No. 156 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
WELCOME TO DEMOCRAZY!
Canadians have just elected a government that is strongly opposed
by 64% of all those who voted. Is this weird, or what?
It is certainly strange to hear people be so enthusiastic about
the Tory "breakthrough", when almost two thirds of the
country shuddered in their sleep on the night of the election.
Would proportional representation (Pro-Rep) have made any difference?
If we had MPs seats based on the parties’ share of the popular
vote, we would have a Parliament like this:
Conservatives - 36.3% 113 seats
Liberals - 30.1% 93 seats
NDP - 17.5% 59 seats
Bloc - 10.5% 31 seats
Greens - 4.5% 12 seats
In reality, if we had proportional voting,
our voting behaviour would change too, and the Greens would likely
win closer to 8% of the vote, as they do in Europe. Is it just
tradition which says that the party with the largest number of
seats forms the new government? Under the Pro-Rep scenario, if
the Liberals and NDP declared that they would vote against the
Conservatives, the logical solution would be for the Governor
General to invite them to form a coalition government, since
they controlled the majority of the seats.
Here’s Fair Vote Canada’s response
to the election: Once again, Canada’s
antiquated first-past-the-post system wasted millions of votes,
distorted results, severely punished large blocks of voters,
exaggerated regional differences, created an unrepresentative
Parliament, and may possibly have even given us the wrong government.
Democracy is a journey that we have only just begun. Historically,
it is only yesterday that we were ruled by kings and landlords.
At first, it was only rich landowners who could vote. Then, as
a result of relentless pressure from the labour movement, the vote
was extended to all men.
It took the persistent efforts of the women’s suffrage movement,
jail and all, to win the vote for women, starting with Manitoba
in 1916 and ending with Quebec in 1940. And for all this time,
Canada’s First Nations were not allowed to vote. This was
not corrected until 1960.
I am full of hope for the future of democracy, based on the understanding
that we have to work for change every step of the way. Here in
Canada, we have reached the threshold of our next great struggle,
to upgrade to a new model that is fair and proportional. I invite
everyone to join me as a member of Fair Vote Canada (www.fairvotecanada.org),
so that we can add this to the steady evolution of democracy in
Success would also give hope to people in the USA, who live in
one of the world’s most corrupted democracies, where corporate
control of the media, campaign financing, and electronic voting
has stolen democracy from the people.
But our vision of democracy needs to evolve far beyond proportional
We need to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds, and make voter
registration automatic, not something they have to hussle after.
We need to develop "deep democracy", where we really
learn to listen to each other’s point of view, and engage
in respectful decision-making based on this listening.
We need to learn how to use democracy in the family, which is
where bad habits often begin. We should ask ourselves "What
are our children learning about democracy when they watch their
parents discuss things and make decisions?"
We need democracy in the workplace, which invites a huge change
in the way businesses are owned and operated. Experience around
the world shows that worker-owned businesses can be hugely successful
if they are given a chance.
We need democracy in the major decisions that our governments
take on the global stage, out of reach of an idle media that pays
little attention. There should surely be a public process involving
elected MPs before Canadian bureaucrats head off to global conferences
to push for global agreements that favour genetically modified
organisms, terminator seeds, and the global trade in toxic wastes,
as they currently do.
We need the ability to make global decisions democratically as
one world, so that we can protect our oceans, protect our atmosphere,
and create new legal contracts for the world’s corporations,
requiring them to embrace social and environmental goals as well
as just financial ones.
Democracy is a process, and we are still beginners. Let’s
work together to achieve the change to fair and proportional voting.
Let’s paint a picture of the future that fills us with hope,
not with weird dreams of an even weirder democrazy.
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* VEGAN HOUSE! Seeking 1-2 responsible, progressive, positive,
eco-friendly veggies for
5bdrm house in Oak Bay, Mar 1st! veganhouse [-at-] gmail.com 598-0194
* Courtenay Cohousing Call 250-339-5993 www.creeksidecommons.ca
* Go to www.esperanto.net and
have some fun. Copy and paste something you like to Wally du Temple
When 100 people respond EcoNews will get $100.
* Charming guest room, $25/night. Cook St Village, ocean.
* Quiet woman seeks modest dwelling near downtown Victoria,
sharing ok. Approx $400 inc. 382-6661.
* Organic Garden and Landscape Creation by Timbergint Designs.
Call LeighMae 472-8008.
* Taxes done by financial professional, phone Roxanne Brydges,
CFP, at 704-2778. Self-employed people welcome.
* Ecoloving person with serious health challenges but strong
spirit seeks rural home, good transit to Victoria to be near like-minded
souls. Can pay $150-200 max rent + gentle work exchange (gardening,
housework, pet-care, housesitting). Thanks! Janet 709-0559
* Wanted: Organic Grower for land nr Elk Lake. Many possibilities.
Call Sylvan to discuss. 382-2612.
* Ecofriendly organic farmer seeks !BR suite with storage
in quiet area north of Cook St. $500, possible barter for more.
