No. 157 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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BEHOLD, THE CLIMATE COMETH
The last few weeks have seen a veritable torrent of news items
from the world’s climate scientists, warning of dire consequences
if we don’t get our act together and start reducing the flow
of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere now.
From scientists in the British Antarctic Survey, there is a warning
that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is beginning to disintegrate,
which was not noticeable five years ago when the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change reported nothing to worry about. They are
now talking about the ice sheet as "an awakened giant" that
has the potential to raise global sea levels by 5 metres.
From Greenland, where the ice rises 9,000 feet above sea level,
scientists are warning that with rising temperatures there has
been a marked acceleration in the speed at which ice is flowing
into the ocean, threatening an additional sea-level rise of 7 metres.
From James Hansen, director of NASA’s climate science team,
comes the warning that "The last time the world was 3 degrees
warmer than today – which is what we expect later this century – sea
levels were 25 metres higher. So that is what we can look forward
to, if we don’t act soon." The White House told Hansen
not to talk to the media about his concerns, but he went ahead
anyway, since so much is at stake.
In Britain the New Scientist has asked the question "Where
will they go when the sea rises?", referring to the millions
of people who will become environmental refugees when their homes
are drowned out. The number may be anywhere from a few hundred
thousand to a few hundred million every year between 2020 and 2100,
depending on the assumptions, especially along the densely packed
coastlines of south and south-east Asia, and Africa. Which country
is going to accept these refugees?
And this is just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg. The last
few months have also seen alarming reports that a massive Siberian
peat bog the size of Germany and France combined is melting, releasing
billions of tonnes of methane. Alas, there’s more where this
There have been reports that if we pass a certain threshold, maybe
400 ppm of CO2, maybe 450 ppm, we will pass a "tipping point" beyond
which there is no going back. Right now, we are at 380 ppm, increasing
by 2 ppm a year. It was 280 ppm at the start of the industrial
A young climate activist recently asked me to stop sending him
these dire news reports. "I can’t take it," he
said. "I need to remain hopeful!"
My response was that we need to know what we are up against: this
is what the science is saying. I hold to my belief that there
are only two real problems in the world: the first is the sum total
of all our social, environmental, economic, and other woes. The
second is the belief that we cannot solve them.
The solutions are very straight forward. They just require vision
and determination from our political leaders, who will otherwise
go down in history as the people who ignored the warning signs
and passed on a world that was barely habitable.
In California, Governor Schwarzenegger has committed the state
to achieve an 80% reduction in its emissions by 2050. Brazil has
set a goal that 80% of its vehicle fleet will be fueled with bioethanol
from sugar cane within five years. Sweden has set a national goal
to end their dependency on fossil fuels by 2020.
BC has set no goals and made no commitments yet, but it’s
surely only a matter of time. And likewise for Harper’s Conservatives.
How long before they realize they are making a very big mistake
by assuming that climate change doesn’t matter?
Given the seriousness of the science, it is easy to picture the
world’s nations signing onto serious and dramatic reductions
in as soon as Bush leaves the White House.
It is also easy to imagine them signing parallel treaties to expand
their use of solar PV by 50% a year, driving down the cost to a
level that everyone can afford, so that every house can have a
2 kw PV system and solar hot water tubes on its roof.
It is easy to imagine similar global treaties being signed to
expand each nation’s use of wind energy, green heat, plug-in
hybrids, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, cycling, organic
farming, and so on. These technologies work now, whereas
hydrogen and "clean coal" are still vague promises that
might deliver something useful in 20 years.
The incredible thing is that these are the very same approaches
that are needed to replace oil and gas, as they pass their global
peak production and become impossibly expensive. It all just makes
so much sense.
So come on, guys: let’s do it!
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* VEGAN HOUSE! Seeking responsible, progressive, positive,
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* Charming guest room, $25/night. Cook St Village, ocean. 250-361-3102
* Quiet woman seeks modest dwelling near downtown Victoria, shared
ok. Approx $400 inc. 382-6661.
* For rent 1-BR ocean view apartment James Bay, month of June.
* Wanted: Two women looking for small house (2 bedrooms) to rent
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* Beautiful off-the-grid 3 bedroom waterfront home for
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* Eco-friendly organic farmer seeks 1BR suite with storage in
quiet area north of Cook St. Call 220-8971
* Courtenay Cohousing Call 250-339-5993 www.creeksidecommons.ca
* Taxes done by financial professional, phone Roxanne Brydges,
CFP, at 704-2778, self-employed people welcome.
* Go to www.esperanto.net Copy
and paste something to Wally du Temple at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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* For schools. From the Forest to the Sea: Watershed Education
Program on Galiano. Hands-on, science-based exploration, K-12.
