No. 159 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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- Middle (247kb)
COULD ORGANIC FARMING FEED THE WHOLE WORLD?
It is a critically important question, for five reasons:
1. Sooner or later, the world is going to run out of the oil and
gas that are used to make fertilizers and pesticides, and the evidence
points to "sooner" rather than "later". Ever
since 1961, we have discovered less new oil every year. The oil
that we have become addicted to will soon become very expensive.
2. The global climate crisis demands that we stop producing greenhouse
gases. Industrial farming produces 8% of the world’s emissions
through CO2, methane from cattle, and nitrous oxide from nitrogen
3. It is only with organic farming that food retains the anti-oxidants,
salicylic acids, and salvestrols that plants use to fight off insects,
fungi, and competing plants, giving us protection against cancer
and other diseases. Organically raised cows produce milk which
contains 50% more vitamin E, 75% more beta carotene (which our
bodies convert to Vitamin A), two to three times higher levels
of anti-oxidants, and more omega 3 essential fatty acids.
4. Over the past 50 years, the level of nutrients in food in the
developed world has fallen by 50% as industrial farming has leached
the nutrients out of the soil, replacing them with fertilizers.
A British study found that compared with the 1930s, the mineral
content of milk, cheese and beef grown today has fallen by as much
5. Organic farming restores the much-needed wildlife that is disappearing
from our world. Another British study found that a typical organic
field has five times as many wild plants, 57% more species, 44%
more birds in cultivated areas, twice as many skylarks, and twice
as many butterflies as a non-organic farm.
So could organic farming feed the world if there was a wholesale
shift? Or would we be forced to "turn wilderness and parkland
to farmland and reduce biodiversity, at tremendous cost and no
benefit", as Patrick Moore claims, or that "The first
impact of a global mandate for organic farming would be the plow-down
of 5 to 10 million square miles of wildlife habitat, much of it
in the densely populated tropics, which have perhaps 100 times
as many wild species per square mile as the US or Europe," as
Dennis Avery of the right-leaning Hudson Institute claims?
The evidence that organic farming could in fact feed the world
is quite stunning. In the May/June 2006 issue of World Watch
Magazine, Brian Halweil examines the question. He finds that
there are "myriad studies from around the world showing that
organic farms can produce about as much as, and in some settings
much more than conventional farms." "The long-standing
argument that organic farming would yield just one-third or one-half
of conventional farming was based on biased assumptions and lack
In North America and Europe, a survey of 200 studies showed that
taken overall, organic yields were about 80% of conventional yields,
with many studies showing a narrowing gap. Reviewing 154 growing
seasons’ worth of data on various crops, agricultural scientist
Bill Leiphardt found that organic corn yields were 94%, organic
wheat yields 97%, and organic soybean yields 94% of conventional
crops. Organic tomatoes showed no yield loss at all. One organic
farmer in Michigan raised 27 tons of vegetables on six-tenths of
an acre in a short season.
In the developing world, where hunger sends so many to bed with
empty stomachs, a study of over 200 agricultural projects found
that for all of the projects, involving 9 million farms on nearly
30 million hectares, yields increased by an average of 93%. The
organic farms are growing almost twice as much as the conventional
farms. Furthermore, the yield increases are highest and most consistent
in precisely the poor, dry, remote areas of the world where hunger
is the most severe.
When a team from the University of Michigan applied this data
to a global model, looking at total conversion to organic methods,
they found that for the world as a whole, organic methods yielded
4,381 calories per person, which is 75% more than is achieved today,
and significantly higher than the average caloric requirement for
a healthy person of between 2,200 and 2,500 calories a day.
They also found that greater use of nitrogen-fixing crops could
result in 40% more nitrogen being fixed than is achieved by the
synthetic nitrogen today, without any additional land area being
needed to cultivate the crops.
So there we have it. A worldwide transition to organic farming
could produce more food, with far higher nutrient qualities, while
protecting the world’s forests, wilderness and wildlife.
So now we need to plan for the full conversion of every farm in
Canada, before the energy crisis hits.
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A big thankyou to Dan Schubart, Harv Maser, Cliff Boldt, Helen
Lane, Moireen Phillips, Nora Layard, Kathleen Sogge, Thor Henrich,
Paul Gareau, Elke Schlufter, Jim Hackler, Sharon Haave, Bonnie
Cruickshank, Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society, & David
$5/line (non-profits, low-income free)
1" box $40, $2" box $70. Insert $180
* VEGAN HOUSE! Seeking responsible, progressive, positive,
eco-friendly veggie for 5bdrm house in Oak Bay, May
1st or after! veganhouse [-at-] gmail.com 598-0194
* Charming guest room, $25/night. Cook St Village, ocean.
* Courtenay Cohousing Call 250-338-0187 www.creeksidecommons.ca
* Female roomate needed. Beautiful character house in Quadra
village. Garden potential. Big and bright. $467 incl. Queer-friendly.
