No. 151 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
Underneath the confusion of the modern world, with its conflicts
and ecological collapses, there lies a deeper question which rarely
gets our attention.
It is simple, yet profound. Who are we? And where are we going?
We are travelling somewhere, very fast. Of that there is no doubt.
Take a piece of paper, and chart the progress of the human mammal:
- We left Africa: 100,000 years ago.
- Developed agriculture: 10,000 years ago.
- Printing press: 550 years ago.
- Started using the scientific method: 400 years ago.
- First steam engine: 300 years ago.
- Electromagnetism: 140 years ago.
- First flight: 102 years ago.
- First human space flight: 44 years ago.
- First global environment conference: 33 years ago.
- Global embrace of the Internet: 10 years ago.
- Largest ever global peace protest: 2 years ago.
Where are we going so fast? It would be good to know, because
it feels as if we’re flying blind, while warming the atmosphere,
sucking life out of the oceans, and wiping out so many other species.
If we are able to abandon nuclear weapons before some national
nutcase goes ballistic, lay off the CFCs and HFCs long enough for
the ozone holes to repair, and stop creating black holes in Earth’s
ecological systems, there is no reason to doubt that humans will
be around in 5,000, or five million years. So who are we, and where
are we going so fast?
Orthodox biology says evolution is a random process of replicating
genes, and that’s all there is. It denies the existence of spirit,
a habit it shares with all other mainstream sciences. Consciousness,
along with our ability to write poems and design space ships, is
a side-effect of cellular life.
So I’m going to propose a different interpretation, which I share
with many others.
The first thought is that spirit exists everywhere, in a co-existent
realm of which science says nothing, since it can not see or measure
it. (I shan’t say "God", since the word means different
things to different people.) There is so much evidence to support
this, without needing to resort to faith. This view is shared by
people in cultures all over the world.
The second thought is that the whole evolutionary story, from
the Big Bang onwards, is a game being unfolded by spirit, set within
This leads to the third thought, which is that evolution is not
random, but is a deliberate seeking by spirit to achieve wholeness
within life, and throughout the universe.
The process is called syntropy: the evolutionary tendency of all
beings to seek wholeness. It contrasts with entropy, which is the
tendency in the material world of all energy to become more disordered.
With these thoughts, we can return to the original questions.
Who are we? We are stardust, seeking our way back to the garden.
Where are we going? We are evolving towards greater wholeness,
on Earth as a whole, and then maybe beyond, among the galaxies.
Why are we going there so fast? Because human consciousness has
just discovered the power of science, rational thought, travel,
and global communication.
Why are we making such a mess? Because we do everything by trial
and error. We screw up. We pursue greed and power as well as higher
goals. We act blindly and selfishly, until we say "oops!" and
then "never again".
Why are these questions so important? Because there are only two
fundamental problems in the world today. The first is the sum total
of all our ecological woes, poverty, AIDS, militaristic hubris,
corporate greed, and all the rest.
The second is that we lack a clear sense of direction. How can
we work together with clarity and vision, if we are so confused?
In quantum theory, there are particles whose origins lie in the
past, and particles whose origins lie in the future. Time is not
what we think it is.
Vision is set by intentions set in the future; habits are set
by experiences set in the past. We cannot act with decisiveness
if we lack vision. Whenever we say "there is no hope",
or "humans should give up, and hand life back to the algae",
we give power to those who are pursuing a selfish vision of power
When humans decide to abolish slavery, fight for the rights of
women, make poverty history, and protect the environment, they
do so for deep-seated reasons. They may not verbalize it as such,
but it’s there.
This is why these questions matter. You may not agree with this
thinking, but if not, the question remains: where are we going?
Personal note. On October 9-14, 2005, I am giving a 5-day residential
workshop with Julia Menard at the Hollyhock Retreat Centre, on
Cortes Island, BC, that explores these questions in greater depth.
It’s called "The Great Unfolding: Science, Spirit and Evolution".
For details, see www.earthfuture.com/spirit/syntropy/ and www.hollyhock.ca/program_details.cfm?Group_ID=3658).
For a description of Hollyhock, see www.hollyhock.ca
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$5/line (non-profits, low-income free)
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* Unused letter envelopes always needed for EcoNews.