PO Box 1167, 242 Mary St, Victoria V9A 3V9
* Winter Warmth Campaign. Elite Earthfriendly Cleaners is
collecting coats, blankets, hats, mitts, scarves, socks, and yoga
mats for homeless people on Vancouver Island. Call Laurel Nathorst,
1019 Cook St 250-381-2221
* Biodiesel enthusiasts. Soon-to-be immigrant American couple
seek lodging and parking for semi-trailer in exchange for work
on organic farm in the Gulf Islands. Call Carol or Jan at 503-635-3229.
* Wanted: Volunteer with interest in natural history and background
with children to work with school groups at Swan Lake Christmas
Hill Nature Sanctuary, 2-3 hours, once a week. Call Joan 479-0211 firstname.lastname@example.org
* The Dogwood Initiative seeks submissions for its 2nd Annual
Strength in Community Awards. Four categories: photography, non-fiction,
audio, video, for people whose submissions capture the spirit of
community power in BC. See www.dogwoodinitiative.org
* Congratulations to Elaine and Brian, who meet at an EcoNews
Mailout party two years ago, and who tied the knot together on
Thursday, December 29th, at their favourite place overlooking
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
no limits on what may be possible, if you come and volunteer!
WILL WE LOSE THE AGRICULTURAL LAND RESERVE?
Calvin Sandborn writes:
We are losing thousands of hectares of farmland in British Columbia,
and it must be stopped! Before 1973, BC was losing 6000 hectares
a year of our best farmland to urban development, but in 1973,
under Premier Dave Barrett, the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)
was established to protect agricultural land for BC’s food
supply. It has protected our farmland for three decades, but now
we are again losing thousands of hectares, because the government
is allowing the Land Commission to dismantle the ALR for urban
development. (See www.alc.gov.bc.ca)
Since 1973, BC has had the strictest regime for protecting agricultural
land in North America. That’s why the Saanich Peninsula and
much of the Fraser Valley have not been lost to subdivisions. However,
this protection is now being lost under the government’s
new Agricultural Land Commission structure. Key farmland is being
excluded, allowing it to be developed, paved, and lost.
Hundreds of acres of superb farmland were recently released for
development near Abbotsford; the Commission is considering excluding
1200 prime acres on Barnston Island, home of the organic Avalon
Dairy; and 267 hectares have just been excluded in the East Kootenays
so that an Alberta real estate developer can build recreational
and residential homes. The vast majority of applications are being
approved. The ALR is no longer functioning as a Land Reserve.
The UN reports that a third of Earth’s agricultural areas
are at risk of desertification; the US is losing 120 acres an hour
to urban development. We must look after our farmlands.
Agriculture in BC supports 280,000 people, and contributes $2 billion
a year to the economy. With only 5% of our land in the ALR, we
cannot afford any more lost. It must be stopped!! The UVic Environmental
Law Centre is sponsoring a forum on Tue Feb 7th (see
Green Diary) that will hopefully launch a campaign to protect the
ALR. Premier Dave Barrett will kick it off, followed by a moving
power point presentation from the Agricultural Land Protection
Committee. Please come to the meeting and begin to work together
to protect our farm heritage.
DESPAIR IS A SIN
From a recent interview with Amory Lovins, co-founder of The Rocky
Mountain Institute, the world’s premier centre for intelligent
energy solutions (www.rmi.org). "When
I give talks about energy, the audience already knows about the
problems. So I don't talk about problems, only solutions. But after
a while, during the question period, someone in the back will get
up and give a long riff about all the bad things that are happening—most
of which are basically true. There's only one way I've found to
deal with that. After this person calms down, I gently ask whether
feeling that way makes him more effective?
TEN FOREST COMPANIES
Feeling worried about the state of the world’s forests?
Yes, it’s bad. But get this. Back in 2001, the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF) looked closely at the ability of the world’s forests
to meet humanity’s demand for paper and timber products.
They concluded that wasteful though we are, if the world used responsible
forest management, we could meet all our needs from just one fifth
of the world’s forest area. "The problem is not forestry
of consumption per se, but poor practice and over-exploitation
in some areas."
The solution, therefore, is the certification of forestry practices
by groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Back in
2001, when their report came out on "The Forest Industry in
the 21st Century", over 20 million hectares of
forest in 35 countries had been certified, guaranteeing that consumers
buying products from these forests could be sure that responsible,
ecologically sustainable management was in place, representing
2-3% of the world’s production forest.
The WWF concluded that "a sea change in certification" was
needed to speed things up. Since 2001, certification has increased
to 67 million hectares, in 60 countries. This includes 5.5 million
hectares of forest in north-east Alberta managed by Alberta-Pacific
Forest Industries Inc that was announced in September 2005, the
largest FSC certification in the world. Did we hear a word of this
in the media? We must constantly remember that the media feeds
us cotton wool, not news of critical progress that is happening
beneath the dross of political scandals and sports victories.
