No. 155 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
A LETTER TO THE NEW PRIME MINISTER
Dear Future PM,
Here in Canada, on January 23rd, we will cast our votes
in a general election which will lead to a new government, and
your becoming the leader of our proud country.
I follow the news, so I know that the election has been dominated
so far by discussions about taxes, crime, healthcare, child care,
government accountability, and national unity.
Now don’t get me wrong: these are all very important issues.
But they are backyard gossip compared to the larger concerns that
are building on our planet, which none of the larger parties seems
willing to talk about.
Take the world’s supply of oil and gas. Conservative oil
companies say there’s no reason to worry, but many knowledgeable
people think we’re going to hit the peak of global oil production
If they are right, the price of oil will continue to rise, bringing
stress, disruptions, and bankruptcies to every sector of the economy.
Alberta’s tar sands produce too little oil to make a difference
- 1 million barrels a day vs our global consumption of 84 million.
What does this mean? Our entire civilization since 1900 has been
premised on cheap oil. Take that away and everything starts to
crumble, unless there is an accelerated strategy to replace the
oil with sustainable energy alternatives, and change our lifestyles
so that we are less dependent on it.
Then there’s the small concern about global climate change.
The warnings of future climate chaos are far more grim than we
see in the media, yet among the world’s industrial nations,
only Britain and Sweden may meet their Kyoto targets.
The climate alarm bells are ringing, and speeches are being made
about the promise of hydrogen, biofuels, wind, and solar; but as
a civilization, we are still bewitched by the magic of fossil fuels,
and shrugging off the warnings. Nothing is really happening.
Then there’s the oceans: since 1950, we have eliminated
90% of the world’s large fish: the tuna, cod, shark, marlin,
halibut, swordfish. For millions of years, they thrived, then in
50 years we wiped out 90%. Will we wait until we have eliminated
all 100%? Where is the leadership that will call for huge global
no-fish zones, so that they can recover?
The same thing is being repeated in the world’s forests,
which are being cut down to make paper and build houses, and the
aquifers of fresh water, which are being depleted to provide irrigation
Everyone wants to consume more, everyone continues to worship
at the altar of economic growth, even as the garbage piles higher.
Meanwhile, 30,000 children die of extreme poverty every day; but
we Canadians only give 0.28% of our income to make their poverty
When I look at these problems piling up, it seems that most of
us in the developed world live inside a comfort bubble, deluding
ourselves that we can continue to consume the world’s resources
until they are all gone. We have been bewitched; we are walking
into what Ronald Wright calls "a progress trap" in his
excellent book A Short History of Progress.
There is one other matter, too. The global corporations, which
so dominate the global economy, are being driven by the sole objective
to make their shareholders wealthier, regardless of the social
and environmental costs. As the film The Corporation made
clear, their directors are legally obliged to act as psychopaths.
They have formed a club which they run by their own rules. For
all their talk of social responsibility, their machines grind on,
pumping the oil, extracting the fish, cutting the forests.
As a civilization, we stand at the edge of a precipice. Ahead
of us lies ecological collapse, one of the oldest tricks in nature’s
book. The population grows; it overeats its resources; and then
And yet we could so easily turn in a different direction. As citizens
of the world, we could come together in an unprecedented manner,
and do what it takes to solve these problems. It would be amazing;
it would give purpose to millions. We could end war. We could end
poverty. We could end our unsustainable living that consumes everything,
yet conserves almost nothing.
As a country, we are incredibly well placed to share in the global
leadership that could make this happen. All over the world, people
are hoping and praying for the breakthrough; all of our lives would
be the better for it, too.
As our new Prime Minister, will you step forward, and lead Canada
in a new direction, away from the precipice? We need more than
grand speeches. We need goals; we need action; we need leadership.
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* Congratulations to Elaine and Brian, who meet at an EcoNews
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the mountains and ocean. Elaine writes:" When I moved to Victoria
3 1/2 years ago, one of the things I hoped for was to find a man
to love and who would love me, someone to spend the rest of my
life with. As you know, I found that man in Brian. December 29th
will mark the second anniversary of the occasion when Brian and
I were first introduced. We were both volunteers at EcoNews, a
local newsletter on the environment, helping to stuff envelopes
and lick stamps. Somehow we ended up sitting beside one another
that night, then began hiking and doing yoga together as the weeks
went by, and here we are....". The EcoNews Dating Agency places
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CAN WE STOP GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD?