* Charming Guest room, $25/night. Cook St Village ,
* Seeking partners to buy land for sustainable living. firstname.lastname@example.org
* Cob Sculpting Aug 5-12, Courtenay 338-0711 www.hobbithomes.ca
* Retired couple can house/pet sit in Victoria, Oct/Nov/Dec
2005. Roy 250-359 6896, email@example.com
* Vegan House! Vegan seeks 3-4 other veggies to meet
up and rent a house together in Victoria by Sept, with the
idea of sharing a vegan and eco-friendly space. If intrigued,
email Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org
* For Sale: firewood, fir & arbutus from sustainable
* For Rent: Small house, wooded setting on small farm.
Attached sunroom/greenhouse, garden space. Part furnished,
skylight, wood heat. Quiet & private. No kids, no pets.
Available July 15. $650. 652-2613.
* Wanted: Short-term female house-sitter, rural Saanich.
* The BCSEA welcomes Peter Ronald its new Coordinator! www.bcsea.org
Do you live by water in the Colquitz Watershed, in Saanich?
If you do, the Habitat Acquisition Trust would love to discuss
ways in which they can help you protect the watershed through
their Good Neighbours Stewardship Project. You put on the kettle,
and they’ll show you ideas for tree planting, organic gardening,
and maintaining natural stream courses. Call Todd at HAT, 995-2428,
and see www.hat.bc.ca.
DUKE POINT DIES….
After ten years of campaigning by many committed people, BC
Hydro has finally pulled the plug on its plans to make Vancouver
Island’s power supply "independent" by piping in
ever-more-expensive natural gas from nearby places such as
the Arctic and Russia. Yea! Sanity rules! They could easily
have persisted, since their only stumbling block was the decision
to allow a new appeal of the decision to approve the plant
on a small technicality. But BC Hydro’s leaders must have been
looking at the steadily escalating price of natural gas with
alarm, wishing there was a way out without losing too much
So now what? There’s a big celebration in Nanaimo on Sunday
August 14th (see Diary), and our attention will
then turn to the vision of a Vancouver Island powered entirely
by green, sustainable energy from the sun, wind, rivers and
tides, with a big dose of increased efficiency. For details,
see www.sqwalk.com and www.bcsea.org
GRANOLA GROOVY ECO STORE
1005 Broad St, Victoria
Now proudly carrying COYUCHI Organic cotton bedding
(250) 477-0146 www.granolagroovy.com
CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRESS
From a scientific perspective, the news only gets worse. To
put things in perspective, we are heading to 560 parts per
million of CO2 in the atmosphere; twice the pre-industrial
level. At the present rate, we’ll get there in 85 years.
The last time Earth’s CO2 level was this high was 55 million
years ago, when the Earth warmed rapidly, the oceans turned
acidic, and deep sea creatures died en masse. New sediment
cores taken from the ocean floor have revealed that the warming
was caused by the release of nearly 4500 gigatonnes of carbon,
probably from melting ocean floor methane hydrates. Sea surface
temperatures rose by 5C near the Equator, and 9C at the poles.
The Arctic became tropical, with ancestors of the crocodile
living on Ellesmere Island.
So here’s the bad news: first, 4500 gigatonnes is about as
much carbon as we will release if we carry on as we are; and
second, it took the oceans 100,000 years to return to normal.
(New Scientist, June 18th, http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/climate-change )
So what’s the good news? Actually, lots, if you know where
to look (ie not in the mainstream media, which feels more like Pravda every
Here on the Island, we just stopped BC Hydro from releasing
800,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.
The CEO of Duke Energy, a major US gas and oil company, has
come out saying we need to establish carbon taxes.
The Mayors of 166 US cities have come out with a commitment
to go for the Kyoto goals.
And California has made the striking commitment to reduce
its emissions to the 2000 level by 2010; to the 1990 level
by 2020, and to 80% below the 1990 level by 2050.
And all this just in June! Push, push, push! I know there’s
a tipping point just around the corner, when all this will
come together. The climate skeptics will pack their bags, take
their money from Exxon, and go home, and we will be able to
get on with a coordinated effort to phase out all fossil fuels,
in favour of sustainable energy.
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY LIVES
* In Zurich, 900 homes are taking 33% of their heat from a
new sewer line, fitted with heat-recovery pipes.
