No. 154 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
THE SONG OF THE SPIRIT
All life needs a home, an ecosystem of which it is part. And
this includes the spirit, that invisible aspect within each of
us that seeks kinship with the greater whole, by whatever name
we call it.
Some find their home in religion; some in art or music. Modern
secular culture has made materialism its home, but it makes for
the lousiest of homes, since it has no values above personal gain,
and the endless accumulation of stuff. Step by step, it is turning
Earth into a garbage heap.
Colin Macleod died in Scotland in November, at the age of 39.
He was a dreadlocked eco-warrior who won the hearts of thousands.
On the day of his funeral, 600 people followed his home-made coffin
through the grey wet streets of Govan, near Glasgow.
Colin was born in Australia, of Scottish Hebridean roots. After
a brief training as a forester, he went to America, where he volunteered
with native Americans, and learnt about the Rediscovery movement,
in which native youngsters learnt about their roots, spent time
alone in the wilderness, and rebuild their self-respect, often
in the face of problems with drink and drugs. (See www.alastairmcintosh.com/colin.htm)
Returning to Scotland, he threw himself into the protest against
the M77 motorway, chained himself to the top of a crane,
and established a protest village where he used discarded construction
timbers to teach woodcarving to the local youngsters, as well as
Gaelic arts, storytelling and music. The camp was highly disciplined,
with drugs and heavy drinking being outlawed, but the ancient
Gaelic tradition of non-judgmental hospitality was fiercely enforced.
The gathering tribe went on to build the first full-sized Hebridean
war galley that had been built in Scotland for 400 years, along
with wooden rowing skiffs, and a timber framed barn. Soon, this
clan of long-term unemployed people were learning to sing Gaelic
rowing songs, and spending weekends on deserted Hebridean islands,
sitting around campfires, telling stories or reciting poetry under
the stars. Back in mainland Scotland, his Gal-Gael movement has
laid down roots because it has spoken to the spirit, and given
it a home. (www.galgael.org)
South of the Scottish border, in the Lincolnshire village of
Spilsby (pop'n 3,000), local residents used to be afraid to go
out after dark because of the loutish behaviour of the teenagers,
who would hang around at the bus shelter, drink lager, and swear
at passers-by. The scene is common in parts of Britain - and Victoria.
Gary Brown is Spilsby's village police sergeant, and he is also
fascinated by all things medieval. Troubled by the growing youth
crime, and by stone-throwing at local churches, he developed an
He formed the Knight School, a course for 5-9 year olds that
instills a chivalrous code of courtesy, respect, and pride. Modeled
on the Knights of the Round Table. He takes groups of 12, who are
recommended by their primary school teachers because they are close
to becoming unruly and disruptive. The course includes learning
about chivalry, health, nutrition, safety, and taking part in community
projects. At the end, they are knighted by the Lord Lieutenant
of Lincolnshire at a ceremony at Tattershall castle, and given
a set of armour, with a wooden sword and a shield. They all make
a pledge: "We knights of the Knight School pledge that we will
treat everybody with courtesy and respect."
So far, more than 130 children have passed through the Knight
School, and there has been an enormous decrease in petty crime
in the town. The course is massively over-subscribed.
On one level, it is just a small program for children. But on
another level, like the Gal-Gael, it speaks to the hunger we have
to serve a higher purpose, for our spirits to find a home which
gives us pride, and a reason for existence.
"You who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself, because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by,
and feed them on your dreams, the one they picks, the one you'll know
(Song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)
The ancient Gaelic and medieval cultures achieved this in response
to the challenges of their time. Today, we face our own challenge,
which is clear and omnipresent: all around us, our Earth and its
ecosystems are in peril, and in need of our support.
In response, we need a vision as strong and compelling as any
Holy Grail or Gaelic longboat. And the vision is this: to give
birth to the age of planetary wisdom, and seek the restoration
of all living systems.
It is a task for our spirit, as well as our labour and skills.
What better home could we ask for?
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The Pinch Group
Connecting your money with your values
From December 1st to 3rd, the 72-hour Habitat
Jam is lining up to be the world’s largest global Internet
discussion forum, with 100,000 participants from as far away as
Antarctica, the Solomon Islands, Cape Verde, Iraq, and Afghanistan
discussing urban sustainability, from cycling, food, and slum-dwellers
to water, energy, and security. The moderators include renowned
architect Bill McDonough, film-maker Deepa Mehta, biomimicry author
Janine Beynus, and BC’s own Raffi. The JAM is part of preparations
for the World Urban Forum in Vancouver next June 19-23. The goal
is to gather your input, and add it to thousands of others to turn
ideas into action. To join: www.habitatjam.com.
ECONEWS WINTER APPEAL
As winter begins to stretch her toes, and our thoughts turn to
holidays and cozy hearths, the EcoNews bank account would love
to feel the same cozy feeling, since she’s getting rather
empty. Would you help to fill her up?
EcoNews has been financed by donations from its readers ever since
it started in 1991, 154 issues ago. It costs $1,200 a month to
produce, and for this, we reach around 7,000 people, including
every B.C. MLA and CRD municipal politician. We aim to keep you
informed and inspired, as we persist with the much-needed vision
of a more just, sustainable world.