* Garden suite for rent, spacious, new, furnished, blocks
from UVic, utilities included except phone. $750 381-7580.
* Small house on rural acreage, well and septic. Garden
space, landscaped yard. Semi-furnished, sunroom, sunlights, 4-burner
gas stove. Private, quiet, no kids, no pets. $750. 652-2613
* Seeking partners to buy land for Permaculture centre
somewhere in SW BC. email@example.com
* Small house on rural acreage, well and septic. Garden
space, landscaped yard. Semi-furnished, sunroom, skylights, 4-burner
gas stove. Private, quiet, no kids, no pets. $750. 652-2613
* CRD Parks is seeking applications for Volunteer Naturalists
to welcome & inspire visitors at our nature centres. 478-3344 www.crd.bc.ca/parks.
* For Sale: 1990 Mazda MPV van. $3995. Great condition,
one previous owner (also a greenie!). Carolyn & Guy, 881-1555.
* Needed - someone with a good sense of smell to view rental
accommodation for me to identify if there are any odors in different
places (scents, incense, cigarette smoke, chemicals) or mold. Pay
negotiable. Annie, 380-1259
* Saanich Environmental Advisory Cte seeks nominations
for its annual environmental awards. Call 475-5494 local 3408.
Deadline is 4pm May 17th.
The Pinch Group
Connecting your money with your values
ON YER BIKE!
It’s spring, it’s warm, you’ve got no more excuses.
Dust off the saddle, oil the chain, and off you go! And hey, why
not jump in? May 29th to June 4th is Bike
to Work Week. Last year, 5,919 cyclists took part, including 947
new cyclists (first time commuters), and 40% women. Workplaces
organize teams, and there are prizes and challenges – and
a free one-day Bike to Work Skills course, in case you’ve
forgotten your hand signals. The launch in on May 29th (See Diary).
CANCER and SALVESTROLS
Last month EcoNews broke the news on salvestrols, the cancer-fighting
compounds that are absent from most food unless it is grown organically.
(Salvestrols are a plant’s natural fungicide. If a plant
is sprayed with a chemical fungicide, it does not need to generate
them). As well as being available in organic food, a company called
Nature’s Defence is making them available in capsule form
for people who have cancer, sourcing the salvestrols from old-fashioned
varieties of orange grown organically in China (1 capsule contains
the salvestrols from 20 kg of fruit). The clinical trials will
be ready in 5 years, and until then, results are viewed as anecdotal,
but they are still very impressive.
When Prof. Gerry Potter, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and
Director of the Cancer Drug Discovery Group at the Leicester School
of Pharmacy, England, spoke in Victoria in April, he reported that
among people under doctor’s supervision with terminal cancer
who had been through chemo and radiation with no effect, 35% were
given the "all clear" after using salvestrols. This includes
people who had cancer of the breast, prostate, ovarian, testicular,
brain, liver, lung, myosarcoma, and throat, and non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma. The best response came from those who took the capsules
and also changed their diet and started exercising.
Among those whose cancers are not terminal, Potter thinks the
response rates will be much higher. There is a remarkable story
from Ken Shannon, a teacher, reiki master, and Qigong teacher from
Powell River who was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. I
don’t want to sound like someone pitching pills, so I encourage
you to read his story in his own words: www.sohumone.com/Salvestrol.html.
The capsules are being distributed in Canada by the Health Action
Network Society. See www.salvestrol.ca
Looking for a community that cherishes
challenges the mind, and nurtures the spirit? You'll
be welcome here.
QUEBEC BANS PESTICIDES
One of the few scientific hold-outs for the "pesticides make
greener lawns" companies in BC has been the belief that the
weed killer 2,4-D was perfectly safe, backed by the federal Pest
Management Regulatory Agency’s ruling that it did not cause
In April, however, a report in the journal Pediatrics and Child
Health showed that 2,4-D is "persuasively linked" to
cancer, neurological impairment and reproductive problems. Its
authors said the Agency’s assessment was based mainly on
animal studies, which cannot predict human consequences, that many
of the studies were confidential and supplied by the manufacturers
themselves, and that its assessment did not meet the necessary
standards for ethics, rigour, or transparency in medical research.
Quebec didn’t wait for the new study. Following common sense
and the precautionary principle, the province has passed a comprehensive
ban on many domestic products that use chemicals considered toxic
to humans and the environment. 210 lawn-care products are now off
the market. The un-used stock (you’ll like this) is being
transferred for sale in Ontario and western Canada.
Simultaneously, Pat Martin, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, has tabled
a private members bill that would require pesticide manufacturers
to prove that their products are safe before being placed on the
market, rather than regulators having to prove they’re harmful.
Well, there’s an idea!! From 1976 to 2001, the age-adjusted
cancer-rate among males increased by 27.7%, and among females by
Here in the CRD, we are still waiting for a city councillor to
have the guts to bring the model Pesticide Use By-Law to the table.
