuador today needs 50% of its national budget just to
pay down its debt. When the US wants more oil, it goes to Ecuador
and says "Look, you’re not able to repay your debts, so
give our oil companies your Amazon rain forests, which are filled
When the economic hit men failed, the US would
send in the CIA, and when the CIA failed, they’d send in the
army. That’s basically what has happened in Iraq. John Perkins
accepted a half million dollar bribe from a major construction
company in the ‘90s not to write this book, but after September
11th, he had a change of heart. He knew that 9/11
was "a direct result of what the economic hit men are doing ",
and "the only way we’re going to feel good about ourselves
is if we use these systems we’ve put into place to create positive
change around the world. There are 24,000 people starving to
death every day. We can change that." (www.Google.ca on
Amy Goodman + John Perkins for her radio interview).
We live in an incredible era. All around the
world, the ice is breaking, not just in the Arctic and Antarctic,
but in people’s hearts. Ordinary people are realizing they do
not have to wait for someone else, before they stand up, and
say "This is enough." You, me, our neighbours: we are
all feeling this way.
We know things must change. Have heart. We
live in an incredible era.
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* Wanted urgently for EcoNews. Unmailed envelopes! We will
delete the address and re-use. Call Guy, 881-1304.
* Volunteer wanted. I am converting my B & B so that it
can provide a home for low income people over the winter, possibly
longer. Fernwood, near Vic High, I urgently need help before
Christmas from a volunteer handyperson, able to fix doors,
plumbing, etc. Also volunteers to bring un-used food from nearby
restaurants. Call Daphne, 595-8878.
* Wanted: accomodation for professional single male, Interurban
area, preferably rural. 1 BR + den or 2 BR. Needed by February
1st. Excellent references available. Caretaking
duties possible. David, 250-729-8797.
* Affectionate Kittens Need a Loving Home. Two lovely 7-month
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and playful. Spayed and neutered. Indoor so far. Come with
all equipment (bowls, litterbox, etc.). Have to stay together. firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you long for a faith community with a green heart?
You'll be welcome at our place
SLOW ISLANDS MOVEMENT
What is it that makes life out here on Vancouver Island so
special? Is it the weather? Yes. Is it Nature? Yes. But there
is also something else, which influences our deeper attitude
to life. It is the almost unbelievable slowness of the way
the ocean meets the land for most of the year. The bull kelp
idly drifts; the river otters go quietly about their ways;
the eagles float over. The Doug firs and arbutus are not going
anywhere in a hurry. Over on Salt Spring Island, in the Salish
Sea, Nina Raginsky has put words to the message with her poetic
invitation to join the Slow Islands Movement. Less travel,
less caffeine, less use of fossil fuels. This movement that
has no website, no email, and no action. Just a poem.
Hush the rush • Hike and bike
Don’t go far with your car
Explore your core • Less
Act with care • Try to be fair
Remember to share • Life is a prayer
Let’s think globally and
Be content with no event
Don’t be tired • Get unwired
Read a book • Learn to cook
Take your time • You will shine
Plant a tree • Embrace mystery
Toss the TV and your CV
Try to be clear • Let go of fear
Stay close to home • Grow your
Conversation • Preservation
Check out quiet • Why not try it?
Take a walk • Forget the clock
Follow your heart • Forget being
By Nina Raginsky
Wholistic Counselling Core Shamanism
Energy Work with People, Animals, Spaces and
SPAIN’S NEW SOLAR LAW
From Salt Spring to we hop over to Spain, where the government
has brought in a new law requiring every new or renovated home
to be built with a solar hot water system. Spain (with an average
insolation level of 4.6 kWh per square meter per day), is lagging
behind a country such as Germany (3 kWh/m2), which has twice
as much installed solar hot water per person. From the climate
change perspective, my reaction is "now we’re talking!" Our
average insolation in BC (around 3.5) is lower than Spain’s
but higher than Germany’s. The history behind Spain’s law teaches
a good lesson in how political change is achieved. The process
started in 1994, when a study by a local energy agency showed
that only 700 square metres (m2) of solar hot water panels
had been installed in Barcelona, a city of 1.5 million. (Lesson
#1: Do local energy studies).
In 1995, Josep Puig, a Green Party city councillor, became
councillor in charge of sustainability for the year. (Lesson
#2: Elect Green Party councillors. Lesson #3: appoint
a city sustainability leader). Josep worked with City Hall
to install panels on city buildings, increasing the total to
1,600 m2. (Lesson #4: work with City staff to get them
on board). This was still nothing compared to the 540,000 m2
targetted for Catalonia by the 1999 National Renewables Promotion
Plan. (Lesson #5: have a strong federal commitment
with local targets).