Call 539-2424 email@example.com
* Wanted: Used and recycled building materials. Will
pay for and pick up, but free is good too. 478-2680 www.eco-sense.ca
* For Sale: 1946 vintage portable Singer Sewing Machine, working,
excellent shape. Photos available via email $375 Joannemarks@canada.com
* Seeking to Rent: Mature female, NS seeking 1 BR, bright, spacious,
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YEAR OF CONFERENCES
What a year this is shaping up to be for global conferences in
Canada that have the ability to change the world. From June 19th
to 23rd, in Vancouver, there’s the World Urban Forum III,
established by the United Nations to find solutions to global urbanisation.
The theme is Our Future: Sustainable Cities--Turning Ideas into
Action, and it may be attended by 6,000 people; including you?
It will be preceded by the World Youth Forum (16-18 June), bringing
together 300 youth leaders from around the world, giving them a
platform to air their ideas for the future, and showcasing their
projects, culminating in a youth declaration to the World Urban
Forum. See www.eya.ca/wuf
Immediately following the Forum in Vancouver is the World Peace
Forum (June 23-28), a global gathering of people, groups and civic
governments who envision a living culture of peace and sustainability
in our lifetimes. The Forum will include music, art, films, and
many inspiring speakers, meetings, and moments. Including maybe
you? Go on: indulge your desire to make a difference. www.worldpeaceforum.ca.
Then on November 12-15, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there is the
Global Microcredit Summit, organized by RESULTS, which is one of
the world’s most impressive non-profit societies. "We
live in the midst of a global scandal in which 1.2 billion people
live on less than $1 a day, more than 100 million children of primary
school age are not in school, and some 29,000 children under the
age of five die each day from largely preventable malnutrition
Two thousand delegates from 100 countries will gather to assess
progress toward the 1997 Summit’s goal of reaching 100 million
of the world’s poorest, and to launch two new goals: (1)
Working to ensure that 175 million of the world’s poorest
families, especially the women, receive microcredit to enable them
to launch their own micro-enterprises by 2015, and (2) working
to ensure that 100 million of the world’s poorest families
move out of absolute poverty (by earning more than $1 a day) by
the end of 2015.
The story of microcredit is a story of human hope and commitment
overcoming the pessimism of professional bankers and economists,
who sat in their skyscraper offices and wrote off the world’s
poorest people. Microcredit has been enormously successful by using
the willingness of women to support each other while taking courage
in their hands and launching new enterprises that are lifting their
families out of poverty.
In 1999, at RESULTS’ request, Vancity created a Shared World
term deposit which now holds over $2 million, creating about 10,000
jobs through micro-enterprise every year. If you would like to
help sponsor a developing world delegate to come to Halifax, call
Blaise Salmon, at 250-384-1842 www.globalmicrocreditsummit2006.org
"Future generations will know whether we answered the key
question. History will be our judge, but what’s written is
up to us. We can’t say our generation didn’t know how
to do it. We can’t say our generation couldn’t
afford to do it. And we can’t say our generation didn’t
have reason to do it. It’s up to us." – Bono,
Talking of Vancity, they have elections coming up
for their Board. For nearly 20 years the Action Team has shaped
Vancity into a remarkably innovative, successful and vibrant
leader in our communities. This year’s Action Team candidates
are Beth Haddon, Doug Soo and Elain Duvall. If you bank with
Vancity, please vote for them! See www.voteaction.ca.
Ethics Buying Collective
~ locally sourced ~ plant-based ~ eco-friendly
~ fairly-traded ~ organically produced ~
Victoria's buying collective,
please visit our website for more!
This is very embarrassing: here in the
CRD, we recycle less of our wastes each year, as a proportion
of our total. Weren’t we supposed to be moving towards sustainability,
not away from it? Our goal is 50% waste diversion, and we reached
42% in 1998, but it had fallen back to 36% by 2004. At this rate,
by 2042 we’ll be recycling 0%. What are we to do? Here
are four ideas that we need to take very seriously:
(1) Make Recycling Mandatory. Seattle has a
new bylaw that aims to save residents and businesses $2 million
a year, keep future garbage costs low, and help reverse Seattle’s
decline since 1995. (They’ve got the same problem.) The
City’s contractors no longer pick up garbage cans with
significant amounts of recyclables; they leave a tag on the can
telling the customer to get his or her act together for the following
week (in polite language). Business owners, apartment owners,
and property managers are being given two warning notices, and
then getting a $50 surcharge on their garbage bills. Hmm!
(2) Pay-As-You-Throw. In New York state, Southampton’s
Town Supervisor reckons that their pay-by-weight program is reducing
their garbage by 40%. Austin, Texas, and Vancouver, Washington,
now charge for garbage by weight. A Reason Institute study concluded
that these programs result in 17% less garbage (by weight), and
that each dollar spent saves $7.60 in reduced solid waste management
costs. It’s a basic "polluter pays" principle.