The FSC came to the realization that since a few large companies
commanded a major part of the market, just ten companies could
help save the world’s forests if they put their minds to
it, and required their forest suppliers to become certified. They
are the five largest wood processors (International Paper, Georgia
Pacific, Weyerhauser, Stora-Enso, & Smurfit Stone), and the
five largest wood buyers (Home Depot, Lowes, IKEA, Kimberley Clark,
and Proctor & Gamble). Of the latter, Home Depot, Lowes, and
IKEA already actively support the FSC.
The message is clear: we must persist with what is already proving
successful. In January 2006, Random House, the largest publishing
group in the UK, announced that it would join the FSC’s "chain
of custody", meaning that all their books would be printed
on FSC certified paper. Sustainability in the world’s forests
is both possible, and within reach – as long as we can also
control climate change, to stop the forests from frying in the
Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners
only solvent free dry cleaner
1019 Cook St. 381-2221 Mon-Fri 8-6 Sat 10-4
IS BOTTLED WATER TOXIC?
William Shotyk, Director of the Institute of Environmental Geochemistry
at the University of Heidelberg, has just released a study which
shows that bottle water in Canada (advertised as clean and pure)
contains higher levels of a toxin called antimony than groundwater,
and even tapwater.
The toxin leaches out of the polyethylene terephthalate plastic
the bottles are made from, which is made using an antimony catalyst.
The longer the water stays in the bottle, the higher the level
of antimony, a brittle, silver-white metallic element that is used
as an alloy in manufacturing, which in small doses can causes headaches,
dizziness and depression.
Spring water from a family farm near Barrie, Ontario, contains
2 parts per trillion (ppt) of antimony. Shotyk took the spring
water and put it in a plastic bottle. Six months later, the level
of antimony had risen to 630 ppt.
He tested 15 brands of bottled water in Canada, which averaged
160 ppt. In Europe, 48 bottles averaged 350 ppt. The water from
a bottle made from polypropylene, by contrast, had only 8 ppt.
Water in glass bottles had 30 times less antimony than water in
Health Canada allows 6,000 ppt, which makes you wonder abut their
standards. Shotyk, whose data will be published in Journal
of Environmental Monitoring, no longer drinks water from PET
bottles. See www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimony
SEEDS OF VICTORIA
Certified Organic, Locally Harvested
2006 Seed Collection
Vegetables – Flowers - Herbs
Order online at www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath
HERE COMES THE SUN
And now for something completely different. I have been sent a
new book by Joshua Greene about the spiritual life of George Harrison, "the
quiet Beatle", which started when George went to India to
learn the sitar from Ravi Shankar, and found himself also attracted
to yoga, meditation, chanting, and God. Quite the change from sex,
drugs, and rock’n roll. Joshua’s book is not just well
written; it is also intriguing, inspiring, and peacefully uplifting.
Joshua had close contact with parts of George’s life, and
his own clarity of soul comes through. The book is called Here
Comes the Sun: the Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison,
and is being launched on February 23 and 24th with a
variety of no-cost gifts. Check it out at www.herecomesthesunbook.com,
and enjoy the journey!
I really want to see you
Really want to be with you
Really want to see you lord
But it takes so long, my lord
- George Harrison
CITIES OF JOY
On June 19th–23rd, Vancouver will
host the World Urban Forum (www.unhabitat.org/wuf/2006)
to tackle the problems of the world’s cities. Among them
(I hope) will be Enrique Peñalosa, who was Mayor of Bogota,
Colombia, from 1998 to 2001.
Enrique studied in Paris, and fell in love with European cities,
their public squares and gardens, their bicycles and pedestrians.
American cities are a very damaging model, he says. "In Bogota,
our goal was to make a city for all the children. The measure of
a good city is one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can safely
go anywhere. If a city is good for children, it will be good for
During his three years as Mayor (the most he was allowed to serve),
his administration created the Trans-Milenio, a bus rapid transit
system that now carries half a million people a day, at a fraction
the price of a metro. They reclaimed the sidewalks from motorists,
established 300 kilometres of cycleways, and created the world’s
longest pedestrian street (17 km). They reduced the traffic by
40%, and inaugurated an annual car-free day.
They planted 100,000 trees, and established or refurbished 1,200
parks and playgrounds.
They built 52 new schools, increased student enrolment by 34%,
built 13 libraries, and built 100 nurseries for children under
5, all with permanent sources of funding.
They improved the life of slum-dwellers by bringing water to all
households and buying land on the outskirts of the city to prevent
real estate speculation, and ensure that affordable housing will
They saw the murder rate fall by two thirds.
"Economics, urban planning, ecology are only the means. Happiness
is the goal. .. It doesn’t cost anything to dream, so I say
let’s dream!" For the full interview in Ode Magazine,
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed my way:
ACTION OF THE MONTH: PROTECT OUR FARMLAND!
Short and sweet, since the details are above, in the story by
Write a letter to The Hon Pat Bell, Minister of Agriculture
and Lands, PO Box 9043, Stn Prov Gov’t, Victoria, V8W 9E2,
and speak your mind! Let’s try to get 20 letters, so that
he registers that people are concerned.
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