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AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)EcoNews reaches thousands of people each month, including every MLA in BC and every CRD municipal politician. It’s 95% funded by donations from readers like you. If you value the information it provides, will you support it with a donation?

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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 
Econews

Newsletter No. 160 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - June 2006

Now available as PDF's! Front (PDF347kb) - Middle (PDF228kb) - Green Diary (PDF71kb)


CELEBRATING SUMMER IN THE CITY

June is such a wonderful month. The flowers and trees are at their fullest, and all life seems to be saying "Look how good life is, how beautiful we are!"

All beings in the northern part of the planet should celebrate in mid-June, the pinnacle of light, of summer’s glory.

This goes for us humans too, in our communities. Ancient stone circles such as Stonehenge were designed so that the sun rose over a key stone at dawn on midsummer’s day. Throughout ancient Europe, people gathered at midsummer around bonfires, wore wreathes, sang songs, feasted, drank beer, and generally enticed their spirits to merge with the magic of nature, intoxicated with the fullness of summer.

The rituals were gradually banned as the church got stronger, just as First Nations potlucks and rituals would later be banned, but the instinct to celebrate remains. What could be more natural than to come together at midsummer and celebrate the joyous aspect of nature, and hope that some of its magic might rub off on us?

But celebration requires community, and community requires places where people can meet on foot on a regular basis to build the friendships that hold a community together. When was the last time you paused to chat to a neighbour when you passed in your car? Maybe on a quite country lane in North Saanich or Metchosin, but even there, it’s rare.

Communities become living communities when people bump into each other regularly on foot and share their joys, difficulties, and chatter. Otherwise they are communities in name only, in plans and documents.

Most of the car-dependent suburbs we have built since 1945 discourage us from meeting. They are celebration unfriendly. You can’t celebrate with people you don’t really know.

Community is also about caring for each other when we are sad and depressed, when November fogs blow through the heart and everything feels hard. "Hard" is ok, but "hard and lonely" is for heroes, not everyday life. We are social mammals. We are not designed for "lonely" – but many of our suburbs are.

The first law of community design should be that every opportunity to meet on foot should be maximized. This means streets where we can walk to schools and shops along pleasant lanes and sidewalks, and village centres where cars take second place to people.

Wherever this has been done, in cities throughout Europe and in places like Bogota, Colombia, and Curitiba, Brazil, the musicians come out of the woodwork, café-owners lay out their wares, and the merchants flourish. Life returns to the way it used to be before it was squeezed to make way for the car. Cars and trucks are fine, provided they run on green electricity or biofuels, but people must come first. When historians look back at this period, they will realize that we made a massive mistake when we gave cars priority in our communities, instead of people.

As the history of humanity goes, our cities are relatively new. For countless millennia, we lived in villages where everyone knew your name. When we started building towns, they were tight and compact, since we lived life on foot, and needed to defend ourselves.

We need to see the evolution of our towns and cities as a learning process. Everything we have built so far has come out of a mindset where we didn’t have a clue about sustainability. We buried beautiful creeks and streams, burnt whatever we could find to produce heat, and threw our wastes wherever was easiest – into a river, the sea, or a hole in the ground.

As cities grew, they entered a bad period when raw sewage ran in the streets, the air was black with fumes, and crime was rampant. It’s no wonder that those who could afford to fled to the suburbs after the war, drawn by the prospect of safety, greenery, and a car to get around in.

But now the suburbs are failing us. The world’s oil supply is about to become permanently scarce, making the cost of commuting a challenge, and we miss the feeling of community where everyone knows your name.

When a town or city works well, it is a fabulous place to live in. We must redesign our cities and towns first and foremost for people, with village centres, urban parks, community gardens, wide sidewalks, narrow streets, and squares where we can celebrate.

We are still in the infancy of what city life could really be. Remembering this, we need to be bold in our visions as we work to redesign our communities for a future in which all energy will be sourced sustainably, all resources will be precious, and all neighbourhoods will be predominantly pedestrian, so that we can we can celebrate Nature properly on Midsummer’s Day (June 21st)

You can drive people out of Nature, but you can never drive Nature out of people.

Guy Dauncey


ECONEWS

AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)A monthly newsletter, funded by your donations, that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, & the joys of personal fulfillment, protected and guided by active citizenship.

Donations can be sent to EcoNews, 395 Conway Rd, Victoria, BC, V9E 2B9. For a receipt send stamped addressed envelope.

Donations can also be sent by PayPal, please send to GuyDauncey@EarthFuture.com, be sure to 'earmark' it to EcoNews.