* A new study from Stanford has revealed that the world has
5 times more wind energy capacity than we use as a planet: www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/global_winds.html
* In Okotoks, Alberta, 52 new houses will be heated year-round
with solar hot water, stored underground. See www.town.okotoks.ab.ca/solar/DrakeLandingNew.html
* The Vancouver Car-Share Coop’s 2000 members now share 100
vehicles. See www.cooperativeauto.net
* China has installed 26 million solar hot water systems,
and plans to install 115 million by 2015.
* The cost of running a regular car is over $100 a month,
and rising. The cost of running a smart electric sports car
is $7.60 a month, and falling. See www.horlacher.com/ev_development/sport_1.htm
* Volkswagen made a prototype 1-litre diesel 2-seater in
2001 that does 285 miles per gallon (1 litre/100km). See www.volkswagen.co.uk/new_devs/one_litre
* Almost 3,000 people came to the BCSEA’s Sustainable Energy
Now! display at the BC Royal Museum in June, and to two showings
of the film The End of Suburbia.
* The BC Sustainable Energy Association has 500 members and
6 active Chapters, 18 months after it was formed. See www.bcsea.org.
Do you want to become a member? See www.bcsea.org/getinvolved
Ethics Buying Collective
The organic and vegan buying collective in Victoria.
order is fast approaching, visit our website for all the details.
Every week, I receive an e-news letter called Japan for Sustainability
that’s full of fascinating stories:
* Green purchasing by the Japanese government reduced CO2
emissions by 45,000 tonnes in 2003.
* The world’s largest green wall is winning attention at the
World Expo in Aichi. It is 15 metres high, 150 metres long,
covered in living vegetation, and acts as a "bio-lung" for
* A study of the region north of Tokyo has revealed that a
1% increase in food self-sufficiency would create a $237 million
economic benefit per year.
* The Tsuruga Shinkin credit union, in the Fukui prefecture,
offers an Eco Term Deposit where the interest rate increases
by the amount of garbage that’s reduced in the community. For
a reduction of 1,000 tonnes, the bank pays ten times the advertised
rate. It also offers a Recycling Term Deposit, where the interest
rises with the amount of materials recycled.
* In the Tango district of Kyoto, a non-profit society collected
50,000 litres of used cooking oil in 2004 from 200 sites, and
recycled it as biodiesel fuel. The Association’s president,
Mitsuhiro Kamata, says "I want to build a biodiesel processing
plant. We aim to create a sustainable community. Our association
wants to make our district a 100% recycling community and produce
no emissions, by using locally-produced fuel to meet all the
citizens’ needs." Here in Victoria, our very own WISE
Energy has similar goals. www.wiseenergy.ca
FAIR VOTE CANADA
We just had an election. Remember? 57.69% of BC’s voters said "YES" to
the Single Transferable Vote; only 15 of our 79 MLAs won a
So what now? That’s the big question that won’t go away. In
Ottawa, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
has recommended that a Parliamentary committee and a citizens’ consultation
committee be established to engage Canadians in an electoral
On Prince Edward Island, they’re going to have a November
plebiscite on adopting the mixed member proportional (MMP)
system. In Ontario, the legislature has passed enabling legislation
for a Citizens’ Assembly on electoral reform to be established.
In Victoria, on July 9th, there’s a meeting at
UVic to establish a Victoria Chapter of Fair Vote Canada (see
Diary). This is a really important move, so do try to attend.
Call 383-0625. www.fairvotecanada.org.
Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners
Victoria’s only solvent free dry cleaner
1019 Cook St. 381-2221 Mon-Fri 8-6 Sat 10-4 www.greendrycleaner.com
41% OF THE ISLAND
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee (with 27,000 members)
has looked at the need to protect the wild plants and creatures
of Vancouver Island over the long run, and used conservation
biology science to analyze our current uses of the land, which
includes some of the world’s finest remaining ancient temperate
Their conclusion is that we need to fully protect 41% of the
Island if we want to sustain its biodiversity. (Just 13% of
the Island is currently protected, and only 6% of the low elevation,
productive big forests).
At the current rate of industrial logging, the opportunity
to protect the land will be gone within two decades, so they
are building a major new campaign around this.