How many more people must get cancer before someone acts? Why are
our councils so limp when it comes to protecting our health? (See
Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners
Victoria’s only solvent free dry cleaner
Cook St. 381-2221
Mon-Fri 8-6 Sat 10-4
IN THE WILDS OF THE WEST
Tyrone Danlock is a nature-lover and backwoodsman who has spent
many a long day alone in the forests, meadows and mountain slopes
of the Yukon, Alberta and BC. "I apologize to no-one for
liking wild animals just as they are – alive – and
for wanting Nature’s ecosystems to remain intact and alive."
Now, living in Qualicum Beach, he has assembled his writings into
a book of essays that are rough, beautiful, and very immediate.
He takes you with him to the moment when the beaver kits come out
of the den, and to face-to-face meetings with black bears and mountain
Most of us could spend a lifetime in British Columbia and never
come close to the vast realm of undisturbed nature that Tyrone
has hiked, camped, explored, observed, and slept in. To enjoy his
book is therefore a treat most rare that we should all indulge.
We live surrounded by an ancient, secret world for the entry to
which most of us will never learn the password. Tyrone has the
password, and he gives us an enormous gift by sharing what he has
seen, felt, and learnt.
His book is self-published with Trafford (see www.trafford.com/04-1275)
or from Tyrone at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s also in Crown
Publications on Fort St, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee
store at 651 Johnson St, and at Volume 1 Books in Duncan. $37
The Garden Path Nursery
Certified Organic Vegetables, Fruits, Seeds, Ornamentals, and
Open April 1st to July 3rd
10am to 5:30pm
395 Conway Rd, Victoria 250-881-1555
CONFERENCES BLOOM IN JUNE
For those with an involvement with communities, June could be
the ultimate high. It starts in Cumberland on June 8 & 9 with
the 4th Annual Saving Small Towns Conference, with the
theme "Building Community". In keeping with Cumberland’s
small-town character, it’s a great chance to pause, talk,
and learn about approaches that are generating success in small
towns elsewhere. See http://cumberland.ihostez.com/siteengine/activepage.asp?PageID=85 Or call 250-890-0519
A week later in Victoria (June 15-17) we move to a grander level
with "Gaining Ground: Sustainable Urban Development Leadership
Summit" at the Laurel Point Inn. Speakers include Maurice
Strong, Storm Cunningham (Author of The Restoration Economy)
and James Kunstler (will suburbia collapse as the oil runs out?),
and presentations on Dockside Green, Loreto Bay in Baja Maxico,
and the Noisette Project in South Carolina. See www.gaininggroundsummit.com.
Then (June 19-23) we move to the global level with the World Urban
Forum III in Vancouver, when thousands will gather from every corner
of the Earth to discuss how we can turn the cities of the world
into green paradises. It’s free. See www.unhabitat.org/wuf/2006
Exxon’s retiring CEO, Lee Raymond, has spent the last decade
trashing talk of global climate change and financing climate skeptics
who have fed the North America belief that the well-oiled life
can continue for ever. In 2005 he was paid $69.7 million. His retirement
package is worth nearly $400 million. Hmm…
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
"The consequences of a rise of 3° C,
described last week by the UK government's chief scientific adviser,
Sir David King, as ‘likely’, would be calamitous: a
worldwide drop in cereal crops of between 20m and 400m tonnes,
400 million more people put at risk of hunger, and 3 billion people
left at risk of flooding and without access to fresh water supplies.
There can be no doubt about it: climate change is the most serious
emergency the human species has faced."
- Robert McFarlane, Guardian, April 22
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed my way:
How big is the patch? Check this:
ACTION OF THE MONTH
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: TELL RONA TO STOP DREAMING!
At the end of April, the BC Sustainable Energy Association delivered
a copy of the TIME Magazine Special Report on Global Warming to
every MP in Ottawa. The magazine’s cover carries a picture
of a polar bear floating on a few square meters of ice, and the
words "BE WORRIED, BE VERY WORRIED: Climate change isn’t
some vague future problem – it’s already damaging the
planet at an alarming pace."
The Tory government has said that it wants to join the "anti-Kyoto" group
known as the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and
Climate. a talking shop made up of the US, China, India, Australia,
Japan, and South Korea which focuses on trade and the transfer
of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, without setting
any targets or timelines.
According to a late April survey, 90% of Canadians rate climate
change as a serious problem. In response to the crisis, the Tory
government has slashed Environment Canada’s climate change
budget by 80%, and promises to produce its own "made in Canada’ proposals
to reduce greenhouse gases.
They say the Liberals achieved very little. No wonder: many good
proposals were blocked or sabotaged by the very same Albertan oil
interests that are dripping in profits, and support the Tories.
While the planet burns, the Tories get rid of the fire brigade.
Action: Please write to the Rt. Hon. Rona Ambrose, Minister
of Environment, and plead, persuade, cajole, entice, convince,
coax, reason, exhort, or in any way prevail upon her to come to
House of Commons
Ottawa K1A 0A6
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