Financially, Spain’s federal government offers interest-free
credit for up to 70% of the purchase costs, and the typical
payback period is 8-10 years (Lesson #6: Back federal
support with dollars.) In 1998, Barcelona produced the first
draft of its bylaw obliging builders to install solar panels
to supply 60% of the hot water needs in new and fully rehabilitated
residential blocks of 14 or more units, in all new heated pools,
and for hospitals, clinics, schools, shopping centres and hotels.
Failure to comply meant a fine as high as 3 million Euros.
They then spent a year working to achieve consensus with local
developers, builders and architectural colleges. (Lesson
#7: Achieve community buy-in with key stakeholders).
In 1999, the bylaw was introduced with an 18 month grace period
to allow the sector to adjust. (Lesson #8: be reasonable).
Even before Barcelona introduced its bylaw, it had been copied
by other towns, and soon there were 35 communities with solar
bylaws, including Madrid, which extended the bylaw to apply
to all new residential buildings regardless of size. From there,
it spread to all of Spain. (Lesson #9: Don’t wait for
the federal government to act. Think globally, legislate locally.
They’ll catch on).
Spain’s new law will result in around 6 million m2 of solar
hot water panels by 2010, saving 4800 GWh of electricity a
year, plus all the associated cost, pollution, and greenhouse
gas emissions. (Lesson #10: Gather good data). Now that
Spain has shown the way, cities in France and Italy are likely
to follow suit. And here in BC? Any city councillors fancy
a trip to Spain?
BC’S OLD GAS FLAW
While Spain is pressing ahead with its solar bylaw, BC Hydro
is pressing ahead with resurrected plans to build a natural
gas fired power plant at Duke Point, in Nanaimo, this time
by a private sector company. They announced it almost on the
same day that the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report was
released, warning of the melting Arctic and the accelerating
rate of temperature rise. The Duke Point plant, when built,
will release 800,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year
as it burns what’s left of the world’s shrinking supply of
natural gas. If you don’t like the idea, write to the BC Utilities
Commission, who need to approve the plan, and express your
views "as an interested party" about the use of fossil
fuels and the guaranteed higher prices as North America’s natural
gas begins to run out, when there are so many other options
(wind, microhydro, conservation, time-of-use metering, tidal
energy, restoring the cables to the mainland) that make sense
for BC and the planet. Letters to Robert Pellatt, BCUC Commission
Secretary, Box 250, Vancouver V6Z 2N3. And copies to your MLAs,
SMART GROWTH BYLAWS
Do you want to help your councillors protect agricultural
land, create urban containment boundaries, implement affordable
housing strategies, and create compact, walkable communities?
Or introduce greenways, and green approaches to water, sewage
and stormwater? Then I suggest you give them each a small Christmas
Gift, in the form of this key piece of information. West Coast
Environmental law has just published a comprehensive web-based
Smart Bylaws Guide, which includes best practices, best bylaws,
best policies, and checklists for staff, councillors and citizens
to evaluate projects. Whistler, for instance, allows a density
bonus for secondary suites to increase affordable housing.
The affordability is covenanted on the title to the land at
a certain amount per square foot that can be charged for rent.
Kelowna charges $5000 more in development cost charges to developers
of single family houses in areas outside the main part of the
city, in recognition that greenfield and new developments farther
away from servicing cost much more. Every councillor (and would-be
councillor) should have this by their bed! www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg
ETERNITY PERFUME: EW!
This holiday season, think before you buy one of those fancy
perfumes that promises love, romance, and romps in the hay.
The November issue of The Ecologist takes a close look at Eternity
by Calvin Klein, and discovers that it contains neurotoxic
solvents and volatile chemicals more often used in industrial
factories. It lists 11 chemical ingredients which have known
adverse effects, including diethyl phthalate, an oestrogen
mimicking chemical that can cause eye and skin irritation,
fetal abnormalities, central nervous system disruption, sperm
damage, and cancer. Sorry to put a damper on Christmas: but
I need to warn you. Too much Eternity could carry your loved
one to eternity sooner than you wanted!
ENJOY CAR OWNERSHIP WITHOUT THE CAR OWNING YOU
Car-sharing: one step toward a greener community
WAY TO GO, KIDS!
Ditch that car! The kids from the Ecole Macaulay Elementary
School in Esquimalt have won BC’s Go for Green Walk to School
Award, with 90% participation during the International Walk
to School Week in October, even in the pouring rain. To encourage
their activities, they were accompanied on different days by
the Mayor of Esquimalt, firefighters, police, shop owners,
a minister, and a dentist disguised as a tooth fairy. Go kids!