(3) Reward People for Recycling. In
Philadelphia, Patrick Fitzgerald quit his job at a Wall Street
law firm to pursue the intriguing idea of rewarding people for
the amount they recycle. Recyclebank uses special recycling bins
with a "smart waste tag" that allows the truck driver
to scan its weight. The householder gets credit for the recycled
wastes which can be cashed in at local stores. (They can also
donate them to local environmental projects.) In two Philadelphia
pilot schemes, with 2,500 participants, 90% took part, averaging
25 pounds of recyclables a week. The municipality saves on garbage
disposal fees; recycling companies make more money from recycling;
and retailers gain a feel-good reward. The scheme is to be introduced
to 100,000 households in New England next year. See www.recyclebank.com
(4) Compost Organic Wastes. For our
final idea, we have to travel no further than the great little
town of Ladysmith, which has just launched an organic wastes
recycling program. 2,700 households have shiny new green bins
which take yard and food wastes, bones, soiled paper, pizza boxes,
meat, and napkins. The wastes are composted by the International
Composting Corporation and turned into Grade A composted soil,
which sells for $3.99 a bag in Canadian Tire and other stores.
The only question is why is it taking us so long to do what seems
Earth-Friendly Dry CleanersVictoria’s only solvent
free dry cleaner
1019 Cook St. 381-2221 Mon-Fri 8-6
To the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition
and the Victoria Car-Share Cooperative, on their joint move to
the newly named Sustainable Transport Centre at 12 Centennial
Square. The Car Share Coop is 10 years old, with 100 members
who share seven vehicles (www.victoriacarshare.ca)
and the Cycling Coalition is 15 years old, with 800 members (www.gvcc.bc.ca)
and (I presume) at least 800 bikes. The next time you’re
passing Centennial Square, drop in and say hello!
And… to the Vancouver
Island Ecoforestry Group, a collective of small scale
forest owners and managers who have received collective certification
under the new BC standard for the Forest Stewardship Council.
EcoTrust Canada is serving as their group manager, and holding
the certificate on their behalf, speeding up the process
dramatically and cutting their costs by 90%. The Group’s
members manage 757 hectares of forestland, and will be marketing
their wood to the local green building industry through the
Eco-Lumber Cooperative. (www.ecolumber.ca)
It’s spring, and the landscapers are
out with their machines and their pesticides, making Victoria’s
gardens look clean and green. But beware: one of the most
common pesticides used is far from clean or green. A study
published in the June 2005 issue of Environmental Health
Perspectives found that Monsanto’s glyphosate based
herbicide Roundup was toxic to a mother’s placental
cells at levels ten times lower than those found in agricultural
use. A Canadian study has linked glyphosate exposure in the
three months before conception to an increased risk of miscarriage,
and a 2002 Minnesota study found a link to increased attention
deficit disorder in farm families. Earlier studies have linked
glyphosate to reproductive harm, damaged DNA in mice, abnormal
chromosomes in human blood, and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma. It is also toxic to wildlife, especially frogs
and other amphibians. Enough? How come this stuff’s
not simply banned? (It will be as soon as our municipalities
get their act together, and adopt the CRD’s Model Pesticide
Use Bylaw (See below, and www.crd.bc.ca/rte/pest).
If you want to find an organic landcare professional who
understands about the soil, and what makes nature tick, check
out the locally-based Society of Organic Urban Landcare Professionals
A Year on the Garden Path: A
52-Week Guide to Organic Gardening
by Carolyn Herriot
In all good Victoria bookshops
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed my way:
To flush, or not to flush into the Strait: that is the question:
whether ‘tis nobler in the ocean to suffer the slosh and
turds of outrageous pollution,
or to take arms against a sea of
excuses, and by participating, end them?
To speak: to write: and
by your words to end
the whale-ache and the thousand unnatural
toxic shocks that water is heir to:
‘tis a consummation devoutly
to be wished.
To think, to write, perchance to dream;
to go to the CRD’s
Scientific and Technical Review Panel’s
website at www.setaccrdpanel.org and
set your thoughts in words.
Could our sewage be used for energy?
Could the goodness that is
inherent therein be separated from the toxic stew, and be recycled
Could biofuels from our bodily wastes power buses that
would yield no greenhouse gases?
But delay ye not! April 7th is
your final deadline.
ACTION OF THE MONTH: PESTICIDE USE BY-LAWS
The CRD has crafted a very good model pesticide use bylaw that
will give us the protection we need. Now it’s up to local
councils to adopt it.
Action: Write to your local Mayor and Council, and ask when they
will be introducing the model by-law? Contact details in the phone
book’s blue pages.
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395 Conway Road, Victoria V9E
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304
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