If you enjoy reading EcoNews and value the information that it
provides, would you consider making a donation? You can send a
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Many thanks! Guy Dauncey
If Only Things Were Different: A Model for a Sustainable Economy
For details phone 479-7836
or visit my website www.elizabethrhettwoods.ca
Deep within the pile of rock known as the Provincial Legislature
in Victoria, the New Democrats, freshly energized with 35 members,
have been beavering away. Here are some snippets that give a hint
of the way they’re thinking.
Maurine Karagianis MLA plans to introduce a motion to give PST
exemption for electric and hybrid vehicles.
Shane Simpson MLA has introduced a motion to appoint a Sustainability
Commissioner to certify the environmental sustainability of the
government’s actions, and ensure that development doesn’t
compromise our ecological resources or their ability to sustain
current and future generations.
And Carole James has tabled a campaign finance reform bill that
would limit all campaign contributions to individuals only, and
set up a comprehensive review of the way the political process
is financed in BC, leading (she hopes) to a "fundamental shift
in our democracy back to individual citizens."
Don’t hold your breath, since the NDP is not the government.
To track their activities, see www.newsroom.bc.ndp.ca
GARRY OAKS PROGRESS
Victoria has more than 150 environmental non-profit societies,
which is just amazing, and a credit to everyone involved. One of
these is the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERTS), whose
100 members seek the long-term recovery of Garry oak trees, and
their associated ecosystems. In Canada, the Garry oak ecosystem
is only found in BC; it now exists in only 1% to 5% of its original
range, pushed out by agriculture and development, and compromised
by invasive species such as broom. In their undisturbed glory,
they are intoxicatingly beautiful.
Over the past five years, the GOERTS team has acquired several
sites for protection, such as the Matson Lands in Esquimalt, and
undertaken the management and restoration of 23 further sites.
They’ve developed a stewardship manual, and surveyed the
species at risk. (119 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds,
butterflies and other insects are listed as at risk of extinction
in Garry oak ecosystems.) They have educated tens of thousands
of people through their website and outreach programs, and completed
four draft recovery strategies for some of the vulnerable elements
in Garry oak ecosystems: maritime meadows; vernal woods; woodlands;
and the rigid apple moss.
Our Garry oak ecosystems are so lovely, but they are threatened,
and the folks at GOERTS are working to ensure their long-tem recovery.
On their website at www.goert.ca they
list 18 ways that you can help. The 18th is financial: if you’d
like to support them, call their financial administrator at 250-383-3447,
or email email@example.com
LET’S NUKE THE TAR SANDS!
Here’s one for the history books. During November, I was
speaking on a Gulf Island where I met a retired exploration geologist
who worked on the Alberta tar sands in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Separating the oil from the sand needs a lot of heat, which makes
it expensive and difficult. Early attempts used steam, but some
of my friend’s colleagues had been involved with Project
Gnome, to develop peaceful uses for the atomic bomb. This had one
member of the team, Dr. M.L. Natland, thinking about using bombs
to free up the tar sands, and the idea got approval as "Project
The plan was to detonate 9 kiloton "thermal devices" (ie
bombs) 380 metres underground, 7 metres below the base of the tar
sand. Each bomb would cost $350,000, which was cheaper than drilling
a deep well. At 2 million barrels of oil per bomb, 400 bombs (one
every 18 hours) would release a billion barrels of oil a year.
The US AEC did radioactivity studies at their Oak Ridge laboratory,
and assured them that the released oil would contain "no more
radiation than a wrist watch dial".
By July 1959 the project had all the relevant approvals, but as
the cold war got going, John Diefenbaker (Canada’s PM) and
other world leaders were pushing for a nuclear testing ban. In
April 1962, Howard Green, Canada’s Minister of External Affairs,
said "Canada is opposed to nuclear tests, period", and
that was the end of Project Oilsands. By 1974, it was resurrected
as Project Athabasca, under different sponsors, but then the trail
With or without a bomb every 18 hours, the tar sands pose an enormous
global threat through their released greenhouse gases. The extraction
processes produce 100 MT (million tonnes) of CO2 a year, partly
from the natural gas that is used to heat the tar sands; the oil
itself (a million barrels a day) releases a further 136 MT of CO2
a year when it is used (372 kg of CO2 per barrel).
Total: 236 MT a year. Canada’s Kyoto target: 270 MT a year.
SWEDEN TO END DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS
The Swedish government has determined that as a society, they
will solve all their environmental problems within one generation,
so that they are not passed on to the next generation. They have
set 15 national policy targets (and 70 indicators), one of which
is that they will eliminate all use of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
But get this! On October 1st, the Minister for Sustainable
Development, Mona Sahlin, announced that because of global climate
change and oil supply uncertainties, the government is adding a
16th policy target: to create the conditions necessary
to break Sweden’s dependence on fossil fuels by 2020. "By
then, no home will need oil for heating … no motorist will
be obliged to use petrol as the sole option available." They
will encourage more use of biofuels, biomass district heating,
hybrid and ethanol cars, and renewable electricity, and increase
their energy research commitment to CAN $118 million a year. (Sweden
has 9 million people, to BC’s 4 million.)
Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners
Victoria’s only solvent free dry cleaner
1019 Cook St. 381-2221
Mon-Fri 8-6 Sat 10-4
A GIFT OF NATURE
If you want to give your loved ones an unusual gift this Christmas,
then check out The Land Conservancy. You could give them an overnight
camp-out at the Sooke Potholes, or a summer Nature Cruise; a conservation
holiday week, or Tea for Two at the Abkhazi Gardens. Or you could
Adopt an Acre in their name. 250-383-4627 (1-888-738-0533) www.conservancy.bc.ca The
Western Canada Wilderness Committee (651 Johnson St) has the stunning-as-ever
2006 Wilderness and Wildlife calendars, along with cards and eco-more,
as do Granola Groovy, Narnia Farms, Hemp and Co, and Fibre Options,
all in downtown Victoria. For a different surprise, how about a
Gift Certificate for the delivery of fresh organic food from Small
Potatoes Urban Delivery (www.spud.ca),
Share Organics (www.shareorganics.bc.ca)
or Saanich Organics (544-4807)? Or a certificate for cycling gear?
Or a certain best-selling organic gardening guide, by your illustrious
Great Gift Idea!
A Year on the Garden Path : A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide
by Carolyn Herriot
Visit your local bookshop/order online
CANADIAN EARTH INSTITUTE
Add one more to that list of local environmental organizations!
The Canadian Earth Institute’s mission is to motivate individuals
to examine and transform their personal values and habits, to take
responsibility for the Earth, and to act on that commitment. It
is partnered with the Northwest Earth Institute (www.nwei.org),
and follows a similar approach, using Discussion Circles. These
bring people together on a weekly basis for 7-9 weeks to study
a topic such as Voluntary Simplicity, Deep Ecology, Choices for
Sustainable Living, or Globalization. I’ve been in one, and
they’re a great way to study among a small group of friends.
The CEI is training new volunteers, seeking funding, building partnerships,
and getting ready to launch new study circles, both locally and
across Canada. If this intrigues you, or you’d like to help,
call Beth Cruise at 250-727-9163.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed my way:
Message from the Wombat: www.globalcommunity.org/flash/wombat.shtml
Elizabeth May’s Climate Change Blog from COP-11 at Montreal: http://citizen.nfb.ca/blogs/emay
Guy Dauncey’s Climate Change Blog from COP-11 at Montreal: www.bcsea.org/blog
National Geographic’s Global Warning, Signs from the Earth: http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0409/feature1/?fs=www7.nationalgeographic.com
Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning: www.gicel.ca
The Little Earth Charter for Kids, sung by Victoria’s Rosie
Little Animation for Kids: www.littleanimation4kids.com/
Toxic Nation: Pollution, it’s in you!: www.environmentaldefence.ca/toxicnation/landing.htm
Peace, Earth and Justice News: www.pej.org/html/index.php
Mr Floatie’s very own POOP site: www.poopvictoria.ca
CBC Ideas, to enliven your evening: www.cbc.ca/ideas/
Comondi, for green earth-friendly products: www.comondi.com
Caribou Nation: www.caribounation.org
And finally, a softy for the holidays: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/singingman7/Twinkies.htm
ACTION OF THE MONTH: THE GREAT BEAR RAIN FOREST
It is dark, damp, and wet in the Great Bear Rainforest as winter
wraps its misty fingers around the silent trees, the wetlands,
and the hibernating bears. In the silence of the days, the forest
knows its ancientness. The rivers run clear, as they have done
since the end of glaciation, ten thousand years ago, and a host
of species live undisturbed, including Northern Goshawks, grizzly
bears, Marbled Murrelets, and tailed frogs.
The lands are huge, running from the tip of Vancouver Island to
the Alaska border; they are one of the largest contiguous tracts
of coastal temperate rainforest left anywhere in the world. Right
now, only 7% of the land is protected from logging.
For many years, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Forest Ethics
(let’s call them the Green Team) have been in negotiation
with the 17 First Nations for whom this is traditional territory,
five major multinational logging companies, the government of BC,
and private donors who want to support a sustainable future for
A consensus package has been negotiated which the Green Team supports.
This includes 33% of the forest being given full protection, including
55% of the estuaries, 54% of the wetlands, 34% of the remaining
oldgrowth forest, and 40% of all documented salmon-bearing streams.
It makes a commitment to ecosystem-based management for the entire
forest by 2009, and sees $60 million in private and philanthropic
funds being given to assist ecologically sustainable business ventures,
matched by $60 million from the province and the feds to flow to
First Nations based on the ecological results of land-use plans,
plus $80 million further investment. See www.savethegreatbear.org
Action: Please write to the Premier of BC, asking him to
ratify the Great Bear Rainforest consensus package. The time to
act is now.
Rt Hon Gordon Campbell, Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4. firstname.lastname@example.org 250-387-1715
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