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A big thankyou to Uni Nami Farm, Heather Freeman, Bev & Gunther Honold, Gordon Harris, Parksville & Qualicum Kairos, Kim Feltham, Emile Lacroix, Peter Spurr, UVic Environmental Law Club, John Fairley, Gail Schultz, Sheila MacKinnon, Richard Head, Janet Harmsworth, Mark Whitear & Rosalie Beach, Brice Ellingsen, Jean Matheson, & Arnold McCutcheon.


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YARD AND GARDEN WASTE

Of course, as good EcoNews readers, you would never put yard and garden waste in the garbage. Would you? Well, from June 1st, no-one is allowed to. The CRD has brought in a ban, and a good thing too. Invasive, infectious and noxious plants can still be landfilled, but no more grass or hedge clippings, flowers, leaves, weeds, vegetable stalks, or branches smaller than 3 inches in diameter.

The solution to all this? Composting. The Compost Education Centre is offering 2,000 compost bins for only $35 each on June 3rd (see Green Diary). The CRD’s goal is to divert 60% of the garbage from the landfill by 2010; right now we’re diverting 33%, and going backwards. The new ban will hopefully keep 4,000 tonnes out of the landfill, out of 150,000 tonnes we dump each year. 360-3030 www.crd.bc.ca/es

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THE GREENING OF WAL-MART

Hello? Wal-Mart going green? Life is full of paradoxes. Wal-Mart’s CEO, Lee Scott, has become a little troubled by global climate change, and has also become a grandparent. "On a personal level, as you become a grandparent, you also become more thoughtful about what the world will look like that she inherits", he said in an interview with the Grist’s Amanda Griscom Little, in April.

Taking a leaf from the book Natural Capitalism (and guided by – who else? - the Rocky Mountain Institute), Scott has set some changes in motion. Last October, he announced a new goal to transform Wal-Mart into a company that runs on 100% renewable energy, produces zero waste, and sells products that sustain the world’s resources and environment.

To this end, Wal-Mart is investing $500 million annually in technologies and innovation that will reduce greenhouse gases by 20% by 2012; open a prototype store that uses 30% less energy and GHGs by 2009; reduce solid waste from US stores by 25% by 2009; increase fleet efficiency by 25% by 2008, 50% by 2015; and double the selection of organic food.

With its huge market clout, Wal-Mart hopes it can influence global markets: "I ask, what happens to the solar panel market if Wal-Mart makes a large commitment to solar panels? What happens to the cost of compact fluorescent light bulbs or green building materials?" If you go to www.walmartstores.com and click on Environment, here’s what you’ll find:

  • "Zero net waste is good for business, it's great for the environment, and it even creates jobs; recycling is far more labor-intensive than dumping, after all. We think it just makes good sense."
  • "We are working on sustainable packaging, cotton, wood, fish, produce, electronics, and the elimination of substances of concern in all merchandise."
  • "We are developing incentive plans and common-sense scorecards for our (68,000) merchandise buyers that encourage innovation and more environmentally preferable products."
  • "It is clearly good for our business. We are finding we are doing things we just do not need to do, whether in packaging, energy usage, or the equipment we buy for refrigeration. There are a number of decisions we can make that are great for sustainability and great for bottom-line profit."
  • "We helped one of our suppliers reduce the packaging on one of their popular toys. As a result, we were able to distribute it using 230 fewer shipping containers, so we saved 356 barrels of oil and 1300 trees."
  • "We believe ALL families should have affordable access to sustainable products, like organic fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood, clothes made from organic cotton, and forest and paper products that are safe for families and are produced, packaged and delivered to our stores in an environmentally-friendly way."

In February, Wal-Mart announced plans to purchase all of its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for the North American market from Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries within 3 to 5 years. In April, Wal-Mart joined other executives in calling for mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s my take on this: We urgently need exactly this kind of change, and I hope their leadership spreads to all stores all around the world. I love and support small, locally owned stores, but we have to change the whole world, not just our own backyard.

It’s also a great tribute to Amory Lovins, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and aikido politics. "It avoids alienating those who share our ends but have so far chosen different means. It broadens our constituency. And by focusing on what we are for rather than against, it inspires and energizes our staff—and often enlists unexpected allies."<"www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid154.php">www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid154.php

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Food for Thought: A celebration of local green growers, chefs and merchants

Sierra Club of Canada –Victoria Group

Guest Speakers include David Mincey

Wednesday, June 28th 7pm

1611 Quadra St, St. John's Church Hall

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BRITAIN’S GREEN TOWNS

Britain has a top-down system of planning, which plays badly with local feelings when the government overrules local objections. But the same system can yield benefits when the government gets a sudden attack of sanity.