ORGANIC FOOD DIRECTORY
In case you were planning to eat anything over the holidays,
LifeCycles has published an incredible on-line Good Food Directory
for Vancouver Island, including everything from meats and produce
to ice cream and candy. The Directory is organized so that
you can find who is producing organic produce, free range eggs,
pasture fed and antibiotic free beef, etc. It also lists restaurants,
bakeries, caterers, grocers, breweries and brown box programs
that sell locally grown good food. For added fun, it shows
how much you will reduce your greenhouse gas emissions when
you shift to locally grown food. See www.lifecyclesproject.ca/food_directory.
If you’re planning any household renovation jobs, hold everything
until you’ve been to Habitat for Humanity’s new ReStore, at
2100 Douglas (corner of Pembroke). ReStore buys and sells quality
new and recycled building materials, and the funds raised support
Habitat's building programs. Every $60,000 raised through the
store allows them to provide a family with a home of their
own, while keeping perfectly good materials out of the landfill
and lessening our burden on the Earth. Volunteers are needed
to pick up donations, and for cashiering. Donations of building
materials and tools are also needed. Call 386-STOR. www.habitatvictoria.com/restore.html
This is brazen editorial self-publicity for great holiday
First, signed copies of my book "Stormy Weather: 101
Solutions to Global Climate Change" $25). Pick up, or
mail $7.50. Call Guy at 250-881-1304.
Second, "Earthfuture", my book of short stories
set in the future (special $10). Pick up, or mail $5. ($30
for both, Pick up, or mail $7.50) Call Guy at 250-881-1304.
And third, a beautiful art poster "How to End Global
Warming" which I co-created with the Syracuse Cultural
Workers. Available at Granola Groovy, 1005 Broad St, or www.syrculturalworkers.com/catalog/posters/Poster2.html (scroll
down). Plus greetings cards with the same theme.
There are also green gifts galore at the Western Canada Wilderness
Store. 651 Johnson St. www.wildernesscommitteevictoria.org/store/
More green gifts at The Land Conservancy’s Store at Abkhazi
Gardens, 1964 Fairfield Rd. www.conservancy.bc.ca/store/
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way:
- The Greenhouse Gas Action Guide: straightforward, cost-effective
actions to help municipalities reduce their GHGs, including
transport, buildings, land use, and waste: www.ghgactionguide.ca
- The Docklands Green proposal, for Victoria: www.docksidegreen.ca
- Support equal marriage: Conservative MP Rob Moore
has introduced Bill C-268, which would re-define marriage
man and one woman to the exclusion of all other persons".
See how easy it is to make a difference in this human rights
- History 101: Wall Street's 1930s Fascist Plot to Overthrow
the White House. During the 1930s, a fascist coup in America
was thwarted when Marine Corps Maj-Gen.Smedley Butler blew
the whistle. For all the detais, see http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/53-index.html
- Help Stop Coastal Oil and Gas Development in BC: Sign
the new online petition and download copies to circulate at: www.bcoilslick.org
- Internetwork for Sustainability: "The Best Environmental
Directory for Sustainability": www.insnet.org
- The Bioneers Conference, for all who missed it: www.bioneers.org
- Terra Firma’s award-winning rammed earth home on
Salt Spring: www.sirewall.com/ultra-healthyrammedearthhome.html
- Reduce your harm from exposure to toxic chemicals:
- Forget pesticides! From the bedroom to the bathroom,
the kitchen to the garage, the garden to the laundry room,
vinegar comes to the rescue like nothing else. www.cyberworking.com/vinegar/
I Find the Best Mortgage Deals from the Leading Lenders
I arrange mortgage loans at the lowest rates for people throughout
BC who commit to local community programs and investment, corporate
social responsibility, sustainable business practices, and
social and environmental responsibility
Ian Baker, Mortgage Consultant
Beyer Mortgage Services, Inc. (250) 592-8969
In some difficult situations a broker/lender fee may apply
ACTION OF THE MONTH
John Efford and Stephan Dion, two key federal cabinet ministers,
have pledged that they will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions
from new Canadian cars and trucks sold in Canada by 25% by
2010. "We are not backing off from our position. 25% is
our goal and the auto industry clearly understands that." (John
Efford). So our Seasonal Action is to write and congratulate
them, to let them know that we fully support this. They need
to know when they’re doing the right things!
Write to: John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources, Parliament
Buildings Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Stéphane Dion, Minister of Environment, same address Dion.S@parl.gc.ca .
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395 Conway Road, Victoria V9E
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304
Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate
(New Society Publishers)
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