No. 160 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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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
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,
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
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
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
You can drive people out of Nature, but you can never drive Nature
out of people.
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
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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
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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
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,
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:
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
Food for Thought: A celebration of local green growers, chefs
Sierra Club of Canada –Victoria Group
Guest Speakers include David Mincey
Wednesday, June 28th 7pm
1611 Quadra St, St. John's Church Hall
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.
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
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
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
Looking for a community that cherishes the Earth,
challenges the mind, and nurtures the spirit? You'll
be welcome here.
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
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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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
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CLOSING SALE – EVERYTHING GOES!
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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed my way:
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
Roots hold me close, wings set me free, Spirit of Life, come
to me, come to me.
- Carolyn McDade
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