The cabinet has demanded that plans for Northstowe, a new town of 10,000 northwest of Cambridge, be revamped to achieve a 50% reduction in its use of energy and water, and to include solar hot water, water recycling, and porous paving to keep rainwater in the ground.

They also want the entire string of new communities to be built along the Thames east of London to be carbon-neutral, following the example set by Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED).

We could easily achieve the same if we put our minds to it. If a local council was to commission a study into what would be involved if they required all new developments to be zero energy and sustainable, they might be surprised at how many benefits would follow.

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VICTORIA DAYS OF PEACE

From June 23rd to 28th, the World Peace Forum in Vancouver will hold the attention of thousands, working together to end war and build a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

Here in Victoria, the days before the Forum are packed and exciting, including the People’s Summit for Departments of Peace, with delegates form 20 countries, and the Gather the Women Canada Congress 2006, "Weaving a World that Works", where there is sure to be powerful magic.

Do allow yourself to be drawn in. We must not feel hopeless just because one nation is being governed by militaristic bullies. There are two superpowers in our world, the USA and world public opinion. "The new superpower possesses immense power, but it is a different kind of power: not the will of one man wielding the 21,000-pound MOAB but the hearts and wills of the majority of the world's people." (Jonathan Schell).

Now more than ever, the world needs our determination that love is stronger than hatred, and cooperation is stronger than war. www.victoriadaysofpeace.ca

Weaving a World that Works

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Looking for a community that cherishes the Earth,

challenges the mind, and nurtures the spirit?  You'll be welcome here.

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BUGS, WEEDS AND PESTS

They’re not "pests": that’s a post-modernist neo-colonial construction. From their perspective, they’re just getting on with life. At least they don’t drive SUVs. So how can we live with our weeds and pests in a peaceful sustainable world?

Linda Gilkeson has long been a worshipper in the world of beneficial insects, and now she has written a guide from her home on Salt Spring called West Coast Gardening: Natural Insect, Weed and Disease Control. If you want to know how to deal with cutworms, caterpillars, cabbageworms, and carrot rust fly without reaching for Monsanto’s poisons, Linda’s your girl.

She has self-published with www.trafford.com, and is selling for $20+$3 postage: Linda Gilkeson, 454 Mt. Belcher Heights, Salt Spring V8K 2J6. She can also do bulk orders for garden clubs. 250-537-2503. www.trafford.com/4dcgi/view-item?item=11845

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GREENMAN SACHS?

Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s leading global investment banking firms. It is worth $60 billion, and earned $12 billion last year for its shareholders.

At its recent AGM, the CEO Hank Paulson came under sustained attack, not from green activists but from the Free Enterprise Action Fund ("Dedicated to providing both financial and pro-free enterprise ideological returns to investors") who are truly pissed off because "Left-wing social and political activists are harnessing the power, resources and influence of publicly-owned corporations to advance their social and political agendas."

So what’s upsetting them? The Rainforest Action Network and others have used skillful activist politics to persuade Goldman Sachs to adopt a very progressive new environmental policy, which includes refusing to finance any more extractive policies in World Heritage sites, or projects that violate the environmental laws of the host country, making $1 billion available for investments in renewable energy, and working on public policy measures relating to climate change. (See www.ge.com and click on "Environment").

Last year, after acquiring a portfolio of mortgages in default for some stunning wilderness in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, they donated all 680,000 acres to the Wildlife Conservation Society. No wonder the "free enterprise - trash the Earth" folks are pissed off.

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB

Some sites that have passed my way:

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ACTION OF THE MONTH

EARTH TO HARPER: COME HOME!

Stephen Harper and his Cabinet seem to be seriously lost when it comes to understanding the plight of our planet. Neither his Five Goals nor his government’s Mission make any reference to the dire condition of our oceans, forests, species, and climate. His Minister of the Environment, Rona Ambrose, is clearly struggling, while her budget for climate change is slashed. So let’s try something new.

Action: I’m sure you have a stash of postcards or greetings cards that you keep for your friends. If not, the stores are full of them. Choose a card that speaks of beauty, compassion, and love, and send a message to Stephen Harper, as if you were writing to a sister or brother who has gone astray. Appeal to him on behalf of our beleaguered Earth. Tell him about your grandchildren. Tell him about your concerns. Use the politics of compassion. Include your address, and ask for a reply:

Stephen Harper, Office of Prime Minister, 80 Wellington St, Ottawa K1A 0A2

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Roots hold me close, wings set me free, Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

- Carolyn McDade


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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
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Author of "Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change"
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