By banning the export of raw logs, establishing regional log
markets for value-added manufacturing, and expanding Community
Forest tenures, manufacturing could be expanded while cut levels
are reduced, sustaining the level of well paid union jobs.
To join the campaign, call 388-9292, and see www.wildernesscommitteevictoria.org
HAIDA GWAII PROGRESS
The two-month blockade that Haida and non-Haida held in the
spring is yielding results. The provincial government is now
in high-level negotiations with the Haida leadership. In the
works, they believe, are a significant drop in the annual allowable
cut, an end to bear hunting on the islands, and a move towards
ecoforestry, with the Haida becoming a major license holder. www.haidanation.ca/islands/islands.html
Summer is here, so enjoy it! On July 9th & 10th,
there’s the first ever Organic Islands Festival, at the Horticultural
Centre of the Pacific; and there are walking, hiking, sailing
and kayaking adventures to be enjoyed almost every day. (See
Let your soul fly, amid eagles and seaweed,
Far to the mountaintop, close to the shore.
Let your heart sing in the ocean’s deep greenery,
Far to the cosmos, close to your door.
A Year on the Garden Path -- A 52-Week Organic Gardening
Guide by Carolyn Herriot
$29.95, in Bolen Books, Munro’s, Tanner’s, Banyen, Duffy’s,
Carolyn’s new book is just jumping off the shelves, and for
good reason. People love it! If you’re wanting to garden organically,
you’ll find it packed full of practical advice and tips, gathered
over Carolyn’s 20 year gardening career. You can also buy in
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some recent goodies that have passed my way:
- A Community Green Map of Victoria and Region: www.gworks.ca/greenmap/
- A UN Atlas of Environmental Change: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4607053.stm
- Best Start: Your Guide to a Safe, Non-Toxic Pregnancy: www.healthbeforepregnancy.ca/environment.htm
- Cars vs Bikes, which is best?: www.refusenik.org/cars.htm
- Do you want to write to the papers? Here’s a great contact
list (courtesy Gordon Campbell): www.bcliberals.com/take_action/write_your_local_newspaper!/
- Droidal Luminants (how can I resist?): www.metalmorphic.com/gallery/p35.html
- Earth as Art, from NASA: http://earthasart.gsfc.nasa.gov
- Fair Vote Canada: www.fairvotecanada.org/fvc/Home
- Gas Prices Around the World: http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/global_gasprices/price.html
- Mile Zero: a made-in-Victoria eco-soap opera for TV, in the
- NASA’s Solar System Explorations: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasagalleries.cfm
- Nuclear Theology, by Amory Lovins: www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid1154.php
- Oceans On-Line. Beneath the Surface of Canada’s Pacific
- Re-Thinking Density to Create Stronger, Healthier Communities.
Free PowerPoint for urban or suburban audiences. www.nmhc.org/Content/ServeContent.cfm?ContentItemID=3423
- Single Transferable Vote. BC’s final referendum results: ttp://www.elections.bc.ca/elections/ge2005/finalrefresults.htm
- Solar-Powered Cargo Ship for the Future: www.solarnavigator.net/solar_transporter_orcelle.htm
- Sunset on Mars: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/images.php3?img_id=16941
- The Art of Emilia Tan (explore!): www.tmsart.com/En/Portal/index.htm
- The Destruction of Brazil’s Rainforest: www.guardian.co.uk/gall/0,8542,1488779,00.html
- The Keeling Curve of CO2 global emissions, in honour of Charles
Keeling, who died recently: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/images.php3?img_id=16954
- US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement: www.ci.seattle.wa.us/mayor/climate/quotes.htm#mayors
- World Changing. Models, Tools and Ideas for Building a Bright,
Green Future: www.worldchanging.com
ACTION OF THE MONTH
GO, PAUL, GO!
Every day, more than 800 million people go to bed hungry,
and 50,000 people die from poverty-related causes. Paul Martin
is off to Gleneagles, Scotland for the G8 Summit on June 6th – 8th,
where he hopes to strengthen the world’s commitment to Make
Action: Write to Paul Martin, and urge him to set a
clear timetable for Canada to give 0.7% of our GDP to foreign
And go to www.makepovertyhistory.ca,
and sign the online petition to the PM.
If not in our generation – who? If not now – when?
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395 Conway Road, Victoria V9E
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