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Contact Econews

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. 144 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - December 2004


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 agriculture.

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 age.

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 with oil."

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.

Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, & the joys of personal fulfillment, protected and guided by active citizenship.

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

Donations can also be sent by PayPal, please send to GuyDauncey@EarthFuture.com, be sure to 'earmark' it to EcoNews.

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THE ECO-CORNER
$5/line (non-profits, low-income free)
1" box $40, $2" box $70. Insert $180

* 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 old male & female litter mates need a loving home. Affectionate and playful. Spayed and neutered. Indoor so far. Come with all equipment (bowls, litterbox, etc.). Have to stay together. shelley@island.net

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Do you long for a faith community with a green heart?

You'll be welcome at our place

www.victoriaunitarian.ca/eco.php

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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 is more
Act with care • Try to be fair
Remember to share • Life is a prayer
Let’s think globally and eat locally
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 own
Conversation • Preservation
Check out quiet • Why not try it?
Take a walk • Forget the clock
Follow your heart • Forget being smart

By Nina Raginsky

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Wholistic Counselling Core Shamanism
Energy Work with People, Animals, Spaces and Places

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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?

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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, please.

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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

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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!

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ENJOY CAR OWNERSHIP WITHOUT THE CAR OWNING YOU

Car-sharing: one step toward a greener community

info@victoriacarshare.ca www.victoriacarshare.ca

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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!

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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.

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RESTORE

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

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HOLIDAY GIFTS

This is brazen editorial self-publicity for great holiday gifts.

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/

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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 as "one man and one woman to the exclusion of all other persons". See how easy it is to make a difference in this human rights battle: www.equal-marriage.ca
  • 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: http://panda.org/campaign/detox/reduce_your_risks/
  • 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/

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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

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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

efford.j@parl.gc.ca and Stéphane Dion, Minister of Environment, same address Dion.S@parl.gc.ca .

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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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