Who knows? The Board and Directors of the Powell River Regional
District voted to make their region a GE-free area in June 2004,
after being approached by local organic farmers. This was followed
in 2005 by the launch of a GE-free Canada campaign by the Council
of Canadians, who hope to help 20 municipalities across the Yukon
and BC declare themselves GE-free within the next few years.
Prince Edward Island is holding hearings to decide whether to
become the first GE free province in Canada. Maybe Central Saanich,
North Saanich and Metchosin will join them? They’ll certainly
be in good company: the Swiss people have just voted for a five
year ban on the farming of all GE plants and animals, backed by
56% of the voters, a majority in each of the country’s 26
cantons, and all of Switzerland’s farming organizations.
In France, meanwhile, a court in Orleans has just acquitted 49
activists who destroyed GE plants, ruling that their actions were
justified, and that "the defendants have shown proof that
they committed an infraction of voluntary vandalism in a group
to respond to a situation of necessity …. that resulted
from the unbridled distribution of modified genes that constitutes
a clear and present danger for the well-being of others, in the
sense that it could be the source of contamination and unwanted
One of the 49 is the Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of environmental
issues. To help the BC campaign, see www.gefreebc.org
CAN WE GROW MORE FOOD?
In the year 1700, when the world’s population was 600 million,
we used 7% of the world’s land for agriculture. Today, with
almost 6.5 billion people, heading towards 9 billion, we use 40%
of the world’s land for crops or grazing cattle, and there
is little room to do more.
Here on Vancouver Island, we grow at most 10% of our food; we
expect farmers elsewhere to grow the rest for us. However, the
Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) believes that "food
security is critical to a healthy population", and their new
Community Food Action Initiative has been identified as a core
program for public health.
This means they are putting dollars behind it, and there is funding
for local community capacity building ($500 to $2000); the development
of Community Food Action Plans ($5k - $25k); and early implementation
of better practices ($5k to $15k). See www.viha.ca/mho or
call Caryl Harper, 250-744-7010.
MSG CAUSES OBESITY
Every night, as the sun goes down, millions of people around the
world go to bed hungry. They awake hungry the next morning, and
often do not know where their next meal will come from. They are
our relatives; we are all one human family, descended from the
But here in North America and in much of the developed world,
a third of the food we produce is thrown away, and every year more
people become obese because they eat too much.
There is one shocking discovery that may be new to you, however.
As long ago as 1978, the food industry knew that adding monosodium
glutamate caused people to eat more; that it was addictive; and
that it caused obesity by tripling the amount of insulin the pancreas
So now MSG is added everywhere to make people eat more. The Canadian
author John Erb, from Halifax, has produced a book called The
Slow Poisoning of America which tells this outrageous story,
and describes studies that link MSG to diabetes, migraines, headaches,
autism, ADHD, and even Alzheimer’s.
This is crazy: in a hungry world, must we act like this? And yet
the US is responding not by questioning what’s happening,
but by pushing a Bill through Congress called the "Personal
Responsibility in Food Consumption Act" which bans anyone
who buys food or drink from suing any of the companies involved,
as long as they meet existing laws.
See www.spofamerica.com and www.truthinlabeling.org.
For the industry’s side, see www.msgfacts.com
Let’s admit it: if you are not a lawyer, it’s intimidating!
Yes, it would be lovely to take various parties to court for this
or that assault on the Earth, but the very thought of legal fees,
obscure language, and The Supreme Court puts most of us off.
But wait: who’s that galloping over the horizon, the dust
rising from their hooves?
It’s the Eco-Lawyers, waving writs and appeals as they ride
to the defense of small forgotten species, endangered habitats,
and causes great and small.
That’s not their proper name: they are better known as West
Coast Environmental Law, and one of their missions is to give financial
assistance to citizens and organizations that need legal and expert
help to resolve environmental disputes.
Every year, they distribute $192,000 in grants from their Environmental
Dispute Resolution Fund to help communities in their efforts.
In 2005, among other victories, they helped the West Kootenay
EcoSociety protect a threatened Painted Turtle population in the
West Kootenays from being paved over for a road (via a petition
to the Supreme Court); they helped the Cornwall Watershed Coalition
force the government to suspend its plans to turn the ecologically
fragile Ashcroft Ranch into a massive new landfill; they helped
the GSX Coalition and the BCSEA force BC Hydro to abandon its plans
for a natural gas-fired power plant at Duke Point, Nanaimo (via
the BC Court of Appeal).
They also helped a North Saanich group stop the District of North
Saanich from approving a marina that would have been built on a
national migratory bird sanctuary; and other victories that have
protected Grizzly bears from the use of pesticides by the Ministry
of Forests; and marbled murrelets from logging in their habitat.
So if your group feels the need for a lawyer, don’t give
up: call the Eco-Lawyers! They hang their hats at www.wcel.org,
and answer to 604-601-2503. Yee-Hawyers!
SEEDS OF VICTORIA
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2006 Seed Collection
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IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE!
And now here is today’s climate news. The year 2005 has
been the hottest year on record in the Northern hemisphere; probably
the hottest since prehistoric times. It had the most storms, the
worst Atlantic hurricane season, and it has been the driest year
for decades in the Amazon.
The CO2 level in our planet’s atmosphere is the highest
it has been for 650,000 years, and is rising 200 times faster than
at any time in the past 650,000 years. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
And while the Bush administration in the USA doesn’t give
a lousy fig for Kyoto, Canada and most of Europe’s nations
are no better: we are all heading to miss our Kyoto targets, except
Britain and Sweden.
British Columbia does not even have a target for GHG reduction.
Ouch! We’ve got a LONG way to go.
PS while in Montreal at the big COP-11 global climate conference,
I wrote a daily blog, which you can read at www.bcsea.org/blog.
On the bright side, California has committed to reduce its GHG
emissions by 80% by 2050. China is going to double its use of renewable
energy to 15% by 2020, and is spending $2.5 billion over 5 years
on wind and biomass plants.
Seattle City Light has reduced its net greenhouse gas emissions
to zero (yes, ZERO) by selling its share in a coal-fired power
plant; paying for biodiesel to be used in local buses, garbage
trucks, and government vehicles; and paying to help Princess Cruises
shut off the diesel when its ships are docked in Seattle and plugging
into the green grid instead.
And folks at the Institute for Environmental Research and Education
on Vashon Island, just off Seattle, have calculated that Vashon
could reduce its power usage by 70% by 2015 and produce 100% of
its power needs from renewables, in an economically viable manner.
They say the results are applicable to any Pacific Northwest community
within a 10-year timeframe. It’s just a matter of sitting
down, and deciding to do it. www.iere.org
On January 23rd, we get to vote for our next MP in
Ottawa. To help you, here are the contact details for all the candidates
who might be able to make this country a better place (or at least
not a worse one):
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca:
I am encouraging everyone in the Victoria riding to vote for
Denise Savoie (NDP); she has the best credentials to represent
us, and the track record as a councillor in Victoria to prove
it. I will be voting Green or NDP in my riding (Esq-Juan de Fuca),
depending on what I see. In Saanich–Gulf Islands….
Oh, I give up! This is ridiculous, when two good people (Andrew
Lewis and Jennifer Burgis) are running against each other.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed my way:
ACTION OF THE MONTH: SAVE MUIR CREEK
Kate Woods writes:
Fifteen minutes west of Sooke, on the West Coast road, it is an
easy walk down along Muir Creek to the ocean – pebble beaches
with flowerstone, jasper, dallasite, and cliffs where fossils flow
like Persian scrip.
Or up the creek, on the path through the towering Sitka spruce
to the blue-green waters of the swimming hole. Other paths wade
through seas of ferns, past Douglas firs that four people can barely
touch hands around, or wind along the embankments high above the
The second largest yew in the Big Tree Registry is here, on Muir
Creek, and the cedar tree that became the World’s Tallest
Totem grew here.
The creek is home to otters, salmon – spring, chum and Coho
- eagles, kingfishers, and bears, but it is the trees, the serene,
eternal, ancient forest, that I think of when I think of Muir Creek.
The land currently belongs to a logging company, who are busy
logging even as you read this. We want to see it saved as a park
that all can enjoy for ever. Will you write to the CRD,
and ask for their support?
Write to The Chair and Directors,
CRD, 524 Yates St, Victoria, V8W 2S6.
Email c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask them to support the use of CRD Parks Fund towards the acquisition
of Muir Creek.
PS. There is a guided hike of Muir Creek on Sat Jan 21st.
See Green Diary. And for details, call Kate Woods at 642-0948 (email@example.com)
and see www.muircreekprotectionsociety.org
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